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Mayr of Sderot Alon Davidi


by Ariel Karabelnicoff, March 11, 2019

The Jewish National Fund brought the Mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi to Winnipeg on February 28, where he spoke about the need for  a  new Animal Assisted Therapy Centre for  the children of Sderot, many of whom suffer psychologically from the trauma of living under rocket fire . Davidi spoke to a number of different groups of people in the community. Davidi met Winnipeggers of all ages and with different roles in our community. His message was that the people of Sderot manage to not only survive but thrive under very difficult circumstances.

The JNF is  involved in the construction of an animal assisted therapy centre in Sderot. The town is situated only one 13 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. To give an idea of this distance,it should be noted that the distance between the Asper Community Campus to downtown is 8km. When rockets are fired from Gaza, residents of Sderot have only 15 seconds to run into a  bomb shelter before that rocket lands.

Davidi, father of seven children, moved to Sderot 21 years ago. He stated that "Living in Sderot is 95% heaven and 5% hell.” But  he emphasized that that the town of  Sderot was thriving under pressure, despite the constant threat of attack from Gaza. He pointed out that the population of Sderot is now over 28,000, whereas it was only 21,000 in 2010. Since the introduction of the Iron Dome system in 2011, residents of Sderot have more  confidence that they will be protected from rocket fire. InNovember 2018 Iron Dome intercepted 100 rockets that were launched from Gaza. According to Davidi, Sderot has continued to grow, despite all of the challenges it faces. It has witnessed the construction of over 3,000 new apartments in the past five years, as well as the construction of a  sports complex, and a shopping mall.

However, Davidi said that  the rocket fire from Gaza as well as the ongoing threat that a rocket might be coming at any moment has  had lasting effects on many residents of Sderot, especially children.

Children suffering from the trauma of the rocket fire display a number of  symptoms: “They might cry without a reason,” Davidi noted, or they " don’t want to sleep alone,” or are "afraid to go outside", or "are  afraid to leave their mother or father when they go to a park.” Additionally, "Many [children] lock themselves inside a shelter for days at a time."

A few years ago Sderot has established a very small animal assisted therapy centre, to help treat children psychological wounds with animals, but it can accommodate no more than 150 children per year.

“Children come to the centre and choose an animal,” such as a dog, or a rabbit  Davidi explained.  The staff therapist works with a child and the child projects his fears on to the animal.” There are only six therapists currently at the centre.

 Davidi stated that three of his seven children suffer from the trauma of living under rocket fire. The Davidi family adopted a dog for their seven year old daughter who suffers from  such trauma, and the dog  rarely leaves her side. When there is a warning siren that gives residents 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter, the girl takes the dog with her to the shelter. 

 Davidi stressed that the  demand for treatment at the animal therapy centre has grown a lot.There is a need for more space and a need for more therapists. The construction of a second animal therapy centre is about to begin. That centre, which will also be part of a new “Resilience Centre” will be able to accommodate up to 500 children per year, Davidi explained. Adults will also be able to use the new "Resilience Centre." 

After visiting Winnipeg, Davidi was going to visit Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the new Animal Assited Therapy Centre in Sderot should contact the JNF at 204 947 0207 or should email me at [email protected]



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