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Military lifts countrywide restrictions, catching closed education system by surprise

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The Israel Defense Forces said overnight that it was lifting Home Front Command restrictions that had been put in place as a precaution against the threat of missiles and drones from Iran, which had shuttered the education system and day camps across the country.

The announcement, a reversal, came several hours after the army had declared that the restrictions would remain in place until Monday at 11 p.m. The military noted that, if necessary, the restrictions would be restored.

The abrupt late-night decision caught the education system by surprise, with many municipal authorities saying they would not be ready to run activities on Monday.

One kindergarten teacher sent a message to parents saying “I got up in the morning to this whole mess and am trying to see how the kindergarten can be opened in a short amount of time,” the Walla news outlet reported. “I am trying to make the best effort to open, but it depends on several things. Please keep your fingers crossed that everything will go smoothly and that we will be able to open today.”

With the restrictions lifted, schools will be allowed to reopen, though this will only have a limited impact as most are currently on break ahead of the Passover holiday, which starts next week. But the army directive also covered daycares, universities, school trips, and day camps, which had been shut down by the restrictions.

The updated guidance means that the restriction on gatherings of more than 1,000 people has also been lifted, allowing sporting events and concerts to go as planned.

Israeli children and firefighters participate in a drill that simulates a fire in a kindergarten following the fall of a rocket in Amuka, Northern Israel, April 2, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Restrictions on gatherings and educational activities that have been in place since October 7 for those near Israel’s northern and southern borders will remain in effect, the IDF said. The date marks the Hamas invasion of southern Israel and the ensuing start of hostilities in Gaza.

Explaining the reversal, the IDF said it needed to wait 24 hours after the Iranian assault, which came Saturday, to make sure that Tehran’s Shiite proxies in the area would not also attack the country, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The Education Ministry said in a statement that day camps at schools could open from 9 a.m. but noted that the return to scheduled activities “would be gradual” due to the time needed to get organized.

The ministry noted that its update included the special education system, which had also been closed by the restrictions.

According to the Ynet news site, there are 765,000 children in day camps from kindergarten through Grade 3.

The municipalities of Holon, Bat Yam, Haifa and Beersheba reportedly announced that their education systems would remain shut.

In other locations, authorities notified that they would be unable to organize lunch food for children in aftercare and camp programs that, but that catering services were expected to be restored by Tuesday.

Activities at community centers and informal education events were expected to return to normal operation by Monday afternoon.

Air defense fire interceptors during a drone and missile attack by Iran as seen over Jerusalem, April 14, 2024. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

According to Kan, in the ultra-Orthodox community, activities for grades 4-8 were held on Sunday despite the Home Front orders after Rabbi Dov Lando and Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, two leading rabbis, held consultations on the matter. According to the report, the pair heard that the US government had ordered its embassies in the region to return to normal activities and therefore decided to issue a similar instruction to their own communities.

Public gatherings in Israel were put in lockdown over the weekend ahead of the expected attack by Iran, which eventually came overnight Saturday in the form of hundreds of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as drones, that it fired at Israel. Almost all of the projectiles were intercepted before they reached the country and the few that got through did only minor damage. One young girl was critically injured by falling shrapnel.

Tensions between Israel and Iran had reached a new high in recent days as the Islamic Republic vowed to avenge seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, including two generals, who were killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike on a building near Tehran’s consulate in Damascus on April 1.

The escalation with Iran came against the backdrop of war that erupted in the south of the country on October 7 with a massive cross-border attack by the Palestinian terror group Hamas that killed 1,200 people in Israel and saw 253 taken hostage.

Israel responded with a military offensive in Gaza to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, of whom 129 remain in captivity, some of them believed no longer alive.

The day after the Hamas attack, Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah began attacking along the northern border saying it was supporting Gaza. As the IDF has responded to near-daily rocket fire from Lebanon, it has hit Hezbollah sites, and allegedly also targeted related locations in Syria, another Iran ally.

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