JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin hosted four girls from Gaza-perimeter communities who've come up with a plan to get their stories out to the world.
While terrorists in the Gaza Strip have temporarily tamped down on rocket launches, infiltration attempts and attacks against Israeli security forces along the border, the arson campaign that accompanied the "Great March of Return" has burned up some 10,000 acres of Israeli farmland, forests, and nature reserves. The girls came to talk about the new venture with the president.
Two weeks ago, they created Otef.gaza, meaning the Gaza envelope, an Instagram page that already has 61,000 followers. The visitors, May Caspi, Meshi Elmakays, Yam Yefet and Shani Peretz, serve as administrators of the page.
The first order of business was a tour of the president's residence by staff from the newly opened Visitors' Center there. After the tour, President Rivlin visited with his young guests.
Meshi Elmakays from the Kerem Shalom community explained how the idea developed.
"We opened the page after we went on a hike, and we heard that big changes start with little steps," Elmakay said. "We thought we would have 100 followers and that that would be amazing." Little did they know it would expand exponentially to 61,000 in the first two weeks.
The president welcomed the girls with a grandfather's heart.
"I am so happy to meet you, the wonderful girls of the Israeli communities around Gaza," he greeted them. "You show the world what we have to deal with, and at the same time show that there is someone to take care of us and that we know how to stand tall."
Every one of his grandchildren closely follow you on Instagram, he said, adding his personal "really great" approval.
Then he told them about growing up in Jerusalem.
Rivlin was born in Jerusalem's Rahavia neighborhood in 1939.
"I also grew up under fire," he said. "When I was a kid, Jerusalem was under siege – when the Etzion Bloc fell, when Jordanian shells were fired on us and we asked why things like this were happening."
"At the same time, we understood that our big brothers and our parents were fighting," he recalled, saying as kids they believed the grownups would secure their independence.
He really understands what it must be like, he told them, because of his own childhood experiences.
"I understand that it is hard, very hard, to hear the Code Red alert. And that it's very hard to know that you are going to school but don't know if the siren will go off on the way there or that a shell or a mortar will fall."
He continued. "We are all with you in these difficulties and know that you are the ones who ensure that normal daily life can continue in Israel because of your resilience."
Terror kite, Photo, GPO, Haim Zach
The girls brought one of the incendiary kites launched into southern Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
"These kites are supposed to be the dream of every child, playing with them in the breeze. Under Hamas, these toys have become weapons of war. I so hope that weapons go back to being toys soon," he said.