Two days after the WIZO "Open House" center in Sderot was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza over the weekend, in a moving, triumphant show of resilience, WIZO staff came to work and held a kindergarten graduation party, as planned before the tragedy, at the facility. Among the brave parents and smiling children at the event, Sderot's Mayor Alon Davidi exclaimed, "Terror won't weaken the citizens of Sderot. The children that are enjoying themselves here with their parents are proof that terror won't dictate our way of life." The children were marking the completion of a year-long 1st grade preparation course.
While nobody was injured in Friday night's rocket attack in Sderot, it caused significant structural damage to the Open House's main spaces, including a collapsed roof, smashed windows and destruction of equipment and furniture.
After the rocket attack, WIZO was adamant about repairing the building and returning to "life as normal" as quickly as possible. Indeed, a day after the attack, a group of WIZO administration visited the site together with federal tax officials, responsible for assessing and compensating for security-related damage. Simultaneously, a municipal clean-up team was making the facility's unaffected areas usable as soon as possible. Cleaning and rehabbing of the facility will take at least a month and a half. In the meantime, only one room of the center is usable and secure.
All of the center's staff shares the spirit of answering violence and fear with courage and determination. Edva Dror, Director of the Open House, explained, "Recently we've attracted a lot of new people to the Open House, thanks to the wide range of services we provide. We'd like to preserve this community we've created and even bring in more people, despite this awful incident. Therefore, our most dire need is funds to provide rocket-proofing for the entire facility. We have small bomb shelters, and the city is helping us with cleanup, but we urgently need a total security renovation so that even more children and parents can lead as normal a life as possible in the surreal conditions of this beleaguered Israeli border town."
The Open House, one of WIZO's three institutions in the southern development town, was officially inaugurated as the Open House – WIZO Center for the Children, Parents and Educational Staff of Sderot in 2010, and operates as a daycare facility specializing in the identification and treatment of health and developmental issues, and treating hundreds of children and families suffering from the psychological and emotional effects of the ongoing security situation in the area. The new center also provides a wide range of community-enriching services, like a telephone hotline for parental guidance, operated by volunteers, as well as "mommy-and-me" classes and training for professionals in preschool education, among others. Over the years, the building has been refurbished and outfitted with secure, rocket-proof spaces. The center is currently run jointly by WIZO, the social welfare and activism organization "Gvanim," and the local municipality.
Chairperson of World WIZO, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, reacted to the news of the attack, "My heart breaks for Sderot once again as the dark cloud of terror descends on a population already so emotionally scarred and traumatized, that once again must run to shelters within a mere 15 seconds of sheer panic. We, at WIZO, will do everything to rebuild and rocket-proof the Open House as quickly as possible and make it a safe place for the people of Sderot. We stand united with the mothers who hold their children close in these terribly troubling times, and we pray for a prevailing peace."