Schools Close in Tel Aviv and South for First Time Since Gulf War

“We are concerned for the safety of our children and we don’t take chances,” said education minister

Firefighters deploy after a factory hit by a rocket caught fire in Sderot, southern Israel , Israel, November 12, 2019.
Firefighters deploy after a factory hit by a rocket caught fire in Sderot, southern Israel , Israel, November 12, 2019.Credit: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

For the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, the Home Front Command ordered the closure of schools in an area stretching from southern Israel to Tel Aviv on Tuesday, leaving some one million children at home. Some Tel Aviv municipality officials backed the decision but others told Haaretz that they were surprised by it.

However, the Home Front Command announced Tuesday night that schools will resume normally on Wednsday.

Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Zipi Brand, who holds the city council’s education portfolio said she “hoped that security was the only consideration” for the decision. An official in another municipality said: “They apparently expected a harsh response from Gaza, but at the same time, this dramatic move leads public opinion to support a unity government led by Netanyahu.

Haaretz WeeklyCredit: Haaretz

In previous rounds of fighting schools in the greater Tel Aviv area remained open. During the Gaza operation of 2012, missiles were fired at the greater Tel Aviv area for the first time since the Gulf War. Nevertheless, the Education Ministry announced that schools would remain open everywhere except within a 40-kilometer range of the Gaza Strip. The 2014 Gaza fighting took place in the summer, and exams at colleges and universities went on as usual except in southern Israel.

The Education Ministry said in response that the decision to close the schools was the sole responsibility of the Home Front Command. “We are concerned for the safety of our children and we don’t take chances,” Education Minister Rafi Peretz said from the ministry’s situation room in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The decision to close the schools in southern and central Israel affected some 80,000 teachers, 30,000 preschoolers in frameworks under state supervision and tens of thousands of toddlers in private daycare.

Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, Sapir College near Sderot and other colleges in the south were also closed.

Tel Aviv University, with a student body of some 30,000, did not hold classes yesterday, nor did the Open University’s Tel Aviv campus and other colleges in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva.

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