2002





THE ISRAELI EDUCATION SYSTEM STRIVES TO PROTECT ITS SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS FROM TERROR

The current terror wave requires Israel to contend with unending attacks on its citizens in a variety of areas and through numerous activities. A very large proportion of this burden is carried by the Ministry of Education, which expends huge resources to ensure the safety of its students and teaching staff.

To enable physical protection, the ministry provides funding to construct shelters and fences and add reinforced protection to school buses; to hire and train security guards to guard the schools; to increase the number of staffers involved in psychological support, and much, much more.

Volunteer organizations also come to the aid of the system to help provide emotional support for the wounded and the families of those killed in terrorist acts. Student volunteers are also trained how to help their less fortunate friends.

Professional psychological care is provided inside the system by the Psychological Counseling Service (PCS), whose job is to calm the students and bolster their sense of security so they can continue to maintain a normal life style as far as that is possible.

The Ministry of Educations Psychological Counseling Service (PCS) deals with the effects of terror attacks*

The need to deal with emergency situations comes at the expense of routine tasks, such as keeping track of the students development. For the past two years Israel has been living in a constant state of emergency filled with pain, sorrow and suffering. During this period, children and adults have repeatedly encountered acts of violence and terror.

The level and intensity of the tension and stress that children experience is directly affected by the feelings and responses of the significant adults in their lives. The fact that all Israeli society feels threatened and is suffering from emotional stress as a result of the wave of terror naturally has a direct impact on children as well.

A large number of Israeli children have experienced, and are still experiencing, not only the fear of terror, but terror itself. A large number of Israeli children have either been directly involved in attacks, or have relatives or friends who have suffered from these attacks.

Over the past two years, the staffers of the Education Ministrys Psychological Counseling Service, which includes about 5,000 professionals, psychologists and counselors, have been working dilligently to help students, parents and teachers cope with this most difficult situation. This support is provided on three levels.

The first is on the class level through class discussions, which serve three purposes:

A. To enable students to express their thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental atmosphere allowing for a wide range of emotional responses such as fear and anger. In the discussions, a clear distinction is made between feelings and emotions which are perfectly legitimate and actions such as revenge and retribution, which are firmly ruled out.

B. To help students actively cope with the situation while maintaining a normal routine, as far as is possible under the current circumstances.

C. To foster and advance a positive viewpoint among students concerning future developments in Israel and in the region, with a special emphasis on the inner strength of Israeli citizens who have had to withstand difficult situations in the past and have been able to overcome.

The second level involves dealing with the situation immediately after an attack takes place. PCS teams immediately become involved in finding students at risk who are exhibiting signs of anxiety, aggression, withdrawal and detachment, and treat them directly.

Additionally, the educational teams identify hundreds of children and adults who are related, or in some other way connected, to people who have been hurt in a terror incident and try to provide them with the support they need.

At the third level, PCS staffers are responsible for keeping track of students unable to return to regular functioning capacity because of their closeness to someone killed or wounded in an attack. Prolonged extreme reactions often require therapeutic intervention.

Unfortunately, the cost of terror from the perspective of the Psychological Counseling Service has been especially high. The need to concentrate considerable resources on the emergency situation has seriously undermined the PCSs professional routine and comes at the expense of normal tasks such as keeping track of the childrens normal development and diagnosing and helping children with learning difficulties, disabilities and social problems.

At present, contending with the emergency situation is at the top of the PCSs priorities. In 2002, the educational system received an additional 5,500 counseling hours, and its counseling team was reinforced by an additional 415 professionals working in the Jewish, Arab and Bedouin sectors.

In all their meetings with the children, the PCSs professionals underscore the subject of hope. Hope for a better future is an important educational-therapeutic message, and every effort is made to impart this to students, teachers and parents

Hope was and is even at this difficult time a fundamental element in the education for love of other human beings, for tolerance and peace that characterizes the Israeli education system.

*Contributed by Adi Nir Sagie, Chief Pyschologist, Ministry of Education and Chava Friedman, Deputy Chief Psychologist.