In Netiv HaAsara, an agricultural settlement in southern Israel, kindergartens have bomb shelters, basketball courts have bomb shelters, and churches have bomb shelters. Over winter break, I visited this town and was led into a large white steel building—their largest bomb shelter which served as a communal space whenever there is an elevated threat level. Where we have parks, they have a steel refuge.
For those living on the Gaza strip border in Israel, this is reality. If a rocket is fired from Gaza, the residents of Netiv HaAsara have 15 seconds to find safety. It’s ingrained in their children to know the alarms, run when necessary, and to stay in the shelters until the threat has passed.
Living under such precarious circumstances can be trauma inflicting no matter how happy or safe you are. There is no escaping the long-reaching arm of post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the Jerusalem Post roughly “68% of Gaza school children living in areas close to the perimeter fence with Gaza have clear indications of psycho-social distress.”
While we sat on lawn chairs in the cold bomb shelter and listened to our speaker describe the rockets which fell in their back yards, we were able to hear children outside. They were on the playground during their recess. They were laughing, crying, singing, talking. They were playing tag with their friends, eating snacks, and enjoying the sunshine. Despite their apparent happiness, many of these children suffer from varying levels of PTSD.
Two months ago the sirens went off in Netiv HaAsara. Israeli National News reported that “one of the rockets exploded in a greenhouse near one of the communities. Another rocket exploded in the yard of a home, causing damage.” Even though that attack did not physically harm anyone it still leaves emotional and mental scars. NATAL, the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War, estimates that in one similar southern town between 75 percent and 94 percent of all the children aged 4 to 18 demonstrate symptoms of PTSD.
For children catching PTSD can be hard. The first signs are behavioral changes: aggression, worrying about dying, problems sleeping, problems in school, and more.
Thankfully, Natal gives multidisciplinary treatment and support to such victims of terror and war in Israel. They teach the teachers how to identify symptoms of trauma in themselves and others, how to build resiliency, and how to help their students. For the children, they have interactive learning tools such as videos, puppet shows, outdoor activities. Even amidst great trails they still laugh, they still play, and they still grow.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.