Remember, Israel is a First World country in every sense of the word. Israelis enjoy outstanding educational and cultural opportunities, thriving hi-tech and medical fields, true democracy, and a host of other freedoms just like us lucky folks in the US.
Now, for just a moment, imagine your comfortable American life being interrupted by thousands of artillery shells, rockets, and unguided missiles falling all around you, day after day, for weeks at a time.
That's part of what it's like to be an Israeli.
The Negev and The North
Imagine for a moment that you are in Israel during the summer months. A
prolonged and dangerous hail of rockets forces the neighborhood into underground
bunkers. You and your family are plagued by a combination of fear, boredom and
uncertainty, will it ever end. Then there is a knock at the door, and on the
other side of that door is relief.
JNF/KKL provided relief towards bunker bound families to provide peace
of mind during a time when there was very little peace to go around. The Jewish
National Fund extended a hand to families willing to send their children away
for three days to a week at a JNF camp.
JNF took on two roles; one was to whisk children, with parental
permission, away from the danger and down to summer camp at the JNF's Negev
facilities in Ness Harim, the Alex Muss Institute and more.
The Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education, a recently minted
partner of Jewish National Fund converted their facilities to receive children
from both the Negev desert and Northern Israel.
In the adventurous outdoor camps they hiked, swam and a made a return
to normality. More than 10,000 children tasted air free from worry, and returned
to their families with smiles ready to brighten the darkest bunker.
Tal Hazan, age 16, had this to say about the camps, "At home we just
sit around all day and wait for the siren to go off or for a rocket to fall.
It's great to get away from it all for a while and spend some time here, in the
quietest place on earth."
But JNF's work was not done with the summer camps. Though many camp
participants shared 12 year-old Ella Nahman sentiments, "After two weeks here
we're feeling pretty homesick, but this is certainly better than being in the
shelter the whole time," many more chose to remain with their families.
With that in mind JNF undertook a program to beautify the shelters,
with the help of artist and sculptor Rafi Asaraf, who himself lives on the
northern border in Kibbutz Eylon. Traveling nearly deserted roads to reach his
destination he found both adults and children clamoring for a creative outlet.
"It was a real thrill. My only regret is that I didn't take a video camera with
me. My role was to draw the general outlines on the wall, and then the children
were guided into painting in the colors and details. At each place the kids drew
a lively, optimistic picture, each one bursting with life and hopefulness. And
the children were so excited, it was really touching."
While fires raged
outside in the forests and groves, inside he created idealized landscapes with
the children, painting the landscapes just as they had looked until recently and
exactly as everyone hopes they will look again one day, with JNF-KKL's