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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

'The expulsion is killing us'

Yesterday, YNet had a very disturbing report that indicated that the lot of the Gaza refugees from last summer has increasingly come to include suicide attempts and dropping out of school among the young, and heart attacks and divorce among their parents.

YNet won't remind you (because it doesn't fit the parent newspaper - Yediot Aharonot's - leftist agenda) that these are people who put up with nightly shelling (and from much more powerful weapons than Kassams) on a daily basis for five years.

Testifying before a sub-committee of the Knesset Finance Committee, representatives of the Forum for Israel outlined the distress of evacuated families and problems affecting teenagers among the Gaza refugees.

The Forum reported 12 suicide attempts among teenage refugees since the evacuation last August, and pointed to a rise in suicidal thoughts and eating disorders among teenagers.

Social workers said teenagers find it difficult to develop relationships and increasingly abuse alcohol and drugs.

Nine refugees (I should add here that one of the things I have edited in this article is that YNet refers to the refugees as 'settlers' which is LLL speak for 'not one of us' - a variant on NotInMyBackYard) have been received in psychiatric hospitals.

The committee heard that 30 percent of teenagers either failed to integrate in new schools or failed their final exams.

YNet also reports that among the adult refugees, there has been an increase in heart disease, fifty new divorce cases since August 2005 (I believe that comes to about one couple in forty), nearly all of which relate to 'financial hardship,' and that 51%(!) of the Gaza refugees are still unemployed nearly one year later (which is actually not surprising given that many of them are middle-aged and the one kind of discrimination that is legal in Israel is age discrimination).

So what does the government plan to do about it? So far, absolutely nothing. But fear not, the Education Ministry is already planning for the next expulsion, R"L (God save us) which could be seven or eight times as big as the last one.

Ynet has learned that education officials have been holding meetings recently in the framework of a "realignment team," compiled of representatives of the psychological services, staff and manpower officials, security and safety officials, supervisor from the national-religious sector and others, who took part in implementing the disengagement last year.

The team will initially map the educational facilities in the West Bank. "The preparations for the realignment are based on analyzing lessons drawn from the evacuation during the disengagement," Southern District director at the Ministry, Amira Haim, explained.

"We set up a team that works according to contingency plans, which include a system of psychological support in situations of uncertainty and stress," she said. When an actual decision on the realignment plan passes, the Ministry will activate phase two of the plan and begin talking with headmasters, teachers and students.


The main part of the preparations focuses on mental assistance. "If the realignment plan materializes, we are talking of a scale ten times bigger than the disengagement. Therefore we need to plan ahead in order [to CiJ] prevent a situation where people become refugees. We need to prepare for every scenario," Yochi Simantov, supervisor for stressful situations and crisis at the Ministry explained.

Today, Simantov said, the situation among settlers is different than it was before the disengagement, and residents are willing to discuss the possible evacuation.
If they're really serious about people not becoming refugees, they will need to plan ahead years in advance. But since Olmert wants to finish his 'plan' within eighteen months (if his government lasts that long), I'm afraid we could be headed for more of the same treatment for the refugees.


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