The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a special session in the Negev on Sunday, with the participation of local council heads and IDF Home Front Command officials.

During the meeting the council heads complained that the government was not doing enough with regards to the fortification of educational institutions in areas that are under the constant threat of rocket fire emanating from Gaza.

The Home Front Command’s representative reiterated that the army acts in accordance with the government’s decisions, a statement which riled the local council heads even more. Ofakim Mayor Tzvika Greenwald mentioned a recent Grad rocket attack on his city, saying that “children are being put in harm’s way.”

Bomb Shelters in Sderot (Archive Photo: Noam Bedein)

Sderot Mayor David Buskila said that while the State fortified local schools, it did not make them easily accessible. “I guess they think the children will reach the schools by helicopter,” he said.

Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin said 10 schools and 22 kindergartens in the city were not fortified until he personally raised the necessary funds in the US. “With the help of pro-Israel Christian organizations I provided these schools with hollowed-out concrete blocks which serve as shelters. Minister Matan Vilnai promised us the State would fortify these institutions.”

Knesset Member Avi Dichter (Kadima), who resides in Ashkelon, said signs in local schools read, “Hide under your desk in case the siren sounds.” The MK said, “This is ridiculous – that 12th graders should have to hide under desks. It’s pathetic.”

MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) said, “A mayor should not have to go abroad to raise money for fortification,” while MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), who chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, stressed that the residents’ needs “have not been met. This gap is intolerable, and we will hold another meeting with the relevant authorities.”

The council heads also demanded to know when the “Iron Dome” missile defense system would become operational.


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