As a mother of three young children, I’ve often wondered how I would cope if my family was under threat.
How would I manage to keep my children calm and alert whilst running to a bomb shelter to avoid an incoming rocket from Gaza? Would I be afraid to let my children catch a bus alone, for fear of a bomb? How would I feel about them walking down the streets, with the knowledge that a random disaffected Palestinian youth has the potential to come at them with a knife?
Am I alone in having these fears? Of course not. There are mothers who deal with this every day, living in some of the most challenging and frightening places on earth. And so I wonder constantly, how they do manage? And more importantly, how do their children manage to stay sane when there is so much insanity around them?
While places like Iraq and Syria come to mind, so too do cities like Paris and Jerusalem. I’m not for one moment equating ISIS-controlled territory with cosmopolitan cities in Europe or Israel. But I do understand the fear and trepidation of any parent who lives with uncertainty brought about by fundamentalism and terrorism.
Next month I will be travelling to Tel Aviv. I would be lying if I said that there isn’t a part of me that is a little scared. In all honesty, I am a little relieved that my children won’t be travelling with me.
And then I feel guilty, because I am reminded of all the parents who don’t have the security that I, and my children have, living in a city like Melbourne.
I manage to take some small measure of comfort from the knowledge that Jerusalem is very different from Paris, Fallujah or Aleppo. One of the reasons is the existence of the Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center. The JCIC was established by Hadassah Hospital, specifically to address the needs of children who are in urgent need of psychological intervention, in order to prevent long-term psychological scarring and Post-Traumatic Stress.
Not all of these children can trace their problems to the recent wave of attacks by predominantly young, so-called ‘lone wolves’. But this is a growing cohort whose demands are no less urgent than the children who are finding life difficult as a result of family dysfunction, substance abuse or behavioural issues.
The work that the JCIC has been doing for the last decade is extraordinary. It is staffed by passionate professionals who are skilled and committed to the cause. They are bringing troubled children back to positive mental health. They are helping to stabilise families. They are ensuring that Israeli society will have fewer adults that will be a burden on its resources.
And it is a great feeling to be a part of this.