27 Teaching Leadership to Teens in Ashkelon In the Fall 2008 edition of the HOT News we titled a vignette Ashkelon - Another Sderot? We wrote this after a summer of Hamas missiles being fired at a town with hotels, a beautiful beach, and a port known as the Israeli Riviera. We renovated two bomb shelters, one of which was to house a training and leadership center (TLC) that was to be used to empower and develop young leaders who were to lead youth group branches located all over the city. It was to be a hub to make an important contribution to empowering teens and developing leadership skills. Through the years, we have funded several youth-at-risk projects in Ashkelon (the city of Ashkelon found us a partner for many of them) and when Hamas started launching missiles at Ashkelon in the summer of 2014 we immediately called Sigal (our contact at the city) to see how HOT could help. Over the following 7 weeks, we spoke to each other as many as 3 times a day and often emailed more than 10 times a day. You can read the rest of what we did that summer on page 48. During the 2014 Hamas War, the food HOT bought to feed the up to 4,000 children a day, and the toys and supplies we bought to entertain the very young children, were routed to the public shelters by the teens, who disbursed them from the TLC shelter. These teenagers acted as surrogate parents playing with the young children and doing whatever else they could do to keep the younger kids from focusing on the sirens and explosions. In October 2014 there was another chapter in this incredible story. HOT visited the TLC after the war and met eight of the teens. We asked them “weren’t you afraid of the sirens and missiles.” And they answered: YES - during the first day they were, BUT starting on the second day they didn’t have time to be scared because it was their “job” to make sure the younger kids were calm. It took a moment to process these words coming from a 17-year-old, speaking for a group of 14 to 17-year-olds, and when we processed these words we told them that the people who called them the FUTURE of Israel were WRONG because they were the PRESENT of Israel. It may have been their older brothers and sisters and in some cases fathers or mothers that fought in Gaza, or were stationed on the border, but these teens fought the war too. Our thanks to these young men and women and to all the Israeli mothers like Sigal who went to sleep every night worrying about their 18-year- old son or daughter on the Gaza border. Since 2014, Hamas has dug more tunnels and rearmed itself with new missiles, and terrorism has become a daily occurrence in Israel. Sadly, while editing this page of the HOT News, the sirens were again going off in Ashkelon. This year, the city of Ashkelon is asking for: • $13,691 to renovate an underground bomb shelter to teach self-respect and leadership qualities to at risk teens. The total cost is $28,000 but Ashkelon has already raised $14,309 and needs only $13,691 to be able to complete the renovation.