From my perch at the Red Sea Hotel, I keep my eyes on the children. This temporary place is for members of Kibbutz Nir Oz who survived October 7. Nearby is the Caesar Premier Hotel for survivors from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak. I’ve come from Boston as a trauma specialist, joining counselors, social workers, teachers and other therapists in Eilat.
Yesterday I played with a 4-and-a-half year-old who I love and she loves me. Classic peek-a-boos from behind a pillar in the dining room. We share secret code talk:
“Eh! Eh!” she says.
“Eh! Eh! Eh!” I say.
A man came up and said, “I love watching you play with your granddaughter.”
“She’s not my granddaughter,” I replied. “But I do love playing with her.”
She’s really changed: she’s no longer out of control and hurting other toddlers, too. I saw her sitting happily with family at meals. Yesterday, we danced our way to kindergarten. She ran to leap into the arms of her teacher. They held each other tight, and I saw tears in the teacher’s eyes.
“Oh my god, she’s like another person,” the teacher told me.
“She did good work with me yesterday, and I’m in the lobby if you need my help.”
In the lobby, I find the child’s mother. “She’s doing great,” I tell her. “So I want you to have hope.”
“She’s really a good girl,” she says. “And I do have hope.”
How could I be so arrogant? I want a mother to have hope. A woman whose in-laws are in a Gaza tunnel somewhere!
“I’m hopeful,” she says. Her child has a sense of safety again. When I dropped the little girl off inside the makeshift classroom, she unzipped the tent and pushed me out.
I’m back on my perch. Watching. Witnessing? A therapist keeps calm through craziness. (This therapist is only not calm doing parallel parking or math.) She gives water to the adults because trauma can trigger severe dehydration. Hugs and sings with the children. One of the recurring themes around here is Michabkeem et hadarom. “Wrapping your arms around the south.”