IDF and southern mayors clash over canceled classes
Home Front Command sources say there was no reason to keep southern schools closed on Monday and Tuesday, but they have no authority to order local governments to resume classes.
Though the Home Front Command works closely with local governments in the south that have been targeted by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Home Front Command officials have privately voiced frustration with local mayors who went to the media to announce school closures due to the security situation before the command had issued its own directives.
Sources in the Home Front Command said there was no reason to keep southern schools closed on Monday and Tuesday, but they have no authority to order local governments to resume classes. In contrast, they do have authority to override local officials' decisions if they think the local authorities are taking unwarranted security risks.
One conclusion civil defense officials drew from the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was that to the extent possible, daily civilian activity should be maintained even during periods of military conflict.
Students in the south's larger cities - Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat and Be'er Sheva - are expected to return to class on Wednesday, following a meeting in Ashdod between local officials and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. But some local officials in other towns complained that the decision these towns' mayors made to close their schools sowed confusion among southern residents. It also represented a new approach to relations with the Home Front Command, they said.
"I don't understand this," said one Negev region mayor. "It can't be that the Home Front Command issues instructions and the mayors decide otherwise. It seems the decision to hold class is much more difficult than canceling classes."
Some defense establishment sources said the mayors' decision to keep schools closed despite the Home Front Command's instructions to resume classes was the product of lack of experience and a lack of understanding of the situation on the ground.
But Be'er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich noted that his decision to cancel classes despite the Home Front Command's instructions to the contrary was made in coordination with municipal authorities in the other three large cities, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Kiryat Gat.
"Unfortunately, the tense security situation and the continued Grad rocket fire on Monday evening proved that we had not returned to a normal situation," he said. "The safety of city residents, including the city's children, takes precedence over any other consideration."