Intensified rocket attacks reignite residents' anxiety

Sderot psychologist: The town is experiencing collective trauma.

Renewed Kassam rocket attacks on Sderot and the western Negev has reignited the extreme trauma and stress experienced by area residents, especially the children, according to professionals who run the Israel Trauma Coalition's five Resilience Centers. "We have been receiving an increasing number of calls and people coming in for treatment referrals over the past few days," David Giron, regional coordinator of the Resilience Centers, told The Jerusalem Post Monday. A trained social psychologist, Giron said that the situation had been exacerbated by the "period of relative quiet," which had seen life in Sderot return to some semblance of normalcy. "Now the pressure has returned at an even higher magnitude than before," he explained, stressing that the situation reflects a buildup after eight years of attacks. "There is a real lack of hope here and a sense that there is no possible solution in sight." "The town is experiencing a collective trauma," added Dalia Yosef, director of the Sderot Resilience Center. "Every day we are seeing more and more people signing up for our services and a greater number of even very young children are being affected psychologically by this situation." She said that children as young as two are exhibiting signs of extreme stress due to the continued attacks. "The children are really struggling with the situation," said Yosef, adding that the center currently treats more than 400 children out of some 5,000 in the town and also works closely with the schools to mitigate the effects. "In the younger children there is a severe regression, those who had stopped using pacifiers, for example, are returning to use them," she said. "Among the older children there is a lack of any independence. They are reluctant to wander too far away from their parents and refuse to go on play dates with other children." Founded and significantly funded by the United Jewish Community-Federation of New York, the Israel Trauma Coalition operates five resilience centers in the besieged southern region, with the largest being in Sderot. The services, provided free to the public, are also subsidized with funds from the government and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, among others. In addition to the individual and group therapy for residents of all ages, the centers provide ongoing training and counseling services for first responders and local professionals, including educators and others in public service, as well as programs to strengthen community resilience.