Forty-eight Palestinian orphans whose parents were killed in bombings during Operation Cast Lead were
planned to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for two weeks of rest and recovery from their grim reality at home.
Tuesday's closure of the crossings with Gaza made it unclear whether the children, aged 8-15 would be able to arrive as scheduled.
Haifa Municipality, Kibbutz Sasa and the Candle for Peace and Solidarity association in Kfar Qassem have been preparing to greet the kids in recent days, and are awaiting their arrival on Wednesday barring any last minute changes.
The children will be hosted in Haifa, Sasa and Kfar Qassem as part of the Kibbutz Movement's humanitarian initiative.
A rich program in Haifa's various sites was designed for the orphans, including a visit to the Museum of Science, the zoo, a cruise in Haifa bay, trips around the city, watching movies and children's theater, and other social activities.
During their stay the children will also meet with Israeli students from schools in Haifa.
Head of the Kibbutz Movement's special assignment division Yoel Marshak, who operated the volunteers' headquarters for southern residents under rocket fire is also managing the current humanitarian project.
Marshak said Tuesday evening that the humanitarian effort was meant to ease the orphans' suffering and not aid terrorists.
"The Kibbutz Movement educates its sons to be the first on the battlefield and kill the enemy before being killed, and on the other hand, once the cannon fire stops, we adopt orphan children who, maybe, thanks to our humanitarian effort, we'll put an end to the wars in the future," he said.
"The children who have received love from us will remember this experience for many years and when they grow up will reach out for peace. I believe the change will come only from the youth out of will and recognition and not from treaties."
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said the municipality was ready to receive the children Wednesday morning, and that a bus carrying a city representative would meet the children at Erez crossing.
"The children are the hope for the future," said Yahav, "We are rising to the challenge of hosting the children from Gaza to show the world things can be different."
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog who is responsible for humanitarian aid sent to Gaza welcomed the project Tuesday night, saying, "This is a very important initiative. The State of Israel makes an absolute distinction between aid to the civil population in the Gaza Strip and Hamas."
David Regev contributed to this report