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Sderot Residents Left on their Own By: Anav Silverman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 29, 2009

Imagine that you are 18-years-old. You have just completed high school and in a few months you will enter the army. In the meantime, you spend your time going out with friends and working to save some money-- like any other typical teenager in Israel.

One afternoon, you come home exhausted from work and collapse into bed for a nap.  Suddenly, in the middle of your nap you find yourself waking up to the sound of glass shattering--all over your back.

It takes you a moment to realize that the window above your bed has exploded and that shards of glass lie everywhere. Your dad comes racing in, picks you up, and carries you outside to safety.

Welcome to a moment in the life of Ilan Dahan, a Sderot 18-year-old who slept through the siren, warning of the impending Qassam, only to wake up to the rocket explosion in his backyard last Tuesday evening, May 19. 

“It’s a miracle that all I got was this scratch,” Ilan says, dazedly pointing to a red mark on his back, where a piece of glass cut through. 

Ilan’s family stands around in shock. His mother Shula looks at her son tearfully.  “I never expected this to happen to us during the ceasefire,” she says.  

The back of the Dahan’s home is covered in debris and glass, while rocket shrapnel marks the walls and ceiling of the home. An evening breeze blows through the windowless windows. Ilan’s father, Avi, stands by his son. “I was terrified that something had happened to him,” Avi says in a quiet voice. 

Now imagine that after such a rocket attack, the kind of therapy needed to get shock victims back on track, is no longer available. Due to significant budget cuts, trauma therapy facilities in Sderot, which have played a valuable role in rehabilitating residents of the rocket-torn community, are now in danger of closing down. 

Those who will be affected most by this recent development are Sderot‘s children, as the Sderot Trauma Center, which caters mostly to Sderot children and teenagers--ages 17 and below--is on its way out. 

Fifty percent of the center’s funding comes from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, or Keren LeYedidut. The organization can no longer provide the funds to keep the center going. 

The trauma center treats 620 trauma patients, of whom 80 percent are children, says Daliah Yosef, the trauma center’s director. 

“I’ve already handed out dismissal letters to the staff at the center,” said Yosef last Thursday, May 21 two days after the rocket attack.  

The other fifty percent of the trauma center‘s funding is provided by the Israeli Government Ministries of Health, Revenue, and Seniors--not nearly enough to keep the center open. 

“The harshest part of this reality is that hundreds of Sderot children will be left with no place to go for treatment,” says Yosef.  

Ilan is fortunate that he is 18 and can therefore receive treatment at the Sderot Mental Health Center, which ministers to adult victims from ages 18 and up.  However, the Mental Health Center’s director, Dr. Adrianna Katz, says that although her center is in no danger of closing, she does not have enough staff to deal with over 6,000 trauma victim files -which continue to grow every day. 

In addition to Yosef’s Trauma Center, the Sderot Shock Treatment Center which operates under the trauma center, is also in danger of shutting down.

The Shock Treatment Center opened three years ago, alongside the trauma center, to provide immediate treatment to shock victims after rocket attacks. Before then, Sderot residents had to be transported 20 minutes away to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital or to Be’er Sheva’s Soroka Hospital.

“When the Shock Treatment Center opened in Sderot, it made treatment for Sderot residents much more efficient and easier, as they received help on the spot” said Dr. Katz, who also heads the shock center. “Sderot residents feel more at home being treated at the center.” 

“Going back to the original way--transporting Sderot trauma victims by ambulance to hospitals outside the area is absolutely ridiculous,” said Dr. Katz.  “The cost of transporting patients is more expensive and many times there are not enough ambulances to transport all victims, especially during episodes when there are a series of rocket attacks on the city.” 

Indeed in the recent rocket attack, the Sderot Shock Treatment Center treated all eight victims of shock including a woman injured by rocket shrapnel. 

Sderot’s trauma facilities remain a vital part of the Sderot community, which for eight years has been under Gaza rocket attack. As the city’s residents continue to live under the range of Qassam fire, it is the therapy and care that Dr. Katz and Dalia Yosef provide which helps residents return to a semblance of normal life. 

In the meantime, Ilan Dahan continues to hope that someday he can wake up to a rocket-free sky.

Anav Silverman is the international correspondent for the Sderot Media Center . A native of Maine, she made aliyah to Israel in 2004.

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