The city of Sderot, in southern Israel, is less than 2 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. It first came under Palestinian rocket fire in 2001; Hamas would time the rockets to hit the school run. Between April 2001 and December 2008, more than 1,000 alarms were sounded in or near Sderot. By then, according to NATAL, the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War, between 75 percent and 94 percent of Sderot children ages 4 to 18 were exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Trauma is an emotional or behavioral state of extreme distress resulting from a traumatic event; traumatic because a sense of immediate threat floods the person with emotions of helplessness and fear. In short, the Sderot kids were being terrified.

And their traumatic stress could never become post-traumatic stress because the sirens have never stopped screaming and the Hamas rockets have never stopped falling. Dalia Yosef of Hosen, a national organization for trauma intervention, says, “It’s ongoing, there is no ‘post.’ How do you treat post-trauma in this situation?” So the psychologists and counselors in Sderot and other communities near the border with Gaza have had to innovate new treatments for children who suffer from constant stresses. The director of the Sderot Mental Health Center, Dr. Adrianna Katz, has noted that young patients in recovery often experience the Color Red siren as a trigger that makes them re-experience their PTSD symptoms. She reported in 2008 that more than 5,500 patient files had been opened since rocket fire on the city began.

The personal stories of those under the rockets are at odds with the Western perception of the rockets as a mild irritant that can be tolerated.

Read the full article at World Affairs.