Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS on 3 March, 2024

‘Most of All, They Received a Hug’: Sderot Kids Return to School 5 Months After Hamas Attack

Public By Pesach Benson • 3 March, 2024

Jerusalem, 3 March, 2024 (TPS) -- The city of Sderot reopened its schools on Sunday for the first time since Hamas’s October 7 attacks as life in the Israeli communities near Gaza took another step towards returning to normalcy.

“We really had a very, very, very exciting day, it’s meeting after months with students we haven’t seen, with families we haven’t seen,” Dina Khoury, principal of Sderot’s Religious-Scientific School, told the Tazpit Press Service.

“The children asked a lot of questions. We answered some of the questions, what you can answer. But they mostly got strength. And most of all they received a hug,” Khoury said.

Since October 7, Sderot’s 30,000 residents were evacuated to hotels around the country. Approximately 30% of the population has returned.

“The smile on the faces of the boys and girls of Sderot when they arrived at the educational institutions this morning says everything,” said Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi.

The municipality said 130 therapists were recruited to be available for the returning children and to advise teachers in Sderots’ 13 elementary schools, four high schools, 82 kindergartens and 19 daycare centers.

To ensure readiness, the municipality conducted in recent days a series of comprehensive drills simulating various scenarios with security personnel and emergency responders.

“We understand that we are returning to a period of adjustment in which we are tasked with restoring normative behaviors that were practiced before. Restoring authority to parents, monitoring the child’s acquaintances and what he does on the social network, etc. What was before October 7 has changed and we understand that we must significantly expand the measures in the area of community security,” said fifth-grade teacher Kobi Edri.

More than 200 soldiers and civilian security personnel were stationed throughout the city to safeguard educational facilities and other public venues. Soldiers also accompanied students on buses, prepared to offer assistance in the event of rocket fire.

On Thursday, two rockets fired from Gaza triggered sirens in Sderot. Both were shot down by Iron Dome interceptors without causing any damage.

“It’s just fun to see all our children again,” said Yasmin Gabbay, principal of the Gil Rabin Elementary School.

Accustomed to rocket fire since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Sderot is equipped with specially protected spaces. Most municipal buildings, including a 3,000-square-foot indoor recreation center for children, have been fortified. The city is less than one kilometer from the Gaza border.

In the coming months, an additional army battalion will join Sderot’s existing security forces. During the Battle of Sderot, 50 civilians and 20 security personnel were killed.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.