What’s wrong with this picture? It looks like a beautiful day at the zoo! The problem is that it’s early December and these children should be in school. They would be if their schools had not been closed due to the barrage of rockets that has bathed southern Israel over the last week. Shai Kedem, an employee of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, estimates that there were seven to ten thousand visitors in the zoo today, most of them from southern Israel. “This is what the zoo looks like during summer vacation or Chol Hamoed. We never see these numbers this time of year.”
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo offered residents of bombarded cities significantly discounted tickets. Yad Eliezer, Israel’s largest poverty relief agency, took the opportunity to combine the discounted entrance with generous donations earmarked to benefit children from the south and sponsored three busses and the entrance fee for 313 parents and children. After the visitors toured the zoo the Yad Eliezer representatives brought the families pizza and care packages.
Batya Greenberg, a mother from Ofakim, told one of the Yad Eliezer representatives that she was deeply grateful for the much needed reprieve from the rockets. “With ten children and a husband who is legally blind, even if I had somewhere else to go it would be very difficult to be away from home. My son will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos. We hoped that it would be an unforgettable celebration, but this was not what we had in mind!”
Aviva Levi, a teacher and mother of seven, recounts the challenges that parents face in caring for the children in the bomb shelters. “Eight large families are meant to share one basement room for shelter. The conditions there are unbearable. The rooms are dirty and dark, have no bathrooms, and the children have nothing to do. When the sirens go off we hold the children close and try to calm them, but I’m sure that they hear our hearts beating loudly in our chests.” She and other mothers thanked the Yad Eliezer representatives for arranging the trip and asked that donations of toys, books, and craft supplies be sent to make the time in the shelters more bearable.
Yad Eliezer has undertaken to deliver relief supplies this Thrusday to Kiriyat Malachi where the first casualty of operation Pillar of Cloud took place last week.
Nili Avnei Magen, a veterinarian from the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo commented, “We are glad to have been able to host so many families from the south so that the could have a pleasant day at the zoo.”
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)