Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Israel visit -- Part 1

I have been on a mission to Israel for several days with a number of Bostonian businesspeople, sponsored by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. These kinds of programs are always engaging and informative, as an attempt is made to meet with people from a wide variety of political backgrounds, but also to meet with people living their everyday lives.

Whatever your view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I am sure you would agree that schoolchildren are casualties. I hope you agree with me, too, that they are innocent victims. In addition to the chance of being killed, they suffer from other ravages of war.

We visited the Israeli town of Sderot, right outside of Gaza, a town that has experienced daily rocket attacks for many years, sometimes several times per day. As you can see, this school has been reinforced in many ways to deflect and withstand rocket attacks. Nonetheless, the children have grown up in an environment that leads many to suffer from post traumatic stress.

A program was introduced to help children cope with this emotional burden. It is called Havens of Calm, and it comprises pet therapy, pyschodrama, and yoga. The idea is to provide a school-based stress reduction and resilience building service accessible to all children when they need it. The program builds upon the mental health service provided by the education system (counselors and psychologists), as well as bringing in additional services and supplementary expressive therapies. It is funded by the Joint Distribution Committee with support, in part, from the people of Boston through the CJP.

We had a chance to watch the children and their therapists. By the way, note that the buildings built by the children as part of this session tend to have heavily reinforced roof structures, just like their school building. Compare this to what your own children would be likely to build: This is an unconscious result of their experience.