Shuvu Provides Stability during ‏Gaza War

With the ceasefire in place, and the hope that the quiet continues, we can now look back and reflect on the past week.

Foremost, Shuvu, our staff, and our families send our thoughts and prayers to all the families of those killed, and pray for full and speedy recoveries for the injured.

In four of the cities where Shuvu schools are located – Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva – life has been completely haywire over the past week.

Ever since Operation Pillar of Defense began last Wednesday, schools have been closed in southern Israeli cities, and the children and their families have not been able to conduct their daily routine.

As was three years ago during Operation Cast Iron in Gaza, the Shuvu schools again have been attempting to provide some level of “normality” for the students, and a sense of security and stability by having their “extended family” stand by their side.

Mrs. Esti Shapira, principal of Shuvu Ashdod reported that in some of her classes half of the students’ families found sanctuary in northern cities. At the start of the hostilities, Mrs. Shapira promptly contacted the Shuvu schools in “safe” cities, and arranged for the children to continue on with their studies in their “refugee city”. She placed children in Shuvu Netanya, Shuvu Rishon Letzion and Shuvu Hod Hasharon among others. The children have been feeling a most needed sense of normality, being in a familiarly warm environment, and exposed to the same level of exceptional behavior they’re accustomed to from their own Shuvu school in Ashdod.

For the children who did not escape and were sitting in bomb shelters in the city of Ashdod, the Shuvu school arranged educational computer programs on the internet. The Ministry of Education has even stated how impressed they are with the programs developed by the Shuvu Ashdod School. The children were given educational assignments which they subsequently submitted over their computers.

In addition, the teachers have all been in touch with their students. Every student has been called and encouraged to discuss their emotional condition and their experiences during these trying days.

Mrs. Shapira also arranged a special trip to Jerusalem, funded by Shuvu, for her students and parents on Thursday. They will all visit the Kotel and relax with an enjoyable visit to the Biblical Zoo.

The principal of Shuvu Be’er Sheva, Rav Yehuda Veitman has also not rested for a moment since the war broke out, affecting his hundreds of Shuvu families. One of his families was very narrowly spared, as a rocket landed in the yard of their next door neighbors. With Chasdei Hashem, the only injuries suffered were minor.

He too arranged for his staff to be in regular contact with the students and parents and even arranged a “Chat Room”. This technology allowed for a conference call for each individual class, allowing all of the students to be on the chat together at the same time, with their teachers.

Rav Veitman also paired up with the Shuvu Netanya School, whereby the children of Shuvu Be’er Sheva were given the phone numbers of their peers in Netanya and encouraged to call and discuss their feelings and experiences.

The Shuvu high school in Kiryat Malachi, headed by Rav Dov Glass, has also been in regular contact with the students. Here the students are older and self-disciplined, able to cover material on their own for the Bagrut (matriculation) exams, but the school is still there for them, for emotional and spiritual support.

Under the principal Rav Yitzchak Levy, the Ashkelon elementary school too has strongly maintained its contact with the students. The students were encouraged to email the staff and share their feelings and coping methods. One student, 4th grader Anna Medvedev, wrote that on Sunday night she said Tehillim and Krias Shema before going to sleep and sure enough there was no siren that night. The next day she again repeated her Tefillos and although a siren was heard, the rocket was intercepted. She finishes her email stating: “It was a miracle from Hashem!”

One of the Shuvu Ashkelon students, a 5th grade girl, moved up north with her parents, and the school arranged for her to learn in Shuvu Natzrat until the end of the war.

It should also be noted that the Shuvu schools opened their doors to all students from the south, even those not currently learning in Shuvu. Indeed, Mrs. Sarah Nadar, the principal of Shuvu Natzrat reported that a relative of one of her students, who lives in a southern city and is not yet a Shuvu student, will be learning in her school from tomorrow until the family returns home.

This past week has brought together the entire Shuvu family, and has proven that Shuvu indeed is a warm and loving home away from home.

Thank you to all the wonderful families that hosted our Shuvu children and their families, and to all the dedicated staff that worked tirelessly in this trying time. Many Shuvu familes will also be spending this coming Shabbat with host families, as many are still dealing with the trauma from the past week. Let’s all pray that the quiet continues, and next week all our children and their families can start to return to their normal lives.

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