Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Ein Gedi Botanic Garden
Seek the serenity of a Judean Desert sky in Autumn at the Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Social Workers and The Disengagement

My colleague at a therapeutic girls' dormitory, a social worker, has spent the last six months in and out of Gush Katif every week, bringing hope and support and supplies to those who built their homes in support of the religious zionist dream. She is deeply worried about what is happening to the families there as they face the final scenes of this mammoth nightmare, but even more concerned about "the day after". Her husband, who was at Yamit "back then", has told her that he cannot go with her to be with the families for the Shabbat prior to Tisha B'Av -- he "just can't face it again". Her children volunteer in the yishuvim wherever they are needed. She has been active in the movement to educate the Israeli public and raise awareness of the depth of what is happening and it has unnerved her.

"I gave out orange strips of cloth on the streets in Tel Aviv," she said, "and people were yelling at me from their cars. 'Go home to your yishuv!' they shouted. 'Go away! Leave us alone already! You people are destroying the country and making a lot of noise out of this issue. Get over it," they yelled. And then they were those who waved, and smiled, and turned their hands thumbs up while driving, who said 'Yasher koach!' and 'Keep the faith!' -- and it is just exhausting to live through it all." And that was only one day's activity, between the days she puts in helping frum teenage girls repair their broken lives after living with neglect and abuse in their homes.

Yes, we have that too here in the Holy Land, to my infinite sorrow.

Meanwhile, the directory of our dormitory, an outstanding senior clinical social worker, has a
mother and two brothers and their families who live in "the Gush". His mother is almost packed and he is planning to help her move; she is too old to deal with the stress of the coming days. His brothers are having bigger problems. They pack their things, knowing they can only fight so far. Their wives unpack every box, every day, as soon as the men have closed them. They refuse to leave their homes, to dismantle their lives for the political pleasure of others.

"Marriages are in trouble," he tells me. "Husbands and wives are arguing and crying and fighting with each other all through the yishuvim. These are some of the unspoken things that escape the notice of the media and the friends, for husbands and wives rarely air their dirty laundry in public, let alone convey their most intimate wounds resulting from this trauma. When I left work, my boss was planning to go to the Gush to help his family and was "unclear about how or when" he would return.

"My brother is selling all his furniture," he said. "There is nowhere to store it, not for the length of time it will take to rebuild his home elsewhere. He has to move into a caravan the government says it will provide -- and there are not enough of them -- and they are barely a quarter of the size of his home. His beautiful garden, which he spent so many hours and days and years tending, is a huge sacrifice for his children on the altar of this government's stupidity. And their promises are lies: the caravans are not yet ready, the new locations for the communities are not even chosen yet. The land is not prepared, the plots are not set, the community infrastructure is years away, as are the basic amenities providing services to their homes, such as piping for water, electricity, gas and phones. And once those things are done, it will still take months -- and possibly years -- until the homes themselves are built. By that time, storage fees will have cost more than the new home will be worth."

Some 10,000 people will be homeless by Elul, evicted by the government of Israel, their mothers and children traumatized along with husbands and fathers, brothers and sisters, parents, cousins, friends and soldiers who are forced to do the bidding of their commanders, who are equally distressed about their roles in this tragedy.

Then there are the social workers. We, as clinical and community professionals, are struggling with the trauma as well -- primary and secondary. We are traumatized by what we witness, what we read, what we hear and what we experience. We are traumatized by the trauma of our clients. We are trapped by our own deep and frightening knowledge of what we know is already happening and what yet awaits everyone. We are traumatized by events totally beyond our control, events that leave us with no option other than to set aside our own feelings and minister to others, to all of our brethren, and to watch the systematic destruction of their lives and the generations to follow, those children and grandchildren to whom the victims trauma will be passed on.

This is not the Holocaust. Jews are not being murdered by strangers, or even by our own. That is true. But in a real way it is having a similar effect on many of the families suffering through the annihilation of everything they have built, some for the second time after a relocation to Gaza from Yamit, the scene of another exile from their homes. The promise of a new life, building the Land and securing our borders to protect our People, has become a nightmare of unparallelled dimension.

We, the social workers of Israel, will be there to support and succor them, during the disaster and in the days after, in the years and decades to follow. That is our mandate: to comfort, to help rebuild, to offer and coordinate support and social services, to teach victims how to move on and reclaim their lives. That is what social workers do. "

But for us, we who must find a way to accomplish this task while setting aside our own grief and rage at the injustice and tragedy of it all, it is a trauma upon trauma, our own and that of all the others which we must bear.

I hereby honor all of my colleagues who have donated their time, their strength and their faith to this task, and who willingly face their own feelings while helping others to face and deal with their own. I honor their husbands and children and families, who bear the brunt of their silent pain, and not-so-silent suffering when it burst far from the eyes of their clients and the cameras.
May G-d grant us all strength in these coming days of insanity and may we someday merit to see the sense of it all, though it is hidden from us now. May our pain be the final birth pang that brings the coming of Moshiach Tzidkenu so this horrendous Diaspora may end once and for all. May G-d have mercy on all of us.

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