Shalom Life | July 23, 2014

Canadian Jews Provide Funding to Cheer Up Kids in Israeli Bomb Shelters

Organized by the Heseg Foundation, the next round of funding will go towards improving the quality of life of IDF soldiers

By: Daniel Koren

Published: July 21st, 2014 in News » Israel

Canadian Jews Provide Funding to Cheer Up Kids in Israeli Bomb Shelters

Over the past two weeks, the day-in-the-life of an average Israeli citizen has been considerably difficult. For those residents living in the south, it's been an absolute nightmare.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a now infamous address, 15 seconds is the time Israelis have from when the siren sounds to get to a bomb shelter. In Southern Israel, where rocket fire is much more frequent, many have been spending the majority of their days in bomb shelters, awaiting the sirens to end, and for a resolution to come to pass.

Since the death of Mohammed Abu Kheider, Hamas has pummeled approximately 1,600 rockets into Israel from Gaza, as Operation Protective Edge enters its 15th day. While most of these are intercepted by Iron Dome, there is still shrapnel and debris that can fatally harm Israelis, hence the need for evacuating to bomb shelters.

For residents of Israel, spending all this time in bomb shelters and stairwells can be particularly irksome. There is no air conditioning, no ways to pass the time (save for conversation) and very little stimulation, a problem that goes tenfold for children and, consequently, their parents.

But thanks to the Heseg Foundation, a charitable foundation created by Canadians Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the initiative of Canadian philanthropist Walter Arbib, and several volunteers, led by journalist/businessman Aviv Bushinksy, some children have been able to have a little bit of fun as they spend their days waiting inside bomb shelters.


The Heseg Foundation provides scholarships to former IDF soldiers who are without family in Israel, as well as covering the cost of tuition fees for those who wish to remain in Israel after they completed their service, explains Bushinsky. "What we did was organize a group of some 40 people consisting of scholars and alumni members, and bought all sorts of things to bring to Israelis living in the south," he tells me in a phone interview. "We purposely bought the goods there because there's been a decline in business since this ordeal began, and we wanted to help boost their economic situation."

The kinds of goods the group of volunteers brought with them are detrimental to surviving a day in an underground bomb shelter, stuff like air conditioners, ventilators, food, and toys for the children.


"Be'er Sheva and Eshkol have been constantly bombarded by Hamas, so we visited these two cities. Some of the kids we met in these bomb shelters are aged five, seven, twelve, etc. These kids are on summer vacation, but they spend their time in the bomb shelters. The families are unfortunate not only for being subjected to this situation, but because they also can't afford to send their children away to summer camp or provide them with other amusement," he explains.

Bushinksy recalls playing with the kids and trying to give them as many "good times" as possible. One six-year-old in particular was celebrating her birthday, he notes, so a scholar who volunteered went out and purchased her a birthday cake. "The next day we received a note from her mother saying it was so meaningful and out of this world, and that our help was much appreciated," he says.

"You don't need to buy lavish things to make a difference. All you have to do is show affection."

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