Yet another disturbed night. The red alert siren goes off, which means that I have only 15 seconds to get my family to the safe room.
Often the children just sleep there, but sometimes they like to be in their own beds, to live a “normal” life.
Living in southern Israel, these rocket attacks have become part our daily lives, but even false alarms can be unnerving.
As director of Emunah’s Sarah Ronson Crisis and Family Intervention Centre I understand this better than most: we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of people needing support services compared to recent years.
Each time I thank G-d there were no physical injuries, but the psychological trauma and stress deeply affects people’s lives. Children and teenagers wet their beds, while adults suffer from crippling anxieties, some afraid to leave their homes.
The biggest difficulty for me is lack of sleep. During the most recent attacks, I slept for barely two hours one night, then went on to work a ten-hour day.
We therapists may have a bit more mental resilience due to our training, but we share the same nervousness as everyone else, and we need to be able to stay alert during a crisis situation.
I manage a team of 29 therapists who work with hundreds of clients. The Emunah centre gives emotional and practical support to the community in and around Sderot, a town literally on the Gaza border.
Immediately after a siren, our therapists will telephone those people who are the most vulnerable and in need of support — and new enquiries over the coming days will mean an escalating workload.
We treat individuals, couples, and families for the effects of post-traumatic stress and extreme anxiety. Many issues arise because of the security situation, but we are also the regional centre treating children and young people affected by sexual abuse and violence in the family.
Most of the Emunah therapists at our centre live close to the Gaza border, which puts their own families under the same strains as the clients they are treating.
Our guidance for care givers is that they must first look after themselves, but they often give their clients priority, leaving their own children to be looked after by family members. As the mother of eight children aged between four and 20, I know this is a hard choice to make and I will always try to support our Emunah staff both personally and professionally.
We have also set up a support group for therapists working in the area. It is important to be able to relax.
Sometimes a referral can mask much deeper problems. One client came to us because of the stress caused by the rockets. She had been through a difficult divorce shortly after her father’s death and was badly affected by the violence in the region.
In the first few sessions she cried constantly, almost unable to express herself, but over time we dealt with her grief, supporting and strengthening her coping mechanisms and she was able to return to work.
The centre is now open for extended hours to ensure that all of our clients have somewhere to go where they feel protected and safe following these alerts. More than 80 per cent of our clients are aged under 18, which adds to our concern. We provide drama, art and play therapies, and do need more space for therapy rooms and more trained therapists with expertise in different fields.
But as long as the people of Sderot need us, Emunah will be there.
Tami Beck is director of the Sarah Ronson Crisis and Intervention Centre, which is supported by British Emunah