High school students from villages and towns near the Gaza border began a protest march toward Jerusalem on Sunday to call attention to the rocket-battered region’s woes.
Over 100 students from grades 10-12 at Shaar Hanegev High School were taking part in the march, which began at the Sapir College campus in Sderot and is slated to last five days and stretch some 90 kilometers, part of it uphill, to Israel’s capital.
The marchers expect to reach Kibbutz Ruhama, some 15 kilometers northeast of Sderot, by Sunday evening. They plan on concluding the march at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Thursday.
“We’re youth from the Gaza border region that decided to act,” 17-year-old Alon Levy, one of the march organizers, told the Haaretz daily. “We want to make our voices heard because we want to see a change. We want our younger siblings to be able to sleep quietly at night.”
Marchers will wear shirts that read “Let us grow up in peace.”
The Education Ministry is not formally endorsing the march, which is being held at the expense of studies, but one teacher told the Ynet news site, “This protest is [the students’] initiative, something they started. We can’t stop them.”
“We’ve lived from war to war all our lives. Israel’s leaders can change that, so we’re marching to the Knesset to raise awareness of what’s happening here, to tell our story, as young people who are coping with this difficult security situation,” 17-year-old Nevo Dan told Ynet.
The march is part of a series of protests launched by residents in the region over what they have depicted as government inaction in response to rocket fire from Gaza.
A demonstration organized by schoolchildren Sunday in the Eshkol Regional Council saw signs protesting the insecurity many residents feel. One sign read, “Bibi [Netanyahu], wake up! The south is burning.”
A group of residents also briefly blocked trucks headed for the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza.
The recurring bouts of rocket fire from Gaza began 17 years ago, during the early years of the Second Intifada. The high school students marching to Jerusalem this week have known no other reality.
The students spent the weekend planning their route and gathering supplies, and will be met along the way by volunteers and supportive parents.
The protest comes as Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian officials have indicated in recent days that Israel and Hamas are close to reaching an agreement on a three-year ceasefire that would see an end to rocket fire, incendiary balloon launches and violent border protests on the Gazan side in exchange for a partial easing of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory.