While kids in Gaza vicinity communities remained at home, students in most southern cities headed back to school on Friday after spending over a week in the shelters avoiding rocket fire.
Less than two days after the conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense, residents of Ashkelon resumed their daily routine, with students and teachers returning to the classrooms. For several hundreds attending and teaching at two city schools, this means coming face to face with the rocket damage the facilities had incurred.
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Gaza rocket hits near Ashkelon school
"It is sad seeing a closed classroom, and even worse to see one that a rocket has penetrated," said head of Ashkelon's education department, Moshe Yannai. "I suppose the school children will have a hard time seeing the place in such a condition," he added.
Rocket hits school, but does not explode (Photo: Eliad Levy)
One of the structures damaged during the fighting serves as a religious school for both boys and girls who study in separate classrooms. Some of the school's eigth graders, for instance, won't be able to return to their classroom in the upcoming days.
"A rocket penetrated the classroom, creating a huge hole in the roof," Yannai said, describing the damages sustained by the structure. "There were of course broken chairs and desks, but luckily the rocket didn’t explode, otherwise the damage would have been much worse. In the meanwhile the classroom has been cleaned but there is still the matter of the hole in the roof. Therefore, for the time being the class will remain closed until its renovation are completed."
Over the past few days, school staff have been moving the students' belongings to an adjacent room, until the renovation comes to an end.
"It will be hard leaving the classroom we have been studying in for the last two years," said Liran, a eighth grader. "On the other hand, I saw the damage to the classroom in a picture and I'm glad not to have to learn there. I am glad things are returning to normal, and would very much like it if the new classroom would bring with it a period of peace and quiet.
"I don't want to stay home for security reasons anymore," she said.
Classroom sustains direct hit (Photo: Idan Erez)
Eigth grade teacher Alice Marciano made sure to keep in touch with all of her students since the classroom had been hit early in the hostilties.
"Personally, it turns my stomach to see the class in such a state," Marciano said. "The media shows only the destroyed ceiling and shattered windows, but when I look at the classroom I see names, faces and children sitting at their desks. It sends chills down my spine."
Destroyed classroom (Photo: Idan Erez)
During Operation Pillar of Defense, a second Ashkelon school sustained damages when a rocket hit the school's parking lot. The pavement and a recreational area were damaged.
The parking lot, which serves as the entryway to the school, has since been fixed through.
Yannai said that he hopes the rest of renovations will be over in the coming days, thus returning the structures to their previous states. However, he added: "The damage in its entirety is estimated at more than NIS 100,000 (roughly $25,000) for both schools; but the real damage is undoubtedly psychological."
'Mom was afraid, I wasn't'
At the entrance to the Ben Gurion School in Beersheba, a single student handed out candy to the returning students. Both parents and children seemed happy to resume their routines.
"Even though things are calm now, it is still a little traumatic, what happened is still in our subconscious. every little noise startles us," said Isabel Elmakias, the mother of 9-year-old Lotem.
The family spent the past week in the capital.
"Last week we relocated to my brother's house in Jerusalem, then (the rockets) started there as well, but even that was incomparable to what we experienced here (in Beersheba)," Elmakiassaid. Lotem, her daughter, emphasizes "it's fun to return to school, it was boring at home."
Back to school in Beersheba this Friday. (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
Returning to routine (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
Adi Levi drove her son, Yuval, 9, to his morning classes. "Even though everything is back to normal it is still frightening. I'm waiting for the siren, I don’t believe the ceasefire will last," the mother said.
Her son added that "Mom was afraid of the grad rockets, I wasn't, I'm brave. And besides that, the bomb shelter and Iron Dome are protecting us."
He is convinced this was not the last escalation: "In my opinion this is the calm before the storm, I am disappointed by Bibi (Netanyahu). We should have finished what we started, if not, then in a month, tops, the rockets will return."