The Gymboree – Israel’s Only Protected Playground

Being educated on the topic of the conflict in the south of Israel, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into when going for the day. Little did I know I was in for a huge, heart-wrenching surprise. The reality of the people who live in communities bordering Gaza hit me in a way I never thought it would.

This post is not a history lesson. If you have a desire to hear about the history of Hamas and the terror they cause, doing a Google search of trusted sources is a great place to start.

This is a reflection on my time on the boarder of Gaza.

We visited Israel’s only “protected playground.” It’s located in Sderot – a town commonly affected by rockets shot over from Gaza by Hamas – a terrorist organization in Gaza. This playground, The Gymboree, was amazing to say the least. The huge facility, funded by the Jewish National Fund – a non-profit organization made to buy and build Jewish settlement – has protected children and families from thousands of rockets.

Here’s how it happens… When word gets out that a rocket has been launched and is heading for this town a siren will go off and everyone will have 15 seconds to get to a shelter. If they’re too far from a shelter, they lay down on the floor face down, place their hands behind their head, and pray.

The layout of this facility is strategic for these events. The giant main part has everything from a basketball court to a jungle gym. Yet, surrounding this play area are four safe rooms that are accessible within 15 seconds from every inch of the area. Each room is themed. For example, one is a soccer room where kids can play a full game of soccer, another is a music room where one can learn how to play an instrument, there’s a computer room, and a “disco” room. IMG_8318.jpeg

A rock wall is on one of the walls. It was pointed out to us that the rock wall is only a few feet high but long horizontally. When asked why this was, they told us that children can’t climb too high because if a siren goes off and they’re at the top, they have less time to make it to shelter.

Another example of the strategic design of this facility is the story of the merry-go-round. A few years ago they were planning to add a carousel into the area’s center. They were asked how long it would take to stop the merry-go-round from spinning if an alarm sounded. The answer was around four minutes. So they had to completely forget the plans for this and think of other activities to add.

The fact that these children and families have to live on alert 24/7 makes the “worries” we have an America seem so minuscule. It costs 10 shekels – or $2.75 – to enter this playground. Some children cannot afford this. So, there’s a donation box at the entrance where people can give a few shekels to allow these families to come play and experience piece of mind for a few hours of their day for free.

In face, this facility was built exclusively on donations. If you wish to donate, click here

Just a few USD can be the difference between fear and piece of mind of these amazing people.

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Zoe Zbar

My name is Zoe and I'm a 22-year-old student at the University of South Florida. Join me as I document my journey through life. I'll write the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the funny, the sad, and everything in between. Don't be afraid to let me know what you think. Enjoy!

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