#LivingIt: Ravit Elia-Leib

As violence in Israel escalates, the Jewish Agency responds


Ravit Elia-Leib
Director of Welfare and Social Services for Ethiopian Olim
Southern Region
The Jewish Agency for Israel


The question on our minds these days is how can we best grapple with and confront this emergency situation, which continues on and on? 

In my own home, we make games out of the experiences and try, to the greatest extent possible, to maintain routines. When the air-raid siren goes off, we sing and dance in the bomb shelter, and we have a clear schedule of activities for what we’ll do when we can leave the ‘safe area.’

Last weekend, I was traveling in Be’er Sheva with my 6-year-old son, Itai, in our car, when the siren went off.

I pulled over, and, to make things more positive for him, told him we’re going to have a race. We ran to the nearest stairwell, and got there taking deep breaths after our run . . . and suddenly Itai began to cry. I didn’t understand what had gone wrong; we always practice with laughter, and suddenly he was so upset.

I asked Itai why he was crying, when he’d won the race, and he loves winning . . . He said “I didn’t really win. You were running in high heels and that slowed you down.”

I suppose that was his excuse for letting out his fears and how hard it is for him.

From my own home, to the dear olim in the absorption centers . . .

We’ve been providing workshops -- group therapy sessions--for the children and adults, to help them manage their feelings about the situation. From the issues that come up in those workshops, we see how essential they are.

It is taboo in Ethiopian culture to express weakness or fear. They even have a proverb about it, “Our bellies are large and can digest the whole world.”

Today, we had puppet therapy at the Cheruv Absorption Center in Be’er Sheva.  One of the children asked if he could take home the turtle puppet, “because he’s very cute, and maybe he’ll help me sleep at night.”