How the IDF Prepares Israeli Schools for Emergencies

The Home Front Command prepares schools and businesses across the country from all of Israel’s communities for emergency situations

Cpl. Nestia Golubovsky finds herself in a different part of Israel every week. This Civil Emergency Instructor travels around the country to teach schoolchildren how to prepare for an emergency, and how to stay safe if they find themselves in an emergency situation. Today, she’s at a local elementary school in Kfar Qara, an Israeli Arab village in the north.

“I’ve taught in quite a few Israeli Arab schools before,” Cpl. Nestia tells us. “They’re not particularly used to seeing soldiers, but whenever we arrive they greet us very warmly.”

The hospitality at schools in the Arab sector is incredible, says Nestia. “They are super friendly and greet us every morning with a cup of coffee. At another Arab school, the staff brought out a huge plate of knafeh [a traditional Middle Eastern cheese pastry] at the end of the week for all the instructors.”

In the classroom

We walk into the classroom and a group of children ages eight to 10 greets us. Cpl. Nestia begins, and a staff member from the school translates her lesson sentence by sentence into Arabic. “Because I don’t speak Arabic I have to teach with a translator,” Cpl. Nestia says. “This makes dialogue with the students a bit difficult, because it means I can’t ask as many questions.”

Civil Emergency Instructor Nestia Golubovsky teaching students the basics of fire safety

Civil Emergency Instructor Nestia Golubovsky teaching students the basics of fire safety

It’s a Thursday, so today’s class will summarize a week’s worth of lessons on fire safety. Cpl. Nestia starts from the basics, asking the students to define a fire, and then moves on to more complex topics: how to prevent fire before it breaks out, how to fireproof your home, and the importance of preparing an emergency kit to run out with if you need to.

The children are eager and have lots of questions to ask. Cpl. Nestia starts to quiz them and all of their hands shoot up at once to answer. Later, she gives the students a sheet to fill in with emergency phone numbers – of their parents, grandparents, and other important contacts – and to stick on their refrigerators at home.

The right message for the right audience

Teaching children requires different tactics to teaching adults, Cpl. Golubovsky says. “You can tell a grownup what to do in a rocket attack – but a child doesn’t necessarily know what a rocket is. We spend a lot of extra time teaching kids, and go into all of the specifics of each situation so that they understand what to do to the greatest extent possible.”

Preparation for the entire community

The lesson doesn’t stop in the classroom – when the students bring their contact sheets home, the entire family learns how to prepare for an emergency. “The children teach the parents,” the principal of the school tells us. “And we hear only positive things from them.”

Cpl. Nestia Golubovsky, the school's principal and the translator

Cpl. Nestia Golubovsky, the school’s principal and the translator

The school has been participating in the program for a number of years. “I’m an educator, but I’m also a resident of Kfar Qara, a family man and a grandfather,” the principal says. “The work of the Home Front Command here is enormously important. We need to be able to help ourselves.” During Operation Pillar of Defense, rockets were falling in their dozens, and Kfar Qara was under threat like the rest of the country. The operation was a good example of the importance of the program, the principal says. “I recommend that everyone in the school participates, and I’d like to expand the program to the entire community.”

“If they don’t learn this content in school, they wouldn’t get it anywhere else,” Cpl. Golubovsky tells us. “I get feedback from the school every day. They’re very thankful for what we do. I arrive every day with a good feeling.”


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