Survey: More anxiety in South than North during rocket attacks

Children located in South hadn't expected Gaza rocket fire to reach their more central cities, making it more of a shock when they did.

kassam kid 248 ap (photo credit: )
kassam kid 248 ap
(photo credit: )
Adolescents living in the south of Israel suffered higher levels of anxiety during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, compared to teenagers living in northern cities throughout the Second Lebanon War, according to a study conducted by Israeli academics. In Ashkelon, Beersheba, Lehavim, and Ofakim, 138 Jewish teenagers were surveyed. Additionally, 84 Beduin adolescents in Rahat were asked about their experiences during Operation Cast Lead. All were aged 12 to 18. The study showed that children located in the South had not expected the rocket fire from Gaza to reach their more central cities, making it more of a shock when they did, according to Shifra Sagy, a professor and head of the Conflict Management and Resolution Program at Ben-Gurion University. She initiated the survey with Lecturer Dr. Orna Lewenson, and compared the results to her previous data collected during the Second Lebanon War in July 2006. The study is currently under review, and is scheduled to be published next year in Mifgash, a Hebrew journal for social educational work. "In the North, people were more aware of the possibility of war and rocket fire, because of what they experienced in the past," Sagy told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "But people here, in Beersheba, in the [center of the] South, felt that they were not in the range of the Kassams. It was a surprise to suddenly hear the sirens." Despite Beersheba's close proximity to Sderot, which is frequently hit with rocket fire from Gaza, Sagy said that her neighborhood did not experience the same level of anxiety faced by those in Sderot until Operation Cast Lead. "It was there, it was not us," she said. "And that changed." In addition to the element of surprise for the teenagers of the South, socioeconomic levels also played a role in understanding the level of anxiety faced by different adolescents. Those who live in higher socioeconomic sectors have more resources to cope with stress and pressure, so they react with lower levels of anxiety and lower levels of anger, according to Sagy. Those in lower socioeconomic areas face higher anxiety and more anger. The Beduin population in Rahat had the highest level of anger out of those questioned. The teenagers were placed in a "difficult situation," Sagy said, where they felt connected to their family in Gaza, and frustrated about feeling powerless during the operation. They also had little trust in the Israeli aid institutions. The Jewish teenage population of the South experienced anxiety, but had a high level of trust in the Israeli institutions to help, leaving them with lower levels of anger.