Many former residents of Jewish Gaza who were evacuated from their homes this past week are suffering psychological ailments and are pessimistic about their safety and future, psychologists treating the refugees told WND.
“I expect and have been seeing some depression and post traumatic stress disorder,” said Dr. Moshe Leibler, a senior educational psychologist working with former residents of Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities. “Most of all, there is a troubling crisis of identity and values, especially for the youth – they are questioning their place in the Jewish state and their general outlook on things.”
Leibler has been conducting private sessions with residents evacuated from their homes last week and bused to hotels in Jerusalem, where they will live for upwards of ten days. The Israeli government reserved thousands of hotel rooms to house about 800 families who stayed in their homes in spite of an Israeli decree to evacuate the area.
“Right now, I am just treating what we see and trying to help the residents organize themselves. Most of them are putting on brave fronts and are trying to keep their communal structure together. Residents of each community will try to stick together. That is what gives them stability.”
Leibler said the former Katif residents are having difficulty coming to terms with their sudden refugee status.
“It is tragic for them. These people never took charity from anyone before. You see people from Jerusalem and all over leaving clothes and medicine for them, and the former residents feel a sense of shame in taking things. It’s the most degrading thing you can do to a person, to turn him into a charity case.”
After a 10-day hotel stay, the former Katif residents will need to find their own accommodations. Many currently have nowhere to go. Of the nearly 1,800 families in Gush Katif, only about 350 applied for government compensation and relocation packages.
Israel’s Disengagement Authority is negotiating today with settlement leaders the possibility of reoffering monetary packages. The compensation is expected to be reduced by 30 percent, including a deduction for the former residents’ current hotel stays.
Another psychologist, Leah Berg, says she expects the evacuation experience will have long-term consequences for some former residents. “We will see certain conditions, like stress and depression. It’s too early to judge exactly what the long-term effects will be. Being forced from your home is incredibly traumatic, so there will be consequences.”
A poll conducted by the University of Haifa a few days before last week’s evacuation showed most Gush Katif residents had negative feelings about their safety and future welfare. It concluded 70 percent felt they were less in control of elements governing their lives; 54 percent said they had recurring dreams and nightmares about the evacuation.
Dr. Daphna Canetti-Nisim, a Haifa professor who helped oversee the poll, said the findings indicated Katif residents expressed feelings characteristic of emotional problems that could lead to depression or post-traumatic stress after the evacuation.
She also said upward of 80 percent of those interviewed for her poll spoke of feelings of tension and stress just by thinking of the evacuation.
But Leibler says he has reason to hope.
“These are incredibly strong people, with large communal support systems. Together they were evacuated and together they will somehow get through this.”