By Rabbi Chaim Michoel Gutterman, Director, Shuvu-Israel
The war naturally affects our Shuvu students as well, as they, like other children in southern Israel, are unable to attend their summer camps.
In Ashkelon, one of the closest Israeli cities to Gaza (only 13 miles away), the Home Front Command instructed all summer camps to cease their activities merely 5 days after they had begun, leaving all children at home. Nonetheless, as Shuvu Ashkelon principal Rav Yitzchak Levy reports, he and his staff have been in constant contact with the students and their families, attempting to alleviate the stress levels. Social workers too, coordinated with the school, have been in touch with all of the families and students.
The Shuvu Schools in Ashdod (24 miles from Gaza) and Be’er Sheva (25 miles) the contact between the Shuvu staff and children remaining at home is likewise extremely close. As Shvuu Ashdod principal Mrs. Malki Sheinin says, “the Kesher with the students is not just warm. It’s boiling!”
In Be’er Sheva the School Rabbi Rav Yehonatan Kimchi made home visits to every one of the students (!) and even escorted one of the fathers on his way as he was called up to active duty, and gave him a special Bracha. The Shuvu School Rabbis function as regular Kehilla Rabbonim for the Shuvu families, and Rav Kimchi naturally feels the Achrayus towards his families, giving them spiritual guidance and Chizuk.
I asked Rav Levy if there was any way we could help by hosting families from the south, as was done during Operation “Cast Lead” in 2009 when we arranged housing and schooling for students within other Shuvu schools in safer areas. He answered that in 2009 many families still did not have a “Mamad” (residential secure space/shelter) in their homes. The situation today is completely different and almost everyone has access to a protected space, removing the need for the families to relocate even during these trying times.
In all three of the aforementioned Shuvu schools the staff members are not only dealing with the students’ anxiety, but are also giving spiritual Chizuk. They emphasize the Koach of Tefilla which the children continue to do vigorously during their vacation days, and are all saying Tehillim for the success of the Operation. They are all strongly encouraged to continue performing all the Mitzvos they learn about in Shuvu during vacation days, and how much more so when Am Yisroel needs as many Zechuyos as possible now. Besides Davening and Tehillim the children report of their continuing to wear Tzitzis daily, make Brachos, Netilas Yadayim, be Makpid on Kashrus and Tzniusdik dress and more.
May the Zechuyos of our precious Kinderlach’s Mitzvos bring the Geula Shleima and we only hear Besoros Tovos.