Ashkelon school children attend a ceremony in October celebrating the arrival of a new bomb shelter. (Photo: UWI) Ashkelon school children attend a ceremony in October celebrating the arrival of a new bomb shelter. (Photo: UWI)

Day after day, Israeli children are forced to run for cover from Hamas’ rockets. UWI responds by donating a desperately needed bomb shelter, while praying it never needs to be used.

A Letter from David E. Zeit, Executive Director, United with Israel

David Zeit

United with Israel Executive Director David E. Zeit

The Center for Traffic Safety Education in Ashkelon teaches children from kindergarten through grade six how to be responsible commuters, whether on foot, as bicyclists or as passengers in vehicles. Attendance is part of the Ashkelon school curriculum and therefore every child in Ashkelon, ages 5 through 11, attend this program daily.

Prior to the donation of a much needed bomb shelter, co-sponsored by United with Israel, the children and staff had no place to run for cover when the sirens blared and rockets landed.

Day after day, hour after hour, students and teachers were forced to hit the ground outside, between two caravans, with their hands over their heads. The children and adults at this school never knew whether a rocket would land on them or nearby or whether they would be struck by exploding shrapnel.

As I stood there on the day of the shelter’s dedication ceremony, I was overwhelmed by a profound sense of ambivalence. One the one hand, I felt tremendous joy. The children can now come to the school and feel safe. The staff now has a tool to ensure the children’s safety. The parents can have peace of mind while their children are there. And the mayor of Ashkelon now has one less institution to worry about.

On the other hand, I have to ask the following questions. Why is such a donation necessary? Is this really a solution – to place a bomb shelter by every third house to accommodate all citizens? Is this a way to continue to live?

I am not a politician and don’t want to be a politician, but as long as there is a need for bomb shelters I will continue to feel this sense of ambivalence.


Inspecting the bomb shelter in Ashkelon delivered earlier this year.

However, as I told the children, the staff and city officials at the dedication ceremony, there is one thing of which I am certain and about which they NEVER have to feel ambivalent. As long as any Jew in Israel is in danger, there will always be supporters of Israel that will mobilize to help. And this bomb shelter is the reminder. It is the cooperative effort of United with Israel and the Jewish Federation of Sarasota – supporters of Israel throughout the world, Jew and Gentile, who have contributed to this sense of certainty.

I pray for the day when we will never need these bomb shelters. I pray for the day when we can take all the bomb shelters that we’ve donated and create a “bomb shelter museum” for our children to go to and learn how, long ago, we needed these “things.” I pray that the money we spent buying this shelter was a waste of money. I pray that the time it took to build and install it was a waste of time. I pray that the children in Ashkelon never have to use it unless it is to play “hide and seek.”

I am not naïve. The chances that this shelter will never be used are slim to none. And while my ambivalence about their need is still intact, I am certain that the children and staff at the Center for Traffic Safety Education will feel a greater sense of security because of UWI and its supporters.

You can continue to help save lives by donating to UWI’s bomb shelter effort. Click below to contribute.