Community resilience – the Israeli response

If feelings of uncertainty, helplessness and being alone are the greatest enemies of resilience, its best ally is the community.

May 13, 2019 21:38
2 minute read.
Remnants of the rocket that hit the factory in Ashkelon

Remnants of the rocket that hit the factory in Ashkelon. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)


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More than 650 rockets in 36 hours, four killed and dozens wounded. These are the numbers from the last round of fighting in the South.

This is the impossible reality of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens – a reality that is becoming more acute with short and intensive escalations that not only take lives but impact the well-being of many.

Southern communities hear people say, “They’re used to it, for them it’s routine.” But it is not possible; you cannot “get used to it.” As one of the residents of Kibbutz Alumim near the Gaza Strip said, “It’s like an allergy: each time the reaction is more and more extreme.”

It is true that the residents of the Gaza envelope seek shelter and follow instructions. But the body has its own memory, and when people are told that “everything will be alright” – and the “alright” refuses to arrive – the body remembers another reality, a reality of fear: rapid breathing, quickened pulse, nausea and numerous other responses all prevail over instructions and advice.

This sense of uncertainty may lead to an erosion in the resilience that is most critical to withstanding extreme situations over time; in the ability to cope with long-term stress; and in the maintenance of emotional well-being for individuals, families and entire communities. The main task we face in the Gaza envelope and the South is to strengthen resilience.

If feelings of uncertainty, helplessness and being alone are the greatest enemies of resilience, its best ally is the community.

Community brings a sense of belonging, the feeling that each and every one of us is part of something greater, and the knowledge that there is an entire community that takes care of each other and creates real and long-term resilience. Community is also seen and felt in the support the Gaza envelope receives from Israel – and which Israel is receiving from the Jewish world.

In recent years, there has been growing investment in strengthening communities and community resilience.

Activities are carried out by trained teams working day and night within the communities to strengthen the sense of belonging and mutual responsibility; teams which ensure a continuum of care; and leadership that takes responsibility and provides a sense of direction and meaning. This is the making of stronger individuals and communities.

This is a message that should resonate with every one of us, even within the Israeli reality of uncertainty.

And it does. We have the ability to make decisions and choices to help those around us, to create a sense of togetherness and a sense of community. Because we know how to cultivate a sense of belonging, we know how to nurture strong communities, and increase our abilities as individuals and communities to deal with future events.

The writer is CEO of the Israeli Trauma Coalition.

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