The Eshkol Region of Israel bordering the Gaza and Egyptian borders in the Western Negev Desert has been on the frontlines of the violence and warfare targeted at Israel in recent years.

And for children under the age of 14, hostility from the neighboring Gaza Strip, just miles away, has become an unavoidable part of their childhood; many struggle with ongoing trauma and stress. While Eshkol gathers international attention during times of heightened violence, the real struggle is establishing resilience, stability and community-building for the growing population.

To that end, the Eshkol Regional Council broke ground on Wednesday on the new regional Playschool established by Jewish National Fund-USA and the generosity of Pastor Jentezen Franklin.

“The security threat facing our region is not something that we can control, but what can be controlled is how we handle this situation,” said Eshkol Mayor Gadi Yarkoni. We choose to invest in our community’s resiliency, in a good quality of life for our people, and in the next generation, for our incredible children.”

In addition to Yarkoni, the Nov. 6 ceremony was attended by Franklin, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, JNF-USA CEO Russell F. Robinson and other community leaders, JNF-USA supporters and local residents.

Friedman said “I cannot imagine the difficulty which people who live along the Gaza border deal with—waking up a child in the middle of the night, in the face of alerts.  It is an unthinkable burden to place on anyone. It is an entirely unacceptable reality. But in courageous defiance, I can’t thank the residents of Eshkol enough for proving that terrorists will never prevail.  Your courage in the face of extraordinary challenges is proof that the people of Israel are not going anywhere.”

Since “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008, the trauma and stress caused by the ongoing violence in Gaza has created a low sense of security among schoolchildren, causing lower academic results, as well as long-lasting emotional and psychological distress.

The Eshkol Playschool will serve more than 3,000 children in three elementary schools, providing them with a safe indoor playground and an innovative learning center that integrates play with education, and instills creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration skills.

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