Beating the Odds Camp – Operation Guardians of the Wall: Update May 2021

Danish-Jewish Friendship is proud to partner with Orr Shalom, Israel’s foremost foster-care organization. Idit Codish of Orr Shalom brings us an update concerning the consequences of the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Israel and Hamas recently agreed to a ceasefire, after nearly two weeks of rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and PIJ, and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip. The immediate physical threat is over but the experience is still very much alive. Orr Shalom is not a political organization. Our only mission is to provide safe and loving homes to children in need, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, and to provide these children, when they age out, with services through our Beating the Odds Graduate Program as they begin to navigate independent life. Our staff is often the only reliable adult interface our graduates have with the world.

Over the past year, as a result of the pandemic, most of our graduates lost their jobs, and dealt with intense feelings of loneliness and isolation. Many graduates had childhood traumas triggered by these circumstances and faced a danger of reverting to self-destructive behaviors. After countrywide vaccinations, our graduates had begun to believe that the nightmare was behind them. They found work again, began going out and socializing, and were just beginning to return to a semblance of routine – and then were stopped in their tracks. Many of our graduates live in areas that experienced barrages. Our graduates in the areas hardest hit, most of whom work for hourly wages, were unable to go to work , which opened wounds and financial stress still fresh from Covid19. Many of our graduates suffer from PTSD, and the constant sounds of war – planes overhead, the Iron Dome intercepting ceaseless barrages of rockets, bombs falling in Gaza – reduced their capacity to function on even a basic level. Even following the ceasefire, every loud noise creates fear and anxiety.

The effect of the recent military operation cannot be separated from the past year. For those already dealing with a history of trauma, the effect is compounded. The program’s Director visited a group of graduates living together in Ashkelon and reported that all six girls had moved into the apartment’s bomb shelter, and were too scared to leave the house to even get groceries. In addition to “normal” immediate effects (such as graduates too scared to shower for fear of missing the bomb siren), we anticipate seeing long terms effects of the crisis in the coming weeks, and will be ready to provide the appropriate resources.

While other young adults were able to call their parents or other family to receive support – both emotional and practical –our young adults have no reliable family. Without Beating the Odds, they would have no one at all. Beating the Odds coordinators made sure to be in contact with everyone in the areas directly affected, and made sure they were available to anyone who needed extra emotional support.

No virus and no conflict will stop us from our commitment to help our graduates! They have faced so much in their lives, and we must continue to empower them to meet the future that they deserve. Thank you for supporting Orr Shalom’s Beating the Odds Graduate Program. It is not for nothing that we call ourselves the Orr Shalom Family- for these vulnerable adults, Orr Shalom will always be their family.

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