Happy mother with her cute baby girl look out at home
By: Nativia Samuelsen

Since the start of the current war, Israeli youths who were already exposed to violence, drugs and abuse are floundering even more. There is a troubling rise in the number of youths experiencing suicidal thoughts and engaging in self-harm, often from feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. This problem is especially acute among families evacuated from their homes or with reservists serving in the Israeli army.

In these stressful times, young people are particularly vulnerable to physical or sexual abuse by family members, peers or strangers. Since the war began, many at-risk youths also have disconnected from their schools, leading to failing grades and robbed futures. Some of these teens have emotional trauma or learning disabilities, or must work to support their families.

The official statistics paint a bleak picture: One-fourth of all at-risk youths suffer from loneliness and isolation, 50% are at risk of severe depression, 33% engage in criminal behaviour, and 30% use drugs and alcohol. Without help, many of these young people become parents themselves, and cannot provide a stable environment for their own children. 

Woman holding baby

Knowing these Israeli youths urgently need our support, the ICEJ is proud to be sponsoring a “Young Mothers in Distress” project that provides help and care to young mothers as young as 13. These mothers, often isolated and burdened by financial and emotional hardships, have found a lifeline through the program. Our aid helps improve the quality of their lives and that of their children.

Since the war’s onset, social services in southern Israel have either been shut down or are operating on a limited basis. Vulnerable young mothers have been especially affected by the war. Due to a lack of income during the war’s first months, they could not pay the rent or bills. Approximately one quarter of these mothers are currently dealing with new sources of debt. Many were evacuated from their apartments to other parts of Israel.

Yet through the generosity of our Christian donors, counselling and guidance are being provided to over 120 young Israeli mothers to help them cope, pay bills and find a path to stability and hope. As a result, 85% of participants report improvements in their mental health. In addition, workshops and training sessions funded by ICEJ have empowered these women with essential life skills and job readiness, with 80% of participants reporting increased confidence in their abilities.

Furthermore, the project includes the provision of vital resources for young mothers, such as food baskets, diapers, and infant formula.

There also have been significant successes reported in finding jobs and schools. Through partnerships with companies such as “Indigo” and “Amdocs,” several young mothers have secured stable employment. In addition, new educational opportunities for both mothers and their children have meant 15 children were enrolled in daycare programs and 5 mothers began higher education courses in recent months.

Moreover, by engaging with local welfare departments, these mothers have discovered a new network of resources and support. For instance, they can now receive legal assistance for custody battles and protective orders, giving these women more peace-of-mind.

Mother and child

One powerful example of the program’s success is *Meital, a 22-year-old with a two-year-old daughter, who was dramatically rescued from Sderot early on October 9. During the intense first two days of the war, mentors maintained constant contact with her as she anxiously sheltered, holding her child tightly as terrorists lurked just outside their home. 

After a long unbearable wait with her child, the pair were finally evacuated to the safety of a hotel in Jerusalem, where they could breathe a sigh of relief. After months away from home, they recently returned to Sderot. With her mentor’s support and encouragement, Meital began intensive trauma treatment at a resilience center and continues her sessions to this day. Together, they are courageously working to overcome her fears of sending her daughter to daycare and rebuilding a sense of normalcy in their lives.

The war has caused or worsened trauma for many more mothers who need our help. *Yael, a 20-year-old mother with an 18-month-old baby girl, experienced mental health problems and was initially not ready to discuss them. Over time, the war only deepened her mental strains, but with the help of her mentor, she came to see her need for help. They scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist, and she began group therapy. She also received a diagnosis allowing her to receive financial assistance. 

We are thrilled to play a part in these successes and look forward to helping more young Israeli mothers and their children reach out for a brighter future amid the current war crisis.

Donate today at:  give.icej.org/crisis

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Photo credit: Shutterstock, Pexels