ICEJ Sponsors Schooling for Children from Sderot Congregation

—by Nativia Samuelsen


The ongoing war with Hamas forced thousands of residents from Sderot, a town close to the Gaza border, to evacuate to temporary housing across Israel, and it is still uncertain when they can safely return home. While they wait, the Christian Embassy has been assisting members of a believing congregation from Sderot staying in a village near Jerusalem, sponsoring 13 of their children to attend classes this year at Makor Hatikvah, a school run by local believers. For these children whose town was overrun by terrorists on October 7, the school has provided a welcome refuge from the storm.


Upon arriving at the school, we were cheered to find the Sderot children happily playing football and hopscotch, crafting bracelets, and painting pictures. Several curious students came over to greet us and show off their soccer skills. This environment certainly seemed to be helping the children from the Sderot fellowship heal from their recent encounter with conflict.

The persistent anxiety caused by the war can significantly disrupt the learning process for these youngsters, especially when they have parents serving in the army. Yet within the walls of Makor Hatikvah (Hebrew for “source of hope”), these students are finding refuge and hope.


The school principal, a veteran of the Second Lebanon War, is drawing from his experiences on the battlefield and as a parent to help ease their recovery. His dedication to the welfare of the children is readily apparent. Following a recent stint of IDF reserve duty, he returned and prioritized welcoming the refugee students from Sderot sponsored by the ICEJ.

Many arrived at the school still traumatized, just weeks after the war broke out. The scholarships provide them not only with a quality educational opportunity but also a caring environment among those of like faith.

Bekka, the school’s art teacher, explained the challenges the children faced, from the constant rocket alerts in Sderot to arriving at a new school as evacuees and having to adjust to new teachers and new friends. Her approach in art class focused on the vibrant, uplifting aspects of life and creation, hoping it would serve as a therapeutic outlet for the children and encourage expression, social interaction, and a sense of normalcy.

Bekka noted the significant changes in two students who came from Sderot. One discovered his passion for art, allowing him to refocus by using bright colors. Another student, initially sullen and detached, gradually opened up to engaging more positively with both art and his peers.

“To me, art is never ‘Let’s bring out all of the dark and let’s talk about all the bad.’ I’m the opposite,” Bekka said. “I say, ‘Let’s look at the colors—let’s look at creation and focus on life.’”

Our ICEJ team also spoke with Mira, a 15-year-old evacuee from Sderot who encapsulates the benefits of this nurturing environment.

“The last year has been challenging for me,” she said. “The war, the bombs, the casualties, the hiding—it was a lot to take in. My family and I were scared.”

Yet, Mira’s relocation to Jerusalem and attendance at Makor Hatikvah were turning points for her.

“Coming to Jerusalem and, thanks to ICEJ, enrolling in a school I never dreamed of being able to go to, the supportive teachers, and my new friends here have all given me hope. This is what I can hold on to,” she assured us.

Over recent months, the ICEJ has received “thank you” letters from the families whose children received scholarships to Makor Hatikvah. All of them stated that their children were full of joy, and they did not want the children to leave the school because it was positively impacting their lives. One family with two sons who received ICEJ scholarships wrote:


“On October 7, our day began with sirens and gunfire. From my window, I saw four armed individuals shoot a man and shoot at our house. Our children were petrified, fearing that the terrorists would break in. Amid constant shooting and missile alarms, we huddled together, praying for safety. After a rocket cut our electricity, we spent hours in anxiety, particularly for our youngest who was deeply affected. Escaping the city offered little relief from the fear of further attacks. It took weeks and the supportive community of the school to help my boys recover from the trauma. They are much calmer now and have made many new friends. I can’t say thank you enough.”

Through these scholarships, the ICEJ is not only opening educational doors for evacuee children but also investing in their healing. The families are grateful for the committed Christians around the world who are helping provide a sanctuary of learning and peace of mind for the children of this recuperating congregation.

Help Israelis overcome the traumas of the current conflict.