Janis Siegel, Jewish Sound Correspondent
AKIM Israel, Israel’s National Association for the Habilitation of the Mentally Handicapped, and the largest provider of services to the disabled, is now moving hundreds of kids and their families to safer cities in the north of the country to keep them stable and calm.
AKIM’s Operation Rescue is hoping to calm the autistic and mentally handicapped Israeli children living under the relentless bombardment of hundreds of daily exploding rockets in Southern Israel.
They do not go quickly and quietly into a shelter for safety.
Instead, their great fear of losing the order and routine so necessary to keep them peaceful exponentially heightens their fears.
“Sometimes the parents have to drag them,” Barri Rind, the Friends of AKIM USA Seattle chapter chairperson told The Jewish Sound. “AKIM decided it was urgent to take these people from Sderot, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva, and Netivot in the south and relocate them in the north.”
As the over 200 disabled and their families are being relocated now and for the yet undetermined future, director of development for Friends of AKIM, USA Metropolitan Seattle, Anat Brovman, is worried.
“They experience worse panic attacks than ordinary people and everyone is suffering right now,” Brovman told The Jewish Sound. “Kids with severe disabilities are really in distress. That’s why AKIM has launched this rescue operation. Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva, and Netivot are still being attacked and kids are still not safe.”
According to AKIM Israel, not only do the children suffer additional emotional distress, but their parents and family members are also put in extreme danger trying to help them.
“The people cannot leave the country on flights that are not Israeli because the airport is closed and American flights have been canceled,” said Brovman.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is also involved in multiple efforts with its partners around the world to help Israelis.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is also on the ground there helping the more than half of the country in range of missile fire.
Continual “code red” sirens signaling an imminent missile attack are taking its toll on the youngest citizens.
“Parents are calling hotlines to report that children are crying, vomiting, shaking uncontrollably, wetting the bed or suffering stomach pains,” according to the JDC blog.
JDC figures are reporting that over 20,000 children have been moved to the northern part of the country to safer locations.
“A total of 93 children have been wounded by rockets,” reported the JDC, “of which one is in severe condition, [with] multi-trauma wounds, two are badly injured, 55 suffer light wounds, cuts from shrapnel etc., and 45 suffer from acute syndrome effect.”
According to Roni Lior, the coordinator for the Israel Trauma Coalition’s project in Sderot and the Gaza region, the communities living on the Gaza border have now endured 14 years of “constant exposure to Kassams and other deadly rockets.”
“The effects vary,” wrote Lior, “like refusing to walk to school along a route where a rocket once fell — to intrusive thoughts where you feel like you’re re-experiencing the traumatic event and hyper-vigilance, where everything makes you jump.”
For more information about AKIM and to make a tax-deductible donation, contact Friends of AKIM USA, 633 Third Ave., New York, NY, or Anat Brovman, director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.