Nat'l hot line service helps reservists' kids deal with the reality of dads gone to war

For Shuli Mogilner the phone call late Saturday night asking her husband Etan to arrive for reserve army duty first thing on Sunday morning immediately brought back some harsh memories from 2006's Second Lebanon War. "There was so much stress and worrying last time, we had no idea where he was and no way to contact him," the mother of three recalled to The Jerusalem Post Sunday, just hours after Etan joined his army unit. "All of last week, watching the news, we had a feeling that this would happen, and now it has," she continued, adding: "The hardest part this time is that the now children understand what is happening. This morning my oldest son, who is seven, knew that I was upset and asked his daddy not to go." Mogilner and her children are among thousands of Israeli families that have no choice but to watch as their husbands, sons, fathers, uncles, brothers and cousins receive call-up notices from their army units as Israel continues its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. "Even though there is a general acceptance among Israelis that we have no choice but to continue with this offensive, people across the country are still struggling to deal with their anxieties and fears," commented Orly Ariel, director of Eran, the national hot line service for emotional first aid, which works together with the Israel Trauma Coalition. On Sunday, Eran launched a new help line (*2201 or #12010 on ICQ) to provide soldiers and their families with essential counseling and advice. Ariel said that as soon as reservist soldiers started receiving their call-up notices last week, there was a surge in people calling the hot line, with many of the requests for help coming from children whose fathers had left for battle. "We are dealing with calls from seven- to 10-year-olds whose daddies have gone to war," pointed out Ariel. "It is most important for us to empathize with them and let them know that how they are feeling is legitimate. At the same time, it's important for them to accept what their fathers are doing and that it is beyond their control." Ariel also said that part of the fears expressed by those whose loved ones have now joined the reservist forces has been heightened because Israel is still collectively getting over the trauma of the last war just two-and-a-half years ago. "The memories of the last operation in the North are still very fresh in people's minds," she said, highlighting that many of those calling the hot line are either from the North and are suffering from flashbacks or from other parts of the country but have strong memories of loved ones going off to war during the last conflict. In addition, Ariel said, these fears were heightened because of what was perceived to be certain mistakes and a level of unpreparedness during the last war. "There is no doubt that has made people more fearful this time," she said, adding, "We have learned from our mistakes, however, and the army and Home Front Command is much more forthcoming with information. The key to helping people feel more relaxed with this kind of situation is providing information."