March 28, 2007 / 9 Nissan 5767
The Jewish Agency Friedmann Student Village Ibim is a warm, nurturing community for new young immigrants who come to Israel without their families, and will soon face the complexities and perplexities of heading out on their own. The pastoral, campus-like atmosphere of Ibim, located near the Gaza perimeter city of Sderot, however, does not reveal any of the harsh realities of Kassam rockets falling in the near distance.
“It was hard, when we first came to Ibim in September and suddenly we would hear a warning siren of an impending attack,” says Roman Vaizman, an 18-year-old immigrant from Kazakhstan who came to Israel on the Selah pre-academic program. “Now we’ve gotten used to it, but it is a problem.”
With the support of its partners, UJC and Federations of North America, through the Israel Emergency Campaign, the Jewish Agency has instituted a program combining psychological treatment, workshops and activities to help students and staff deal with trauma and the uncertain security situation that persists.
Nearly 40 students have already completed special workshops designed to cultivate emotional strength and teach stress management skills during emergency situations. Groups of 10 to 15 students meet for four sessions of 2.5 hours each, engaging in discussion, role playing, and activities that cultivate coping skills. “The reactions from the students are very good,” says Anat Savion-Avni, Ibim’s social worker. “Participants said the workshops gave them the tools they need to look to the future with confidence.”
According to Dr. Bilha Noy, director of the psychological counseling service for Israel's Ministry of Education, studies show that most children who suffer post-traumatic stress experience "natural healing" after war ends and things return to normal. However, for the people living in Gaza perimeter cities and communities, the ongoing war of attrition has no end in sight.
“This new program is excellent," says Anat. "For six years we have been in a situation of uncertainty.” She stresses that despite the rocket threats, not a single student has left Ibim.
After the Passover holiday another 10 student groups will participate in the workshops. Additionally, one-on-one psychological counseling is available for anyone in need. Staff members also take part in workshops, meeting for a total of 21 hours over the course of three days. They learn not only to deal with their own concerns, but also how to help and support students.
Recently a day trip to Caesarea was arranged for the students. The participants took part in confidence-building group activities and sports competitions. “It was excellent. We really enjoyed ourselves,” said Roman. Larisa Pogosova, 21, an immigrant from Lithuania, echoed this sentiment. “We had a lot of fun and did interesting things. This day really helped me.” Another trip to the Carmel region is scheduled for April.
“These workshops and fun days give students the tools for coping, not just with the Kassams, but also the challenges of everyday life," says Anat. "They provide welcome relief from the situation in which we find ourselves.”
More than 200 new immigrant students, primarily from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union, live at Ibim. It is here that they receive the essential support services they need to successfully adapt to their new homeland and develop the skills necessary for independent living. Programs including Selah and Ofek involve intensive Hebrew language study and prepare new immigrants for army service, college studies and employment opportunities. New immigrant students studying at the nearby Sapir Regional College also live at Ibim.