The World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) along with the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) were distributing toys and gifts to disadvantaged and new immigrant children across the south of Israel in a project called ‘Hope for Hanukkah’. Funds were raised from Jewish communities in Switzerland, Amsterdam and Rome as well as individual students all across Europe and the United States.” (INN)

The project ‘Hope for Hanukkah’ was created with the aim of connecting Diaspora Jewish students to the fate of poor children in Southern Israel who suffered immensely before, during and after Operation Pillar of Defense. The money collected was spent based on requests regarding the needs of the children from the Absorption Ministry and day care facilities. The World Union of Jewish Students claimed that the toys for these needy children were purchased from independent toy stores in Southern Israel, which thus offered a means to support the local economy in Southern Israel in addition to the underprivileged children.

Shai Hermesh, chairman of the World Jewish Congress-Israel and a resident of Kibbutz Kfar Azza near the Gaza Strip, stated: “These children are the silent victims of the conflict. Some live under daily repressed tension and stress. It is our duty as parents to help them alleviate this stress any way possible.” Indeed, a study done by the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War in 2008 has demonstrated that between 75 and 94 percent of Sderot children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the constant barrage of rocket fire that they have been forced to live under.

According to Dr. Adriana Katz, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder “include intrusive and distressing flashbacks, repeated nightmares, anxiety attacks, incontinence, poor concentration, angry outbursts, feelings of isolation, insomnia and loss of interest in activities. For an adult, suffering from these symptoms can be debilitating but can be managed (although not always cured) with appropriate treatment. However, for a child who is still developing emotionally, neurologically and psychologically, PTSD can have debilitating lifelong consequences.”

The Jewish Week reported, “The consequences of constant rockets falling around them have permeated into the most mundane aspects of the children’s lives. For instance, in Sderot it is now normal practice to take showers within a minute for fear that a siren will sound while they are washing up. Music is seldom played as it may block out the sound of the red alert, and even seat belts are no longer worn in cars because they can restrict a quick exit. When rocket fire is more constant, entire families will often live in bomb shelters for days on end.”

While Operation Pillar of Defense may have concluded, Southern Israeli children are still traumatized from the experience of living under a constant barrage of rocket fire. Thus, giving toys to underprivileged Southern Israeli children who suffered immensely from Hamas rocket fire is a real mitzvah. As the ‘Hope for Hanukkah’ website proclaimed, “This is a project of the people for the people.”

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