A growing number of Israelis living in the southern town of Sderot are refusing to enroll their children in local schools ahead of the upcoming school year. They say the government has failed to fortify the schools as promised, leaving their children vulnerable to rocket attacks from nearby Gaza.
Israel's Yediot Ahronot daily newspaper reported that as of Sunday, some 700 out of 4,000 elementary and high school students in Sderot will not attend local schools during the next school year. Many more families have filed applications with the municipality to send their children to schools in other towns outside the range of Palestinian rockets.
Sderot has been hit by thousands of rockets since the Palestinians launched a violent uprising against Israel seven years ago. When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the attacks escalated. Successive Israeli governments have promised to fortify the schools, and have even been ordered by the Israeli High Court to do so. But earlier this summer, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended his government's failure to do so by insisting Israel could not “fortify itself to death.”
Last Friday, angered parents broke into a meeting between Education Minister Yuli Tamir and the principals of several Sderot schools. Tamir repeated past promises that the schools will be fortified and bomb shelters will be renovated, though such work will take at least several months to complete.