At Madaim Alon Elementary School, principal Leora Fima stands before her students, marking the beginning of Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen service held at the school on Tuesday morning.
The 160 students, from first grade to sixth grade, sit quietly in the school hall– one of the last areas of the school that remains unprotected by rocket attacks.
When Principal Fima tells the students that the siren will go off at any moment in remembrance of Israel’s fallen, a first grader in the crowd asks if she means the Tzeva Adom, or Color Red siren warning of impending rockets. “No, a different siren,” responds Principal Fima.
“The students were badly affected by the impact of the Gaza war,” Principal Fima later tells Sderot Media Center. “It was very difficult to get the students back on track in terms of studying. It was impossible to get them to concentrate and their motivation was completely gone.”
During the Gaza war, many schools in southern Israel including Sderot remained closed.
However, through outside financial contributions, Madaim Alon was able to establish an intensive psychological therapy program for the students. “Once a week, each child in our school undergoes an hour of psychological therapy,” says Fima. “This has helped the students tremendously. Since Passover vacation there has been a significant change in their behavior. The kids are noticeably more relaxed.”
Madim Alon Elementary School is the only school in the western Negev which offers such counseling for students– many of whom suffer from PTSD symptoms that result from sirens and rocket attacks.
“The kids here understand, perhaps better than anyone else, the meaning behind Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars,” says Fima.
” One student even told me earlier in the week that from war, can we can strive for peace. The kids know that these young soldiers gave up their lives for us to live here today.”
Indeed, the hall was completely quiet as a Madaim Alon student read off the names of Sderot’s fallen soldiers during the ceremony. When the names of the Sderot residents killed by rocket attacks were called out loud, the silence among the children was almost deafening.
“These kids have had to sacrifice so much already at such a young age. And yet they are not consumed by hatred or anger,” said Fima.
Last week Madaim Alon held a Peace Day for its students in light of Operation Cast Lead. The elementary school students organized sessions exploring how the recent Gaza war affected everyone including Palestinian children, Fima explained.
“There is a time for building bridges,” she says.
Photo Credit: Hamutal Ben-Sheetrit
Children carry Israeli flags in Memorial Day ceremony in a Sderot’s Alon Madaim Elementary school.