Study: Sderot Teenagers Suffering From Chronic Anxiety

The buzz of talk at the state religious school Nativ Yeshivati in Sderot yesterday revolved around the two pupils wounded by a Qassam rocket on Tuesday night.

"Adir lay there on the floor, covered in blood, and Matan's leg was over him," a pupil said of Adir Basad and Matan Cohen, both 15.

Basad's condition has improved since he was rushed to Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon, in critical condition on Tuesday night. He is still in intensive care, suffering from fractures and damage to internal organs.

Cohen is in serious condition, and the doctors fear they may have to amputate his leg. He has been taken to Schneider Children's Medical Center because of shrapnel near his heart.

The pupils at Nativ Yeshivati are particularly exposed to the difficult situation facing Sderot. In June, their school was hit by a Qassam rocket. A month ago, another schoolmate, Snir Suissa, was seriously injured.

Yesterday, soon after news of the injuries to their friends reached them, many pupils went straight to the hospital. Large groups also went from the school to the hospital.

"Unfortunately, we are experienced in dealing with the problem," said Amit Ornabruch, the school's principal. "These days we are analyzing the problems in the classroom, and are talking about them, either in a forum of the entire class, or in individual meetings with pupils."

Being a man who believes in God, Ornabruch feels it is easier for him to deal with the situation. "We have no claims or questions," he says. "Among educators who believe, one's faith becomes stronger. We accept our fate, and the fact that they [the teens] were miraculously saved."

"We are used to the situation," one of the school's teenage students said yesterday, his face full of confidence.

However, research at the Education Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev shows that the youth in Sderot suffer from chronic anxiety. The research involved 400 teens and was carried out by Professor Shifra Sagy and Orna Levinson.

The study compared the levels of anxiety among youth in the North and among youth in Sderot during the recent Lebanon war. The youth in the North showed greater anxiety when rockets were landing, but the youth in Sderot showed higher levels of long-term anxiety.

"The symptoms of chronic anxiety are physical," Sagy says. "They are expressed in headaches, stomachaches, shivers, difficulties in sleeping. The chronic anxiety we discovered in the youth of Sderot and in the kibbutzim nearby is noticeably higher than the anxiety among the youth in the North," she concluded.