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A Year After the Gaza War: The Forgotten Children of Sderot

The rockets may have stopped firing — for now — but the traumatic effects of Operation Cast Lead linger on.

by
Stephanie L. Freid

Bio

December 24, 2009 - 12:00 am
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It’s been a year since Operation Cast Lead, and from the media silence, one would assume that all is quiet on the Gaza/Israel front. There’s been scant reportage of projectile launches coming out of Gaza into Sderot and southern Israel. That’s probably because people aren’t dying.

But a quick call to Sderot Media Center sheds light on the situation as it truly stands. There have been 283 missiles, rockets, and mortar rounds launched into Israel since last January.  And almost every time there’s a launch, air-raid sirens sound to warn residents that they have 15 seconds before touchdown to take cover in bomb shelters.

Since 2001, the city of Sderot has been hit by 10,000 missiles launched by Palestinian militants based in the Hamas-run Gaza enclave. The entire town has suffered but those most traumatized are the children, whose nightmares return every time a siren sounds.

From toddlers to teenagers, more than 80% of Sderot’s 8000 kids are living proof of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many of them wet their beds, suffer bad dreams, suck their thumbs, experience chronic anxiety, sleep in their parents’ beds, and exhibit lingering physical and psychological manifestations that accompany life in an environment where they have had to scramble for cover in life-and-death situations.

Until now, they’ve had therapy resources available via the town’s Resilience Center Treatment Clinic. The center staff treat the kids’ symptoms and guides parents on coping with their children’s trauma. The center also serves as a safe haven.

But recently the news came that the Resilience Center Treatment Clinic, which is dependent on donations and subsidies, is in jeopardy of shutting down. There’s simply not enough money to keep it going. Rocket and missile barrages minus casualties have a funny way of turning formerly exuberant private donors into “we had to re-prioritize our spending” withholders. The Israeli government has also had to re-prioritize what comes from its coffers.

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