‘We must remember that people who suffer trauma can overcome it’
Last Sunday afternoon, my phone buzzed. The screen showed a message from a dear friend: You wanted to do something meaningful to help, right?
Yes. Of course, I wrote back.
Good. They need you at the Dead Sea.
My inner alarm bells began to sound, and a dialogue began between the voices in my head – my strength encouraged me to go, and my demons shut me down. As the hours passed, my strength and my determination joined forces and quieted the demons.
I sent my details and filled out the required forms with IsraAID – an international humanitarian aid group that normally responds to emergencies around the world, but this time, at home, in our wounded nation.
Within hours, it was clear that I was packing my bags and going to contribute all my knowledge in the fields of family counseling, parental counseling, trauma care, and, of course, all my experience with early childhood, establishing and managing frameworks for early childhood education.
Our goal was to create a sense of “routine” and stability alongside a psychosocial response for our young children, our elderly, our parents, and families who were forced to evacuate their damaged or destroyed homes.
“Mom, how will you be able to stand hearing all those stories,” my beloved daughter asked me. And I assured her that my soul is resilient, I am equipped with clinical training, and of course, with tissues, because who could not cry over the collective tragedy that has befallen us? Above all, I’m human!
I rearranged my diary. I received blessings for a safe journey from the clients whose appointments I had to reschedule and, of course, from my supportive partner and two children, who said, “Mom, go! It’s alright. They need you there.”
And so I found myself standing early in the morning with the wonderful Orit Rubin, IsraAID’s Protection Technical Advisor, who accepted me for the position and brought me up to speed with the rapidly developing events. We got to know each other a little as we cruised south, and the beauty of the Dead Sea spread out on the horizon before us. The pastoral, peaceful vista photographed wonderfully but didn’t quite reflect the reality that we had arrived at.
I knew I was in it until the end, but I didn’t know what this space, these people, and this experience had in store for me. The Dead Sea hotels welcomed us, each building emblazoned in sparkling letters that betrayed no hint of what was happening within. Overnight, many of them had become the “home” for the survivors of the atrocities, and others provided temporary housing for those who had self-evacuated.
Time was short, and we set to work. We got to know all the different professionals and had a short meeting. I immediately understood that I was part of an all-star team. We assigned jobs and tasks for the day. We sorted, organized, and collected all the donations from good people and organizations, and in the evening, we set up a child and parent space in another hotel. By the end of the day, once we knew the caretakers and equipment were prepared, and we had collected everything we needed from the enormous warehouse of donations, we were left with a blessed feeling of “doing”.
Our purpose was always clear – we had to establish a space that could allow parents to sit with their children and just be, to see and feel tiny signs of routine, to see that their child was alright; to see him play, laugh, run, and build – to see that he’s still a child; to see that the adults he meets will do everything they can to make the experience better for him and that even if he can’t return to that naive paradise of childhood other experiences can be restored.
We must remember that people who suffer trauma can overcome it! I say this mostly because the studies show it to be true, but at 10:00 pm, after we had finished our evening meeting, we saw a father and daughter sitting behind us on a bench. She is a mother of three. He is a grandfather of six. They were physically saved from the inferno, but their stories and that father’s sad eyes haunt me.
Studies show… but his eyes showed it all.
Disappointment and fear.
“Who will protect these little souls?” he asked, teary-eyed.
Yehudit Henig-Roth is an Israeli therapist specializing in trauma care, couples counseling, family counseling, and adolescent and early childhood care. To support IsraAID’s emergency response in Israel, donate today.