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Ashkelon children Photo: Roee Idan
Ashkelon children Photo: Roee Idan
 
 

Rocket fire on southern Israel causes anxiety

Escalation in south stirs old traumas with many children saying they fear being hurt in a rocket attack, as trauma workers attempt to offer new strategies for coping.

The Media Line
Published: 03.14.14, 08:59 / Israel News

For Terri Davis, who lives in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, the dozens of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip overnight signaled the return of a routine that had been almost forgotten in the past year and a half.

 

 

“We didn’t even hear the sirens but all the rocket fire was in the south, so they told people to stay near their shelters,” she told The Media Line.

 

“My daughter also lives in Ashkelon and her apartment doesn’t have a shelter. Since her husband was working last night, she didn’t want to be alone, so she came and slept over at my house.”

 

Residetns run to bomb shelter. Archive (Photo: AP)
Residetns run to bomb shelter. Archive (Photo: AP)

 

Davis, who works as the overseas coordinator at Kehillat Netzah Yisrael, a 300-family Conservative synagogue, says she thinks reactions to the rockets depend partly on individual personalities.

 

“I’m fairly calm because I think I’m getting used to it,” she said. “But my daughter is very nervous. When she drove over last night, her husband drove behind her in case a siren went off. Then he went to his 12-hour shift at Intel.”

 

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Most apartments built in Israel in the past 20 years have their own shelter – a room with a thick metal door that can be completely sealed to protect inhabitants. Older buildings are supposed to have communal shelters in buildings, but these shelters are often filled with discarded furniture and other junk, and in effect, unusable.

 

The synagogue where Davis works has five separate pre-school classes. Each class is equipped with its own sealed room – an amenity more and more parents are requesting, Davis said.

 

“I was at the synagogue yesterday getting ready for the holiday of Purim (a Jewish holiday that begins Saturday night where children wear costumes and hold parades) and an alarm went off while the afternoon pre-school was in session,” she said. “It was something else seeing the teachers get 70 kids into the shelter, but somehow they managed.”

 

While some of the kids were nervous, the teachers began singing songs for the upcoming holiday and the children quickly relaxed, she said.

 

Children can be especially vulnerable to trauma, says Judy Spanglet of Connections and Links: From Trauma to Resilience. Spanglet offers workshops for children using movement and mindfulness to handle fear and trauma.

 

In a third-grade class in the southern town of Ofakim, she said, three-quarters of the children had watched the news about the rocket attacks. Many of them said they felt nervous about getting hurt in a rocket attack.

 

“We teach the children tools they can use movement as well as mindfulness - to use their body as well as their sensation and movement tools and how to discharge the survival energy that is built up when there is a threat,” Spanglet told The Media Line. “We tell them that you can’t change the event but you can change how you react. You can calm down and regulate yourself.”

 

She also said that even if nobody is hurt in a rocket attack, children can still feel traumatic affects. Several studies have shown that more than half of children in the town of Sderot, which lies less than a mile from the Gaza border, show symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Spanglet tries to teach a combination of meditation and movement to rid the body of the excess energy built up during tension.

 

Children often hold tension in their stomachs, and will tell Spanglet that they feel “tightness” in their stomach.

 

“We teach them to put one hand on their stomach and another on their chest and just to focus on their breathing,” she said. “We use breath to discharge the energy. It’s beautiful to see how they can learn to help themselves.”

 

Article written by Linda Gradstein

 

Reprinted with permission from The Media Line

 

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