April 13, 2024
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Healing Hands: A Journey of Purpose With the Tikvah Unit

Bianca Brower, a recent olah who lives in Tel Aviv, had been an English teacher for a few years but felt deeply misaligned in this role. She had also been trained as a massage therapist in South Africa, but needed secure, stable work and she relied on the teaching to provide this. Going through the motions on a daily basis she felt drained and empty, her routine monotonous.

But along with everyone else, her world truly changed with the Oct. 7 massacre, when a giant mirror was almost placed in front of each and every individual, forcing them to examine life, its meaning, and to engage in what provided the most fulfillment. For Brower, she discovered this meaning to be more profound in helping the soldiers by providing massage therapy.

As she shifted away from teaching and into her volunteer work, the journey of massage therapy for soldiers has taken her around the country, meeting fascinating people of all cultural backgrounds and seeing how soldiers live, breathe and work. She has experienced the different climates and topography of the land and was exposed to a variety of army troops, each with a unique focus but united in their mission. Being a massage therapist who spends time with the army has liberated Brower from the banality of her former life and has opened her up to a world of possibility, filled with meaning, contribution and purpose. It is in the giving to others that she herself received.

Brower is a part of the Tikvah Unit, a group of 100 therapists who provide massage, energy healing, chiropractic work, physiotherapy, acupuncture, and other services to the soldiers. The unit has now expanded to working with the reservists’ wives and anyone in between who is physically and emotionally fatigued by the war. The volunteers set up times to go directly to a site and often set up massage tables in tents or army bases (and once, unfortunately, in close vicinity to falling rockets) to give those in need a much appreciated reprieve, an opportunity to recharge and relax before heading back to their taxing roles.

Although there are other organizations that also provide alternative healing to those in the IDF, Brower said that there is no competition amongst the groups, but rather a feeling of camaraderie, of being a part of a mission all together. Everyone is in it to help, and there is an endless amount of people who benefit from the services. Many therapists belong to multiple volunteer organizations and therefore are able to better select days to help in conjunction with their personal work schedules. Brower herself used to volunteer as much as six days a week, but because of the many volunteers she has been able to scale back to one or two days.

The more time she spends with the soldiers, the less she sees them as army personnel. In the spaces of working through exhausted muscles, the soldiers often share about their lives, peeling away the layers they carry around on a daily basis. Underneath the heavy artillery and protective gear is a human with a hurting heart. Brower is often humbled by the work, learning to repress her usual ebullient personality in order to be more of a passive, receptive listener, one who tunes in to the energy and emotional state of the people she is working on. She listens, internalizes and helps ease their pain by her presence and her gentle, effusive touch.

Brower has noticed that the volunteers and soldiers alike are all equally appreciative when it comes to words of support. Although financial contributions are also helpful,to cover the costs of fuel and supplies, it is the kind messages and votes of encouragement that also fuel their spirits the most, strengthening the nation from the inside out.

As Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Everyone has an opportunity to sustain others, to embrace them with their encouragement, to commit to elevating them in whatever ways they can. For Brower, it’s the massages, the empathic listening, the ability to be present for so many in various situations. And for the volunteers, the tier right underneath, uplifting those who uplift.

To contribute financially or to otherwise show support to the volunteers or soldiers, follow or message Brower on Instagram, @the_tikva_unit.


Sarah Abenaim is a writer, life coach, and journaling workshop curator who lives with her husband and kids. To be featured in one of her “Out There, In Here” stories, reach out to her at [email protected] or to David Siegel at [email protected]. To learn more about how you can make an impact in the war effort, check out tinyurl.com/rinat-volunteeringinisrael.

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