Absorption Centers: Southern Region
Ravit Elia-Leib, Director
This is the second day that the Southern Absorption centers are under fire. After a rough night all over the country and especially in the South, I got to the absorption center this morning. Reports from the team said that the new immigrants are adapting to the difficult situation they find themselves in. For many others, this is not their first emergency procedure.
The Nurit Absorption center shared an exciting story with me. T. is forty-two years old and immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with her husband and six children two years ago. T. was brought by an ambulance from the airport. According to her husband, she came here with a disability, relegated to a wheelchair. Unfortunately, an operation was very difficult to come by. The family was prepared to take care of her at home, but their anxiety was at an all-time high. With time, T. received rehabilitative care which got her out of the wheelchair.
Shortly after the alarm sounded, the other Olim were excited to see T. on her feet, able to come to the bomb shelter independently, just like the rest of them. For the new immigrants and for all of us, this is truly a miracle made possible due to the families’ arrival in Israel. T. told the absorption staff members, “I am grateful to HaShem that I merited to come to Israel, where my life was returned to me.” In hard times like these, I’m turning to these kinds of uplifting stories of immigrants to our State of Israel.
This morning I woke up with the definition of an “emergency procedure” – after a night of waking up involuntarily from the sound of sirens. Today, my son who is a little shy of six years old, asked me if we can finally go play at the park, which is literally a three minute walk from our home…To think about the emergency procedure, for small children, is simply unimaginable. Especially not in the summer months (the war couldn’t have waited for winter!) Children are so thirsty to run around outside, to hang out with their friends, to be wild.
Try to explain to a six-year old child, who asks why we can’t simply hide from rockets between the trees: “But Mother, you told us that the alarm is good because it warns us, so we’ll be careful!”
But this is not a simple task, even for me. It is difficult to think of it as part my daily and necessary routine.
Personally I am excited to work with new immigrants. Today I took part in the visit of The Jewish Agency’s Chairman, Natan Sharansky, together with the unit manager, Yehuda Sharaf, to our absorption center.
One of the new immigrants who was present at the visit, told us: “When we came to Israel, once we landed, we were greeted with the sounds of explosions, but we are not afraid. Quite the opposite. In fact, I wish I could enlist right now and defend our country, something that our children will surely do in the future. The State of Israel is truly good and she embraces us, protects us from harm. We join in her work and we live well here. We want to restore her to peace.”
What can I possibly say…To hear words such as these, they fill me up with pride over our work, the trials of immigration, and most of all - the brotherhood and unity that both inspire.
Youth Futures – Southern Region
Merav Marciano-Levi, Director, Southern Region
July 13, 2014
Over the past month, the towns of Sderot, Netivot, Sedot Negev, Ofakim and Merhavim have faced a tense security situation with missiles being fired on their communities.
Starting Monday, July 7, 2014, with the start of Operation Protective Edge, other communities found themselves in a similar position. The children, families and Youth Futures personnel in most of the southern region are now confined to protected spaces and are operating in emergency mode.
Despite all the limitations, our staff has displayed incredible creativity and optimism, maintaining ongoing contact with the children and families, and offering whatever help they can to the municipal bodies that provide aid.
There are 1160 children and families and 95 Youth Futures staff members located in the communities in the line of fire.
On the first day of the military operation, before it had been announced, I met with the Beer Sheba team together with the director of the community project, to sum up the year with an “outdoor activity.” Unfortunately, a siren interrupted the meeting and caused stress and anxiety. One of the mentors fainted during the siren, and we directed the meeting toward the subject of dealing with such events and helping mentors to remain calm, while providing tools for coping on personal and professional levels. Another instance of a mentor fainting happened during the summing-up of a similar meeting that we held in Dimona on Thursday, which was likewise interrupted by a siren; here, too, we turned the occasion into an opportunity to express feelings and calm down.
Throughout the operation, I have been in ongoing contact with the directors and coordinators of the program in the various communities. In addition, last Wednesday, July 9th, Hila (program coordinator) and I paid a visit to Sderot, Netivot, Ofakim and Kiryat Gat, where we spoke with the teams to offer support and inquire about the needs on the ground.
During the last few days, there have been specific needs of families, in Sderot, Netivot and Sedot Negev, who are suffering from pressure and anxiety. We are working with the relevant departments (both at the municipality and at the Jewish Agency) to provide assistance that includes food baskets and outings, as a “breather,” at the Jewish Agency’s youth villages. The families are accompanied by professional staff members who help them cope with anxiety attacks.
In addition, on Thursday, a support group was held by Natal Sderot for 15 children; another session is planned for next Sunday.
Since a decision was made, in Netivot, to close the community day-care centers in alternation, program mentors are operating independently, with supervision and while also taking care of themselves, providing assistance in the shelters where the children are located. They are engaging the children in recreational activities, talking with the families, and encouraging them to express their emotions.
Our programs include respite days – a morning-to-evening visit to an attraction for children and families, as well as for staff, stays at youth villages – for families in situations of stress, food baskets for families of limited means, and activity kits for counselors to conduct kids’ activities in bomb shelters, community centers, and municipal libraries.
Having experienced the sirens and the anxiety for the wellbeing of my own children, while at the same time trying to maintain a normal routine at work for my staff, I am well aware of the difficulties and the dilemma of choosing between staying with one's own family and being present in the lives of the children and families of the program.
Over the past five days, I have seen my staff’s incredible strength. The process takes place against the background of repeated sirens – even when a military operation is not underway; a process in which constant fear and constant threat hover overhead and seep into the consciousness of team members and their families. There are mothers who remain alone after their partners are called up as reserves, and their own children are frightened and afraid.
Despite it all, I see the effort that our staff makes to reach our Youth Futures homes and the shelters, and to carry on telephone conversations throughout the day with the children and the families, and I am proud of them.