Sderot youth can learn from kibbutzim how to alleviate terror trauma - study

Bolstering the sense of community and feeling of "coherence" could strengthen traumatized youth in Sderot and help them overcome 'Kassam phobia.'

Bolstering the sense of community and feeling of "coherence" - that life is significant and the world is a place that can be understood - could strengthen traumatized youth in Sderot and help them overcome their fears of the Kassam rocket attacks to which they have been exposed for over seven years. This is the conclusion of a Ben-Gurion University study that compares the emotional strength of teenagers in Sderot with that of their peers on kibbutzim that have also been subjected to rocket attacks from Gaza. The research was conducted by Prof. Shifra Sagi, director of BGU's program for conflict management and solution, and Dr. Erna Levinson, a post-doctoral student at the university. The researchers had 114 teenagers from Sderot and the western Negev kibbutzim fill out questionnaires in February and March 2007, to find out their psychological reactions to the years of Palestinian rockets that disrupted their lives and learn why some endured them with less emotional trauma than others. They compared their reactions and feelings to those of 68 teenagers living in the North whose cities and settlements were targeted by Hizbullah missiles for a month during the Second Lebanon War in August 2006. The teenagers were asked about how much anxiety they felt, and when those who appeared resilient to the pressure were identified, the researchers tried to find out what made them react differently than those who were traumatized by the events. The questionnaires sought both physiological symptoms (such as sleep problems, headaches and stomach aches) and psychological ones. Even though both the western Negev and northern groups had been under great pressure, over half reported that they reacted with "relatively moderate" symptoms. However, western Negev youth - who have been exposed longer, with no end in sight - were much more angry and anxious than residents of the North. Girls tended to report much more anger and anxiety than boys, which the researchers said was partly because they were "permitted" to express such feelings, while boys hold them in. The Sderot teens reported many more physical and psychological symptoms from terror than the western Negev kibbutz youth. Analysis of the questionnaire showed that kibbutz youth were strengthened by the greater sense of community and personal feelings of "coherence," the BGU researchers said, and they concluded that making Sderot youth feel this could help "immunize" them against trauma.