At first glance, Noam looks just like most other 14 year old girls. Her long, dark hair blows across her face as she sits outside watching the setting sun disappear somewhere beyond Gaza. But Noam has an extraordinary story and the seriousness of her voice hints at the terrible trauma she has suffered.
As most of us are thinking about spending Rosh Hashanah with family, Noam has other concerns at this time of year. When we meet, she explains that she only came to live at Eden Karmia four months ago. Eden Karmia is Israel’s therapeutic home for teenage girls who have been abused. The home provides for the girls’ every need, including food, shelter, protection, therapy, schooling and, of course, love.
“It was really tough when I got here” she says. “I didn’t know the crew and the other girls here.” But despite being a new arrival — some of the girls have been living there for years already — Noam already calls it her “second home.”
“At home it’s only me and my mother. My father left when I was 4 and my sister lives abroad where she is a medical student,” she explains. “When I was raped by a close neighbour everything was terrible. I didn’t feel safe at home any more. He was hurting my life, but here nobody bad can reach me.” Every year, thousands of girls in Israel suffer abuse at home. In the south of Israel, there are very few options for these girls, but for those who are looked after at Eden Karmia, there is the chance to benefit from a unique therapeutic model focussed entirely on helping young women with the specific issues they might have as a result of their abuse.
Feeling safe: Noam hugs her friends and housemates at Eden Karmia.
Based near the Gaza border in kibbutz Karmia, the home cares for dozens of girls who the courts have removed from their families. “They protect and keep me safe here,” Noam explains with a sigh of relief. “But Rosh Hashanah can be the hardest time of year. I know I can’t live with my mother at the moment, but she is the most important person in my life. I can’t wait to see her when I get to visit for the Chagim.”
For those girls who cannot go home in the holiday period, Eden’s social workers will hold a communal dinner to mark Rosh Hashanah and will continue to look after them over the holiday just as they do during term time. Noam is happy to be returning home to be with her mother and says that she feels safe now thanks to the confidence she has developed at Eden: “At home I’m going be with my family. I have a sister, who is getting married soon, and I’m really looking forward to the wedding in Denmark, where she lives.”
Noam’s wish for the New Year is simple: she wants to go home again. With the help of her carers, teachers and therapists at Eden Karmia, this could well become a reality. Despite all she has been through, she sees the New Year as a chance for a new start. “I want to be a surgeon” she says, her face lighting up. “I want to go and study in America. My sister is in medical school and I feel like I’ll regain my strength to follow in her footsteps.”
Noam’s name and some minor details of her story have been changed to protect her identity.
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