In Israel’s Southern Border Region: JDC’s Work Continues
Yael Ben Nun directs JDC’s Better Together program in Israel’s South. The program addresses the needs of children and adolescents living in disadvantaged neighborhoods by providing them with top-notch pre-school frameworks, school-readiness support, and constructive extracurricular activities. It also helps parents acquire more effective coping skills.
Yael herself lives close to the Gaza border. With the ceasefire holding, she reports that life there has nominally returned to normal: children are back in school, mothers are back at work, and parents are accompanying their children to after-school programs.
Teenagers, however, have been hesitant to resume their regular activities, so Yael says that she and her staff will be redoubling their efforts to recruit group participants.
“Israelis have a remarkable ability to return to routine after a crisis,” Yael notes. Yet when night falls, it quickly becomes apparent that the effects of the war are still deeply felt. Mothers report that their children often cry and are afraid to go to sleep; they themselves seem to hear alerts everywhere — even though the sirens are thankfully silent.
Like her neighbors and colleagues, Yael was in and out of bomb shelters throughout the crisis, and with her husband on reserve duty, she had to care for their four young children by herself. Despite her own worries, Yael was constantly in touch with her staff in the field, as well as her clients, who updated her regularly on what was happening in their neighborhoods.
These reports testified to what Better Together has already achieved – participants in the program were better able to cope with the emergency situation than many other residents of the South. They followed emergency instructions calmly and carefully, tried to maintain their household routine, and looked after their neighbors’ needs.
Of course, Yael warns, it is much too early to know what long-term impact the recent crisis will have on those who have been enduring rockets and terror for so many years.
JDC will be implementing post-trauma programs across the region, developing new frameworks when necessary and working to expand successful programs like Yael’s in collaboration with local authorities, schools, and social service agencies.
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