JDC’s Mishol Program Cares for Residents of Kasdor Sderot

Reprinted from JDC.org; original version available here.

December 2008

Since the conflict in Gaza intensified, seventy-five-year-old widow Polina has simply not moved from her apartment in Sderot's Kasdor neighborhood.

Polina relies on a walker to get around due to a loss of sensation in one leg. Her reduced mobility prevents her from moving to safety when the blaring Red Color attack alerts sounds. Her top floor apartment lacks a protected room and the building's shelter is on the first floor, an impossible distance to cover in the allocated 15 seconds to get to safety

With no family nearby, Polina relies on a neighbor for help with odd jobs and errands. Now at the same time as she faces her fears of attack -- her neighborhood was hit with rocket fire in recent days although no homes were directly hit -- she has the additional worry about assistance in the future; her neighbor just informed her that she plans to sell her car. Polina might have been left to contemplate her predicament alone were it not for a recent visit by Ruby, local coordinator for JDC's Mishol program.

Mishol (literally meaning path) uses the improvement of living environments to promote community solidarity among immigrants and impoverished veteran Israelis alike. Local coordinators like Ruby play a pivotal role in guiding residents of Israel's most run-down peripheral neighborhoods to organize themselves and using existing resources to improve their living conditions and ultimately their future prospects.

Since the outbreak of increased violence, Mishol in the Kasdor neighborhood has morphed into emergency mode focusing its efforts on needs created by the intensified violence. As part of these efforts Ruby makes home visits to connect with residents; provide information about available services; listening to residents' needs and worries; checking electricity and water supplies as well as dealing with other issues as they arise.

On hearing about Polina's plight, Ruby quickly started thinking of ways to help. She contacted the Municipal Welfare Department's Unit for the Elderly to arrange assistance for Polina while also committing that Mishol staff continue to visit her daily.

Polina is just one of many residents who are being helped by Mishol. The local Mishol clubhouse is open 12 hours a day staffed by team members backed by reinforcements from the municipal welfare department.

In addition to evaluating needs of residents through home visits, Mishol staff are also ensuring that shelters are usable by checking the electricity and water connections; clearing out residents' belongings to make space available; and buying games for children to play with when they are confined to shelters. Volunteers recruited through the program are planning social activities for the children and other residents as a way to create the feeling of a safe and warm environment.

Thanks to Mishol - even as rockets continue to fall, Polina and others like her can regain some sense of calm and security.