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Alan Flashman

Children of iron swords

Wartime is never friendly to healthy development. The past eight months of “Iron Swords” have had significant impact upon the children in Israel, impacts ranging from blatantly obvious to deeply concealed. It is the latter impact that I want to discuss here.

Education

Children of the Gaza Border were first traumatized and then displaced either for most of the school year or for the entire grade. Children of the Lebanon Border remain displaced. The ministry of Education failed to do the simple and obvious response of assigning personnel immediately for each area or town to put together an educational plan. Things were handled piecemeal and to my knowledge there is no central body paying attention to the education results of this year. While in some places many educational staff have made heroic efforts to provide some continuity, we have no real picture of the educational impact of this year, nor do we have even the beginnings of a plan to redress what has been lost.

I suggested in an earlier blog that sixth graders not undergo a shuffling of classes usual for entry into seventh grade, a simple proposal that as best I know never occurred to the educational establishment and that I doubt was received seriously. 

Special Needs

In a normal state, the educational needs of children impacted by enormous stress can be determined by the educational staff who know the children. If by chance the child undergoes a medical let alone psychiatric evaluation, the doctor may ask for permission to release recommendations, which would hardly include precise diagnoses, respecting the child’s privacy. But not in Israel, Say a child suffers from anxiety (pushing way over 50% in many areas). The Ministry of Education requires that the child be evaluated by no less than a child psychiatrist who provides a precise “F-code” from ICD-10 to justify special services. The Ministry even publishes a circular defining which codes justify which level of special assistance, for example a “shadow.” (My Bedouin clients often are told to come to get “F’s”.)Now the Sick Funds do not provide such a service, so parents are forced to turn to private out-of-pocket medical services in order to receive public service entitlements. To add insult to injury, the Sick Funds instituted a limit of which specialists qualify for “out of system” reimbursement, and the list looks very much like the list of their own doctors. The Supreme Court even ruled that the Sick Funds not apply such restrictions where the medical resources provided by the SIck Funds themselves are limited, for example in the “periphery.” I sit deep in the periphery but the SIck Funds refuse reimbursement as I am not on the “list.” (I will skip my experiences with how such is determined, we have enough troubles as it is). So either I give away my services, which many proud citizens find hard to accept, or they have to pay private fees to gain public entitlements. Think of it: Your child was barely saved from slaughter in Sderot on October 7, you have lived in a hotel for many months, you are back home and the child has trouble in school, you have to pay privately for the child to get the extra help he needs in school!

Natural Self-treatment

There are two extremely effective natural agents helpful in situations of anxiety in children. One is St. John’s Wort, which I explained years ago is simply unavailable in any useful form for children in Israel. One would think that October 7 would have been a good time to rethink this. Fortunately, Customs no longer interferes with orders from abroad, but this is a little known fact.

CBD oil is used universally for anxiety except in Israel. Here it was, believe it or not, a Schedule 1 dangerous drug until February, 2022 when the then Health Minister Hurwitz removed it from that ridiculous status. But the erstwhile Ministry has been doing to CBD what it did for seven long years ti ST. John’s Wort – it has yet to classify it and regulate commerce. This is otherwise known as CHELM- you can have it, use it, buy it, but not sell it. Until the current government was sworn in it was pretty easy to attain good quality CBD oil either by ordering from abroad or from local suppliers who were less than regulated and no one cared. When this government was worn in, orders from abroad started to be stopped at customs. On and off. About 3 months ago one popular product was held up for months, causing additional and unnecessary stress to already stressed children and families. Who on earth gave the order to impede import of CBD oil to war-stricken children? 

Family Coherence

So many families were disrupted as married men were called to reserve -active, very active – duty in Gaza. Men went into combat consciousness, women into single-parent mode (for some families, switch the genders). The return after long months was often rocky. The response to this challenge has been met by many civilian efforts – another example of the Israeli population taking on with ingenuity, devotion and love functions in which our government was inadequate. Many families have yet to receive help, which was usually focussed on the couple and very little child centered. The voice of the child experiencing such family disruption remains for the most part silent.

Neighbors

No one could envy the plight of children just over the border in Gaza. I of course cannot be competent to even begin to address what they are experiencing. But I have no doubt that part of our future in the region is being poisoned by those experiences. Our press argues over whether the starvation there is fake or real. But we would do well in Israel to attend to the concrete details of how our future neighbors are growing up during this horrible year.

About the Author
Alan Flashman was born in Foxborough, MA, and gained his BA from Columbia, MD from NYU, Pediatrics, Adult and Child Psychiatry specialties at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Bronx, NY. He has practiced in Beer Sheba since 1983, and taught mental health at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. Alan has edited readers on Therapeutic Communication with Children (2002) and Adolescents (2005) in Hebrew, translated Buber's I and Thou anew into Hebrew, and authored Losing It, an autobiography, and From Protection to Passover. He recently published two summary works of his clinical experience (both 2022) Family Therapies for the 21st Century and Mental Health in Pediatrics.