TRAUMA, ISRAEL AND HAITI: THE ISRAEL CENTER FOR THE TREATMENT OF PSYCHOTRAUMA IN JERUSALEM

Dear Danny,

Thank you for contacting us last Sunday and for the long phone call regarding our mutual interests.  We are very pleased to be able to give our readers details about the Center’s work in Haiti and Israel, as stated by you in the following summary. 

TRAUMA, ISRAEL AND HAITI:
THE ISRAEL CENTER FOR THE TREATMENT OF PSYCHOTRAUMA IN JERUSALEM

Only recently I found out about the moving blog and the Haiti-Holocaust connection. This spoke to me because I feel that I carry within the work I am doing another such connection. My parents after the Holocaust moved from Switzerland to Belgium to work with Jewish orphans who came out of the concentration camps or from their hiding places. As there was not a lot of knowledge then about how to help these children, they did what they could. Specializing as a Clinical Psychologist in trauma since 1979, and having founded the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP) (www.traumaweb.org) in Jerusalem, in the past years I feel that the family circle is closing. Through our experience helping children in Israel deal with war and terrorism, we have developed models of care that we have started to teach…. in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, so that the children of Haiti can get the right kind of help, building their resilience through educating and training their teachers.

Trauma in Israel has been an unwanted companion of life throughout the existence of the state. It is therefore so surprising to find so many parts of the trauma services in Israel still neglected. Let me give you two examples:

  1. Serving in the Israel Defense Force is a simple fact of life. Our children go into the army at age 18 or 19 and many serve in combat units and collect very hard experiences, including the loss of friends, during the violent confrontations with our neighbors. After three or more years of those experiences, the families are relieved when they are being released from the service and will finally be able to start their civilian life of studies and finding a partner for life. But many are not really ready for this when they get out of the army. They need to process their experiences. It is sad to notice that Israel has not developed any way to facilitate the transition from combat service to civilian life.For that reason ICTP has developed the “PEACE OF MIND” program. This new program gives combat units of the IDF after their release the opportunity to get together and deal with their experiences. Part of that program is that we bring whole units of 15 people to Jewish communities throughout the world. This serves several purposes: first, it helps them to disconnect from the daily stresses of life in Israel and creates the safety that is necessary to open these experiences and discuss them.   

  2. The Ethiopian Jews have been coming to Israel in large numbers since 1982. What is less known about them is that their journey to Israel has included so many hardships. Of the 20.000 people who left in 1982, 20% were murdered on the way while walking through Sudan. For many it took 2-2,5 years to reach Israel and the journey was accompanied by many traumatic experiences, such as the threat to their lives, the loss of relatives and violent attacks.The Ethiopian Jews in Israel are in a deplorable situation. The highest suicide and homicide rate in Israel is in this community. Research shows that 28% of this population is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 3 times the rate of the general Israeli population. As no services for this population have been set up, ICTP started to do this and our efforts have been recognized by the State of Israel through a government grant of 60% of the necessary budget. We now are happy to give services in three locations in Israel, working towards the establishment of these services throughout Israel to help the Ethiopian population get to a better place in Israeli society.   

Learning from our experiences in Israel, we have been fortunate to be able to “export” some of our knowledge to areas in the world that were in need of this knowledge. Sri Lanka after the Tsunami, Turkey after the earthquake, Mississippi after hurricane Katrina are examples of places that we have been involved in post-disaster relief.

Part of our resilience is to dedicate part of our lives to the help of others. As there is so much to do, we can only do it together. Feel free to visit our website (www.traumaweb.org) and ask for more information.

Danny Brom
dbrom@netvision.net.il

 

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