Israel halts special therapy program in Gaza-area communities due to budget restraints

The Education Ministry announced Sunday morning it would stop funding a therapy program it initiated after last summer’s war in communities near the Gaza Strip due to a lack of funds. The ministry told its psychologists in local governments in the region to wind up their treatment of children and families by the end of the week.

In a letter to the psychological services in local and regional councils in the area, the Education Ministry said it was halting its funding of therapy for children and families, effective immediately, and the psychologists must prepare to end treatment.

“To our great regret, because of a lack of budget to cover the full quota of sessions, in a complex budgetary year lacking a state budget, we are forced to shorten the allocation of treatments and instruct therapists to end their work by Friday. We ask the therapists to consider how they will take their leave from the children and their parents” under the new circumstances that have been created, said the letter.

The head of the Eshkol Regional Council, Gadi Yarkoni, said that if the report of the halt in services is true, then it was an arbitrary decision. “Since Operation Protective Edge dozens of families have received psychological support as a result of the very difficult events they experienced, and they are being worked with to handle, live and overcome the cries, and suddenly without any warning they announce there is no more budget. These treatments return the strength to a person and the entire community, the strength of the residents is the most important thing,” Yarkoni told Haaretz.

Yarkoni said the regional council had no idea the treatments would be ending at the start of summer vacation from school and thought they would continue through the next school year, in light of the extreme events that occurred during Operation Protective Edge: “Instead of receiving a budget for next year, it turns out there is no budget at all. They have not paid attention to the significance of this decision, they are going to the hardest and most painful spots for people, for whom it is an emotional matter … We will not allow this decision to stand,” he said.

MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid) sent an urgent letter Sunday morning to Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, calling on them to reverse the “irresponsible decision.”

The Education Ministry did not answer a request for comment.


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