Defense Ministry reinforcing kindergarten buildings near Gaza border

Effort will cover 33 preschools in 17 southern towns, some which were damaged in last year’s war; thousands of projectiles have been fired at communities since early 2000s

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Ministry and military engineers work to reinforce the rocket defenses at a kindergarten in the southern town of Gvar'am, May 25, 2022. (Defense Ministry)
Defense Ministry and military engineers work to reinforce the rocket defenses at a kindergarten in the southern town of Gvar'am, May 25, 2022. (Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry on Wednesday announced that it had begun the physical reinforcement of kindergartens’ defenses in Israeli communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip, a year after several education centers were damaged in rocket attacks.

The construction work began earlier this week, when the ministry’s Engineering and Construction Division, along with the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command, started reinforcing existing defenses at a preschool in the southern town of Gvar’am.

The ministry said within a year it would reinforce 33 kindergartens in 17 towns close to the Gaza border, including the southern city of Sderot, a frequent target of rockets from Gaza.

Some of the preschools are being reinforced after the buildings were damaged by rocket shrapnel during an 11-day war with Gaza terror groups last May.

The list of preschools that require reinforcement was only put together several months ago, according to the ministry.

It was not clear what caused the holdup for over a year, or why the ministry had not pushed for the move earlier. Thousands of rockets and shells have rained down on the Gaza border communities since the early 2000s, causing several deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Illustrative: Israeli children run to a bomb shelter during a siren warning of incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip, January 8, 2009. (Anna Kaplan/ Flash90/File)

In many cases, victims did not have an available shelter.

And last May, 5-year-old Ido Avigal was killed after rocket shrapnel managed to penetrate the protective plating covering the window of the bomb shelter he was hiding in. In response, the Israeli army recommended that in some southern towns, the plating on windows should be replaced with a thicker protective layer.

The Defense Ministry has been conducting a similar effort to reinforce communities in northern Israel, building new bomb shelters for many homes close to the Lebanon border that previously did not have access to one.

A 2020 comptroller report found that nearly 30 percent of Israeli citizens do not have access to functioning bomb shelters near their homes, including over a quarter of a million people who live near the borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

According to some national security experts, Israel relies more heavily upon its offensive and active defense capabilities, like the Iron Dome and other missile defense systems, to quickly neutralize threats instead of building up its physical fortifications and preparing to more safely absorb an attack.

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