Despite the regular sounding of the Color Red siren warning of incoming fire and
the subsequent booms as Kassam rockets strike their town, the residents of
Sderot seem to be leading normal lives.
On Thursday, the second day of
the army’s Operation Pillar of Defense against terrorist targets in the
Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, life appears to continue with little or no change
from the routine day-to-day activities.
Cars drive down the streets and
shoppers frequent local businesses. A gardener can be seen pruning branches
outside a house on a quiet residential street and several youths ride past on
Outside a convenience store, several men sit and smoke
cigarettes, appearing blasé and unmoved by the occasional rocket. Such is
everyday life for the residents of one of the nearest Israeli cities to Gaza. At
its closest point, Sderot is less than 1 kilometer from the Gaza
However, not everything is as placid as it appears, said
psychiatrist Dr. Adrianna Katz, the director of the Sderot Mental Health Center,
a clinic affiliated with the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon that services
the residents of Sderot and its surrounding moshavim.
Katz said that,
following 12 years of regular rocket attacks, many of Sderot’s residents are
suffering from the symptoms of various mental disorders, most notably
posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
from a makeshift office in the city’s downtown police station, having moved her
base of operations in order to be more readily accessible to those in need of
emergency services, Katz nonchalantly rose and strolled to the bomb shelter as a
loudspeaker began blaring several seconds into the interview.
a bomb shelter equipped with stretchers and medical supplies, the feisty
63-year-old psychiatrist from Ashkelon, who appeared more like an aging hippie
than a mental health professional, began to heatedly debate issues of supply and
logistics with members of her team until it was deemed safe to
Continuing the conversation as if nothing had happened, Katz
asserted that despite repeated promises from the government, specifically the
Health Ministry, she has been operating on a shoestring budget for
Barzilai Medical Center, she said, does not have the budget to
expand her operation.
Despite the fact that her clinic “takes care of
several thousand” residents, Katz explained that in terms of personnel and
budget it has “almost nothing.”
“In total, at the moment, our team
consists of a secretary and three mental health professionals,” Katz lamented,
saying that each member of her team treats many more patients than they can
handle. “There have been times when I have been here alone with 50 people
Katz claimed that, despite occasional reports in the
media, there have been no budget increases or staff expansions, even as the
burden on her team increases.
“We still haven’t received anything. There
are many who want [to help] but we still haven’t gotten anything.
know [why, but] the money isn’t being given to us,” the psychiatrist
Asked why she thinks that is the case, Katz gestured to a
representative of the Health Ministry sitting next to her.
the Health Ministry,” she replied. The representative, sent down to the South to
coordinate with Katz’s team during the current emergency, leaned back and flatly
refused to comment, saying that all inquiries must be made through the
However, when contacted, ministry spokeswoman
Einav Greenbaum said that she did not know about Katz or the Sderot Mental
While on the topic of the ministry, Katz asserted that
over two years ago, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman promised her a budget
“to add another half psychiatrist and one social worker.”
said, “two-anda- half years later, only now have I received the budget a week or
two ago and now I will [be able to afford] half a psychiatrist and one social
Moreover, she said that she was not receiving any additional
staff or budget to deal with the influx of victims sure to arrive at her
doorstep during and after Operation Pillar of Defense.
makeshift center remained empty during the interview, Katz said that “any second
a Kassam rocket can fall on a house inside the city, as just happened, and [even
if] nobody is hurt physically, you may have seven people suddenly arriving here
in trauma, suffering from shock. This can happen at any moment. This is not
after the [military] operation [for which we are preparing].
know when the end of the operation will be.
We have been in the midst of
an ‘operation’ for 12 years. It is just that sometimes it is more serious than