Bringing Resilience to Sderot

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Resilience. It’s a word we’ve been using a lot since October 7th. It’s a quality we all need right now and WIZO is working hard to build it in every corner we can reach. In Sderot, it means reopening what we call the “Open House,” a unique center in the heart of a shattered city.

The Trauma

The terror experienced by the people of Sderot on that devastating morning of October 7, 2023 is simply unimaginable. Here is a reminder.

Sderot’s 30,000 residents were forced to flee their homes, become refugees in their own country, multiplying trauma upon trauma.

Now they are returning, and WIZO is waiting for them with open arms. At the beginning of March, residents of Sderot began returning home. WIZO reopened our three bomb-protected day care centers, which serve some 200 children, with 50 teachers and staff.

The next step is the reopening of WIZO’s “Open House,” a unique center providing professional treatment, therapy and support programs to thousands of children and families each year in this deeply traumatized city.

Through the unique work of the Open House, WIZO will be making a powerful contribution to the great Zionist challenge of our time: the rebirth and rehabilitation Sderot and of the Gaza Envelope region. To deal with trauma and post-trauma, to strengthen resilience, and to heal the invisible wounds.


“Before October 7th, it was estimated that 75 percent of Sderot children exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress.“

In light of all that’s happened, WIZO and the Sderot Municipality are currently exploring the possibility of significantly expanding the mandate of the Open House, and transforming it into a holistic center for the rehabilitation of the entire family.

When it reopens, the Open House will continue its work, but with new and vastly greater challenges in treating the Sderot community. The war continues and the future of the region is uncertain. One thing is absolutely certain: the need for the Open House and its services will be immense for the months and years to come.

History of the Open House

The Open House in Sderot (officially named the Margaret Thatcher Center for the Benefit of the Children, Parents, and Educational Staff of Sderot) was opened in 2007. You can read more about the history of this institution by clicking here.  Since then, it has served an ever-growing community of families of young children in Sderot.


The Open House – What does it do?

Since its founding, and until it closed temporarily on October 8, 2023, the Open House in Sderot has provided support and counselling for young children and their families, from the entire Negev region, who have lived for years with terror and war, with thousands of deadly rockets that give them mere seconds to for a panicked dash for shelter triggered by the piercing sound of “Red Alert”, at all hours of the day, and through countless sleepless nights.

Continual war and terror affects all the residents of the region, but children are the most vulnerable, and are most likely to suffer severe and long-term trauma-related disorders. In the short term, PTSD manifests itself in children in many ways, from bed-wetting, regressive or aggressive behavior, excessive crying or screaming, fear of separation, poor sleep, inability to study, and more. In the long term, extended exposure to traumatic stress may cause profound psychological, emotional, social and cognitive disorders that may affect them for the whole life.

Before October 7th, it was estimated that 75 percent of Sderot children exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and that nearly 50% suffer from full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). From the earliest ages, these children suffer psychological wounds that do not heal and disappear when the rockets stop falling.  These are invisible wounds that – like injuries to the body — require expert, long-term treatment.

Here are some examples of Open House programs:

  • Mothers and babies: Programs for mothers with babies up to one year old, to strengthen emotional resilience, physical and mental health, ability to deal with unusual stress, provide nutritional guidance, and more. Many of these programs include a healthy and pampering breakfast.
  • Children-Parents: Joint children-parents programs to foster intimacy, communication, to improve motor skills, coordination and spatial awareness.
  • Parent training: this is a particularly vital category of activities, aimed at assisting parents in recognizing signs of trauma and post-trauma (PTSD), providing practical advice and professional guidance in dealing with them.
  • Animal Therapy – for children and parents
  • Theater, Movement, and Music for toddlers
  • Resilience at an Early Age
  • Community group counselling programs – programs for different stages in the families’ lives: “From Birth to Parenting”, “First Time Mother”, “Parents’ Space” (dealing with PTSD symptoms in young children), “Safe Transition” (for children before their first year of school) and more.
  • Professional workshops for educators, counselors, and community members provide tools to identify PTSD and development difficulties.
  • Telephone Hot Line: enabling parents to consult and receive immediate assistance during crises.

Additional Resources:

Here is a video about the Open House made several years ago, and is relevant until today:

Here is a message from Mr. Alon Davidi, Mayor of Sderot:

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