Back to school and back to the safety of Boys Town Jerusalem, new immigrant students from France and Ethiopia exchange experiences from their traumatic summer of living under ongoing rocket attacks on their homes across Israel's troubled south.
For a number of students at Boys Town Jerusalem, "back-to-school" this September meant coming back from a deadly nightmare that was real. These young students are residents of cities in Israel’s south, which came under an ongoing hail of lethal rocket fire throughout the summer. Among those students in the direct line of fire are 10 new immigrants from Ethiopia and France who study in special programs at Boys Town Jerusalem. As they returned to school, the young men met to compare their experiences.
They all spoke of the terrifying scramble that comes when the sirens pierce the air, warning that an enemy rocket has been launched and allowing only 45-60 seconds to run for cover. Tesfahon, a 16-year-old Ethiopian student who lives in Beersheva, miraculously raced to a shelter with his parents just seconds before a rocket landed within a few feet. Many injuries resulted, and his mother was among those taken by ambulance to Soroka Hospital, suffering from shock. "It was very scary," he recalled. "There was a horribly loud boom and smoke and people shouting. But worse, the attacks continued, with more rockets being fired throughout that day. Even though the summer was filled with alarms and attacks, you can’t ever get used to living like this."
In nearby Ashdod, disaster narrowly missed students Shmuel Ben Ezra and Maxim Naim, both recent immigrants from Paris who live in the same apartment building. At 5:30 AM on a Saturday (Sabbath) morning, the deafening blast of a rocket shook their building, shattering their windows. It had hit just 12 yards away. Explains their Marseilles-born classmate Rafael Sabag, 16, “You are vulnerable everywhere—at home, in the street, in a shop. You always have to think of running to safety—within 45 seconds.”
Boys Town math instructor Benny Duani spent the summer in Ashkelon helping to care for his father, a widower paralyzed by a recent stroke. “Every rocket attack brought a moral dilemma, along with the fear. My brother and I couldn’t carry our father down three flights of steps to the shelter within the few seconds allotted. We could have run and saved ourselves, of course, but then we’d be abandoning our father. Should we both stay, or should one brother run to the shelter? Which one? Beyond our terrible choice, ‘just’ the clamor of the sirens and the booms are extremely dangerous to the emotional health of all Israelis now under fire.”
Back to the calm of Boys Town Jerusalem, the students are finding it nearly impossible to fully concentrate on their studies. “We’re safe here,” said Ethiopian-born Gadif Mologetah, 17, “but our families are still in danger. We’re thinking about them all the time.”
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