Over 100 students left the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council high school on Sunday morning to make their way to Jerusalem as part of a march to raise awareness for the ongoing high tensions on the Gaza border.
The students—sophomores, juniors and seniors—will walk to the capital, some 90 kilometers away, over the course of five days. The teenagers, who will be joined by their peers from other areas of the country, will walk about 15 kilometers on Sunday and spend the night at Kibbutz Ruhama, which is in the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council and under constant rocket fire threat. The students are expected to get to the Knesset in Jerusalem on Thursday.
This is the biggest protest since the “March of Return” campaign began in late March and brought with it a new threat to their communities: arson terrorism in the form of balloons and kites being flown across the border from the strip into Israel, with an incendiary or explosive device tied to them.
During the weekend, protest leaders worked on planning the march: mapping out the route, figuring out the time it would take to reach each stop, and making sure they have the proper equipment and food.
The teens have the full support of their parents—some of whom will meet them at different stops along the way—as well as organizations and private individuals who will help with necessary equipment.
The schools themselves will not take part in the protest, as the Education Ministry cannot, by law, encourage such a march at the expense of school time. But the teachers and school principals have already told the students they have no intention of stopping them. “This is a protest that came from them, a move they initiated. We can’t stop them,” said one of the teachers. The students prepared signs and flags for the march as well as T-shirts with the slogan “Let us grow up in peace.”
“Our message is that we want change. Enough of the current security situation,” said Roei Rahaf from Kibbutz Mefalsim, a senior at the Shaar HaNegev regional high school. “Since we were born, we’ve been living from one war to the next. We want to grow up on the Gaza border in peace. The change is in the hands of the leadership in Israel, and that is why we are marching to the Knesset. This is a journey to raise awareness of what’s going on here, on the Gaza border; to tell our story, of the teenagers who deal with the difficult security situation.” Much like any modern protest, the teens will provide updates in real time on the protest’s Instagram and Facebook pages, where they will post photos and videos from the march. Meanwhile, students from the Nofei HaBsor High School at the Eshkol Regional Council protested at the entrance to the educational facility as a sign of solidarity with the marchers. Several adult protesters blocked the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Sunday morning, preventing trucks from entering the Gaza Strip.