Rounds of fighting in southern Israel and the constant rocket fire on towns and cities bordering the Gaza Strip have not only physically endangered the safety of residents, but has also had a telling effect on their psychological health.
The ERAN Association for Emotional First Aid has reported an increase of 22 percent in the number of Israelis in the south who have contacted it in recent days for assistance. More than 120 rockets have been fired at southern Israel since Saturday night, Israeli officials said.
Tamar Auerbach, director of social services in the Eshkol Regional Council, told Israel Hayom on Sunday that social services departments in the south in general, and in the Eshkol Regional Council in particular, had been very busy in recent days providing immediate solutions to victims of anxiety and trauma. The time and resources required to help all the victims have diminished the routine care given to the elderly, youth at risk and other sectors of the population who need help, Auerbach said.
She said a special care unit had been established to provide immediate treatment to people suffering from anxiety. "We find ourselves providing service to citizens whose situation only seems to be worsening," she says. "We arrive in the town or city immediately after a rocket has exploded there and we begin providing treatment right away."
Amira Haim, director of the Education Ministry's southern district, explained that children in the south were living in a reality which could only be called a "routine emergency" — a constant state of emergency. She said that educationally it was important to maintain as consistent a learning schedule as possible.
Even in kindergartens, activities are conducted to help children deal with anxiety, including workshops with dolls and the singing of songs to help children overcome fears of the Color Red rocket warning siren system.
"Just today, a 4-year-old boy said he was happy it was finally raining because the rain would extinguish Qassam fire. This is the reality that he knows," Haim said.
Among the cases reported to the ERAN Association were a mother who said her 11-year-old son was refusing to leave the protected area under their building's stairwell and a 15-year-old who said her mother was scared and could not stop crying.
Some children have called the ERAN Association's hotline asking, "Who will protect me if the IDF responds [to the rocket fire] and the situation worsens?"
The ERAN hotline provides emotional support in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.