In south Israel, school’s out as adults bicker

Increasingly, it looks as if Palestinian terrorists in Gaza are aiming their rockets at Israeli schools.

For a week now, some 250,000 Israeli kids have stayed away from schools, a situation which has greatly disrupted normal life in the country’s south. The government and the IDF have given the all-clear for children to return to school, but rockets keep on being fired. The mayors of the major cities in the South, together with many parents and teachers, have ignored the state’s orders and have kept the schools closed. A stalemate, with Israeli children caught in the middle between quarreling adults.

Who decides on whether to send children back to school in a war zone? The mayor? The army? The education ministry? The parents? And maybe we should be asking an even more fundamental question: who decides on whether a particular area is, in fact, a “war zone”, or a “zone under emergency”, or a “zone under periodic emergency”, or a “zone under emergency routine”, or just a “danger zone?”

And what are the procedures and orders for each classification? If there are such procedures, nobody seems to know them.

Right now there is total chaos and anarchy, exactly what everyone wants to avoid, but there you have it. It’s Friday, exactly a week since the last round of fighting started, and schools in the South are still closed. The government has not classified southern Israel as a war zone, or an emergency zone, even though the residents there feel as if they are in a war zone and have been keeping their children away from schools for a whole week. And can we blame them? In at least 3 instances, rockets landed near schools and kindergartens this past week, and shrapnel from another rocket interception landed near another school.

The government and its spokespeople are angry at the mayors of all the southern towns for defying the army and keeping schools closed. The parents are angry at the government for not deciding to define their area as a war zone; and also for not deciding to accept the mayors’ decision to keep the schools closed. By the way, the mayors took the decision to keep schools closed together with the parents.

But still there are some who call the decision by the mayors to keep the schools closed “a populist move” and even “politicking,” although most of these critics do not live in the South.

The army should provide the education ministry representative in the local authority with the latest information and assessments about the rocket fire, and then walk away and leave the decision up to the mayor.

The army has all the intelligence and can give the mayor its best assessment – and that’s all.

An army, in a democracy, cannot tell a mayor when to open schools or keep them closed. The only time an army can tell a mayor to do something like this is in a time of war and national emergency. So if we are in such a time, then the government should declare a state of war and emergency and give the IDF all the powers it has during wartime. If the government doesn’t declare a war emergency, then it should order the army back to the barracks.

To my mind this is not even a question that’s up for discussion. The parents have decided to trust their mayors, and that’s where the story ends for them. The government needs to decide who’s in charge: the army or the municipalities, and bring this absurd situation to an end.

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