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500 protective vests distributed to frontline workers in southern Israel facing rocket attacks

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The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, who organized the initiative, gave out protective gear to southern Israeli cities including Beersheba, Sderot, Netivot and a number of Bedouin communities in the Negev

By ILANIT CHERNICK

Some 500 protective vests were distributed on Tuesday to social workers and emergency personnel working in several southern Israeli communities that are prone to rocket attacks from terrorists in Gaza.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), who organized the initiative, gave out the protective gear to southern cities including Beersheba, Sderot, Netivot and a number of Bedouin communities in the Negev.

According to Avner Chair, a social worker from the Sderot municipality, most of the public is unaware of the role that social workers play in such emergencies or crises.

“I am one of many social workers who arrive at the scene of rockets and converse with victims suffering from anxiety and shock while also giving them support and determining the type of extra treatment that they need,” he explained. “Just a week ago, there were three rockets in one day, and I went out to each of the locations.”

 For Chair, who has two small children at home, reacting to these dangerous situations it is not an easy task for him or emergency services as a whole. 

“We have to first relax our children and then go out into the field to take care of those who need us,” he said. “A few minutes after the red alert ends, I check if my three-year-old and six-year-old are fine, and then go out into the field. Sometimes it is just one area. Other times, I am moving under a barrage of missiles from one area to another.”

Chair also stressed that sometimes the teams have time to get to the shelter, “but other times, we are forced to resort to lying on the floor. 

“We have only had some heavy and old-fashioned flak jackets that we can hardly use,” he pointed out. “The protective vests we received from The Fellowship have given us a sense of security and literally kept us alive.”

Above Image: A social worker in southern Israel wears a newly distributed protective vest.
Featured Image: A Muslim emergency worker who operates in a Bedouin village in southern Israel wears her new protective vest.
(Photo Credit: Yossi Zeliger)

During the latest wave of escalation that took place in August, the Sdot Negev Resilience Center in southern Israel said it had experienced a significant increase in referrals. 

For social worker Esther Marcus, the recent wave “of escalation has hit us at a time when we are already dealing with COVID-19. 

“In the last two weeks there has been an increase in dozens of referrals,” she added.

Marcus explained that during an emergency and rocket barrages, social workers and caregivers of Tzachi, which is the Emergency and Local Resilience Teams, get to the scenes where they’re needed at all times of the day or night in order to provide mental health care on the spot. 

“Depending on the situation, they have the responsibility of deciding whether someone should be transported for further treatment at the emergency room or the nearest resilience center,” Marcus said. “Whenever there are escalations in rocket barrages, social workers can be in the field for many hours, and their protection and security are very important.

She emphasized that until now, “the teams have only had a small number of protective vests in the office, and any given social worker had to come from his or her house to pick it up even while rockets were being fired.

“Now thankfully, any social worker and emergency response worker can just put the jacket in his or her car,” Marcus continued. “Their children, most of whom live in the region, will feel more secure when they see their parents are safer and better protected.”

Speaking about this important initiative, The Fellowship’s president Yael Eckstein stressed that at a time when the Israeli home front is a primary target of Israel’s enemies, social workers and emergency personnel play a critical role. 

“Personal, familial and communal resilience is in their hands, and they are forced to respond immediately while under fire,” she said. “The provision of security for these social workers is essential both at the individual level and the communal level. 

“The Fellowship is proud to be at the forefront of strengthening the defense system for the Israeli home front,” Eckstein concluded. 

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