Replacing the Sound of Bombing with Musicby Maayan Cohen, JNF May 9, 2018
Developing Israel’s rural and remote south and north is a daunting challenge – you need to create attractive enticements, accessibility, economic viability, infrastructure, and a sense of community with all that included. When it comes to planning the future of the area known as the Gaza Envelope—those towns that closely border the Gaza Strip that have been struck regularly by rockets over the last 20 years—the challenge is seemingly impossible. However, for Jewish National Fund, this challenge presented new opportunities for its donors.
When members of Jewish National Fund’s lay leadership first visited Sderot, the largest of these bombarded communities, they were shocked to see no children playing in the streets, playground or parks. For the local children, like many who live in the surrounding areas of Gaza, their window of play time could last only fifteen seconds, the exact amount of time they would have to seek shelter in the event of a missile-attack.
Determined to provide these children an opportunity to experience a real childhood, Jewish National Fund came up with an unprecedented solution—to build a state of the art, secure playground for the community.
In 2009, through the support of donors from across the U.S., this dream became a reality.
When JNF’s Sderot Indoor Recreation Center opened its doors, the families of the community were awestruck. Equipped with trampolines, a basketball court, playground, climbing wall, the entire community of Sderot was given a new sense of promise for the future. Ten years later, on the eve of Israel’s 70th anniversary, a special San Diego tour met in the C. Hugh Friedman Music Room, in memory of lay leaders, Frederick and Shari Schenk’s late brother-in-law, a talented Clarinet player.
“Today, the music program is packed with children,” Dr. Sol Lizerbram, president of Jewish National Fund, proudly reported to the San Diego contingency, “Children here get a new instrument and regular lessons, and thankfully, we’ve replaced the frightening and traumatic sound of rockets with the lovely sound of music.” Lizerbram noted that his personal friend, Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, wrote a song about Jewish National Fund, and remarked, “I would love to eventually see these young musicians accompany that song one day.”
While worry of where to play during missile attacks has significantly subsided, Jewish National Fund has also taken advantage of a period of calm and less rocket fire to bring the laughter of kids back outside, with the opening of an even more exciting outdoor playground.
Jewish National Fund’s five distinct Israel@70 tours—all celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary—each had the opportunity to see how the organization is committed to the future of the region to meet David Ben Gurion’s dream by taking in firsthand the ongoing building of the Be’er Sheva River Lake Park—a new 23-acre man-made lake and park three times the size of NYC’s Central Park—and the new communities Jewish National Fund helped to create in the southern and northern most areas of Israel.