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Sderot children stretch and pet away stress of rockets

Forget for the moment the threat of Kassam rockets and .122 mm mortar shells that constantly hangs in the Sderot air, we on the UJC media trip are getting bombarded with site visits to see program after program paid for in part by the UJC and implemented by JDC and JAFI.

There is no way that I can write about all of them, but I will highlight those that especially catch my eye. And treating post traumatic stress in children with yoga for tots and pet therapy certainly did.

Though Sderot has been under attack for about 8 years, the outside Jewish world and the Israeli government have really only taken an interest in the people of Sderot over the last year or so. Part of the reason in the shift in attitude, say the people I have spoken with, is that the government suddenly realized that by 2007 about 25 percent of Sderot’s population had left– and came to the conclusion that losing Sderot to a mass exodus would be a political, strategic and national morale nightmare.

Or, as the newly coined slogan goes, “If we flee, first it would be Sderot, then Ashkelon, then Ashdod, then Tel Aviv.”

For the most part, those who were financially able to leave Sderot did leave, with the exception of a few idealists. Those who are left are almost all lower class, the leftovers from a huge influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union and Islamic republics during the 1990s. And they are simply too poor to leave.

They are trapped in the Sderot on one side by their poverty and on the other by the national need for them to remain in Sderot. All the while, only eight people have been killed by shelling from Gaza, but the rockets are psychologically tearing up Sderot’s residents.

Hardest hit have been children.

But, thanks to funding by the North American federation system and JDC – not the Israeli government – seven of the town’s eight elementary schools now have programs like those at the Alon Madaiim school in M-3, Sderot’s neighborhood closest to Gaza.

The school, with the help of JDC, has built a “Haven of Calm” on its first floor, a fortified room, where kids come for alternative therapy sessions that try to help them deal with the stress of growing up as targets.

For a budget of about $25,000 per year, the school can treat every one of its 300 children with the alternative therapy.

In this video, children have used toilet paper rolls to create a perfect city for domesticated mice. Playing with the mice and then letting them run free allows them to project their feelings onto the mice and is soothing, said the class’s instructor.

The toilet paper rolls give the mice a safe place to hide, the children explained.

And, yes. The Fundermentalist did get to play with a mouse as well.

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