I will bless those who bless you Genesis 12:3 (The Israel Bible™)
The Eshkol region of Israel, bordering the Gaza and Egyptian borders in the Western Negev Desert, has been on the frontlines of the violence and warfare targeted at Israel in recent years. For children under the age of 14, hostility from the neighboring Gaza Strip, just miles away, has become an unavoidable part of their childhood; many struggle with ongoing trauma and stress. While Eshkol gathers international attention during times of heightened violence, the real struggle is establishing resilience, stability, and community building for the growing population.
Today, the Eshkol Regional Council broke ground on the new regional Playschool, established by Jewish National Fund-USA and the generosity of Pastor Jentezen Franklin. The ceremony was attended by Pastor Jentezen Franklin, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Eshkol Regional Council Mayor Gadi Yarkoni, JNF-USA CEO Russell F. Robinson, and other community leaders, JNF-USA supporters, and local residents.
Since Operation Cast Lead in 2008, the trauma and stress caused by the ongoing violence in Gaza has created a low sense of security among school children, causing lower academic results, as well as long lasting emotional and psychological distress. As this vibrant community seeks to thrive in helping build Israel’s frontier communities, the key to successful growth starts with establishing a safe and open environment for children to learn and play. The Eshkol Playschool will serve more than 3,000 children, three elementary schools, and provide children a safe indoor playground and innovative learning center that integrates play with education and instills creativity and innovation, communication, and collaboration skills.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, H.E. David Friedman: I cannot imagine the difficulty which people who live in Eshkol and the Gaza Border deal with, waking up a child in the middle of the night, in the face of alerts. It is an unthinkable burden to place on anyone. It is an entirely unacceptable reality. But in courageous defiance, I can’t thank the residents of Eshkol enough for proving the terrorists will never prevail. Your courage in the face of extraordinary challenges is proof that the people of Israel are not going anywhere.
Pastor Jentezen Franklin: When I first came to the community of Eshkol, I thought it would be a depressed spirit, and I would come in and help spread cheer. But when I left, I saw that these people have more joy than anyone else I have been around in a long time. They have purpose, and understand their role in building this region, and it truly touched my heart. I am here to tell all of you that you have friends in America, people who have your back. There is a whole new generation in this region that God is raising up, who will make sure we do not give up this precious land.
JNF-USA Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Russell F. Robinson: 71 years ago, as armies from the surrounding nations invaded the new country of Israel, it was the communities of the border regions who were sitting on the front line. Today, they still remain our defense against those who seek to destroy us, but we will not sit idly by. Together, we are building a place where children will learn, grow and dream. It will be these children who will grow to be the leaders and builders of tomorrow. These children will be the ones who come together to build a world of peace.
Eshkol Mayor Gadi Yarkoni: The security threat facing our region is not something that we can control, but what can be controlled is how we handle this situation. We choose to invest in our community’s resiliency, in a good quality of life for our people, and in the next generation, our incredible children.
As part of its ongoing mission to develop Israel’s southern frontier region, and bring half a million new residents to the Negev, Jewish National Fund-USA has stood side by side with the people of the Eshkol region to help socio-economic growth, critical social services, housing opportunities, and environmental support. Pastor Jentezen Franklin, Senior Pastor of Free Chapel and host of the weekly Kingdom Connection, inspires over 2 billion people from 250 countries to stand together in support of Israel’s future. Pastor Franklin, like many of JNF-USA’s partners throughout the United States, are actively helping to build Israel’s future for generations to come.