January 21, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

“We thought that the teens here weren’t growing up normally,” Livnat Suabi, who runs the Sderot theater project.

Imagine being a teenage girl, and only able to take one-minute showers? In Sderot, Israel this has been the reality for eight years. Not due to water shortages, but rockets.

Since 2001, an entire generation of teens has grown into a world where short showers and “Tseva Adom,” for Red Alert, is the norm. More than 7,000 rockets have battered into their homes, farms and subconscious: “I have been taking one-minute showers because I can’t hear the siren alert when the water is on,” says a Sderot girl, who is about to tell her life story to the world, through theater.

Sderot Treatment Theater is a new project developed by the Sderot Media Center. The aim is to merge the world of art therapy, and media so that teen girls from Sderot can cope with their own personal tragedies. Through theater therapy, they will tell their stories to other Israelis, and then in English to the rest of the world.

This month, organizers are still collecting experiences and emotions with psychologists, and within a few weeks, the writing will begin. The show, organizers hope, will go on the road this summer.

Rockets also strike mental health

Livnat Shaubi from the Sderot Media Center is directing the project with the help of a social worker and psychologist. She tells ISRAEL21c that the Treatment Theater includes about 40 girls from two high schools in Sderot, Amit Mekif Dati and the Amit Ulpana.

“We started thinking about this project much before the recent attacks – around October. Many, many – about 7,000 – Qassam rockets over the last eight years have fallen on us. This damages our mental health,” says Shaubi, 24. But the effects are not only on the mind: four years ago a friend of hers was hit by a rocket from Gaza, and killed, while attempting to save her brother.

“We thought that the teens here weren’t growing up normally,” says Shaubi. “We’d thought about courses that could give them therapy and a place that could explain to the world what was happening here,” she says, noting that the gory pictures from Gaza are always more popular in the media than the constant rocket attacks on Sderot.

A gnawing fear you can’t shake

Now working with video cameras to document the teens’ experiences, Debby Gross, a psychologist and Nechama Munk, a social worker are directing sessions.

Maayan, 16, told the Sderot Media Center: “It is important for me to say that each Qassam rocket explosion only generates more fear and panic. That fear never disappears and you never get used to it. Each rocket attack continues to shock you again and again.”

“We need to explain to the world what’s been happening here,” concludes Shaubi.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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