Responding to Trauma
The Hamas war is taking a big toll on the population
One of my younger children has been badly affected by the war. After it started, it was very difficult to get him to leave the house; he’s afraid of rockets. Over the last few weeks, it’s gotten easier, as we hadn’t had a siren in Beit Shemesh for a while.
On Friday night, as we were reciting Kabbalat Shabbat in shul, the siren sounded.
Everyone dropped to the floor. I was hugging my child, and I could feel him shaking. Then we heard the biggest BOOM that I’ve ever heard in my life. Iron Dome had intercepted a rocket almost directly overhead. After we got up, my child was so terrified that I had to take him home immediately, and he refused to eat dinner. My heart was breaking for him.
My son is far from the only child experiencing trauma. At the Biblical Museum of Natural History, where we have been offering free admission to evacuees, we’ve witnessed heart-rending scenes. One family pulled into the parking lot on time for their tour, but it took them twenty minutes to convince their child that it was safe to leave the car and enter the building.
A newly published report shows that 84% of children in Israel are suffering varying degrees of emotional distress over the war. The condition is, naturally, far more severe in areas with a high number of sirens. And one can only imagine how hard it must be for children who have been evacuated, or who have lost loved ones. Still, only 14% of parents are obtaining help for their children’s mental health.
It’s become clear that dealing with trauma, especially for children, is a major task for the country. As such, we have decided at the museum to make this a focus of our work for the coming months. Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a unique therapeutic modality for children, which studies have found to be extremely helpful in aiding the treatments of symptoms caused by anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders. We are capitalizing on our unique resources at the museum to develop a multifaceted animal therapy program.
One of the techniques used in AAT is allowing the patient to identify with the animal in order to reveal the unconscious content of the patient’s psyche, thus alleviating tension. This also relates to the museum’s educational research about the characteristics of different animals as expressed in different Biblical and rabbinic sources, and we are in the process of developing tools for therapists on this theme.
Next Sunday, I’ll be giving a presentation at a parlor meeting in Teaneck about these and other aspects of the museum’s response to the war, including those aimed at adults. If you’d like to join our family of supporters and attend the event, please write to Ellen at advancement@BiblicalNaturalHistory.org. If you can’t attend, but you’d like to support the efforts that we are doing - or to show appreciation for this blog - please visit www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org/war-support to learn more and donate. Thank you!
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