June 3, 2024
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Heroes of the Nova Festival and Dr. Orli Peter Help Survivors Receive Trauma Treatment

Neria Sharabi and Dr. Orli Peter showing one of the treatments.

The Nova Music Festival near Kibbutz Re’im, just three miles from Gaza, was supposed to be a celebration of love and life. It was also supposed to be a special celebration for Daniel Sharabi, 23, his 22-year-old brother Neria, his cousin Shalov Yehoshua, and friends, before Daniel departed on October 11 to America to take a pilot’s course. Instead, on October 7, Hamas terrorists launched a barbaric attack on Israel.

At the festival on that day, 100 rockets began falling every minute. Hamas terrorists, with Gaza civilians among them, stormed the festival grounds in pickup trucks, armed with automatic weapons, firing constantly. And on that day, Daniel and Neria Sharabi became heroes, although heroes is not a term they would choose for themselves. “The real heroes are the ones who died that day,” Daniel said.

The brothers defended about 30 festival attendees sheltering behind a tank. They used unfamiliar weapons, as reserve commander Yoni Skrisewsky (whose father was murdered in the attack) gave instructions over the phone. Under fire, Daniel, a combat medic, prevented the wounded from bleeding to death by setting tourniquets. As civilians, the Sharabi brothers fought the terrorists for six hours, attributing their heroism to God.

Daniel Sharabi at the Nova Music Festival.

Daniel and Neria Sharabi are from Elad, Israel. They recently spent time in the U.S. to tell people not only about their experiences on October 7, but about their nonprofit foundation, The Association for Survivors and Wounded (No One Left Behind fund), established three months ago. Their father, “a lawyer, took care of the bureaucracy in Israel to establish the foundation. We established the fund to help Nova survivors to rehabilitate their lives, to help them move forward in life and to give them a full envelope of help,” said Daniel. “We want to bring therapy and specialized equipment to Israel so that the Nova survivors and everyone in Israel can get the therapy they need. It is very expensive and so we need to raise money.”

Daniel told The Jewish Link that once they are back in Israel, their future plans for the foundation include “planning over the next months for a big retreat for 1,000 survivors and renting a space for the retreat. The retreat will offer therapy, massage, yoga, food, relaxation, a place for feeling good and feeling safe.”

He continued: “People don’t leave their house. They are stuck in their house. Some people do bad things like take drugs. We focus on therapy and treat the people. We will continue to do it every month to move forward. Every day we focus on another problem.”

Daniel and Neria’s interest in helping survivors obtain therapy for multiple layers of trauma is, of course, deeply personal. They, too, are suffering from the trauma of the brutal Hamas attack on Israel, the ongoing conflict in Gaza, and Hamas and Hezbollah rockets hitting civilian centers.

Both Daniel and Neria have been receiving therapy from various doctors in Israel, including Dr. Jud Shashua, and are now trying alternative modalities such as EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). EMDR was developed by American psychologist and educator Francine Shapiro in 1987 to help treat distress associated with post-traumatic stress disorders. Today, EMDR is used to help individuals process trauma.

“Eye movement was best. I know how I was before—like a zombie. I don’t want to bring the survivors something I don’t know,” Neria said about his own EMDR treatment and his efforts to bring treatment to survivors through the brothers’ foundation.

“Eye movement helped us a lot, so we decided to give it to anyone who wants to do it,” said Daniel, again referring to what his foundation, in part, seeks to accomplish.

While in the U.S., the brothers were treated by Orli Peter, Ph.D., a neuro- and clinical psychologist with 33 years specializing in trauma. She is the director and founder of the Center for Accelerated Psychology in Los Angeles.

Neria and Daniel Sharabi.

“It’s important to note that our approach involves supplementing trauma treatment with neurostimulation to relax the survivor’s hyperactivated nervous systems, and then helping to reintegrate important brain regions that became dysregulated by their traumas,” said Peter.

Dr. Peter explained neurostimulation treatment to The Jewish Link and why this treatment is being used to help Israelis suffering from trauma after the Hamas attack. “Each survivor’s nervous system responds uniquely to their traumas. During trauma recall, areas of the brain responsible for linguistic expression may become less active, diminishing the effectiveness of talk therapy. However, neurostimulation can be tailored to relax the hyperactive nervous system of a survivor, promoting a calmer response to stress as well as improving restorative sleep. Additionally, it can aid in reintegrating brain networks to restore attention and reduce intrusive traumatic memories in everyday life.

“Severe trauma survivors, who show limited response to conventional trauma treatment, see better and quicker progress because this therapy directly targets the underlying cause of their trauma symptoms,” she continued. “It helps to unlock a stuck nervous system, making conventional trauma treatment more likely to succeed. Moreover, for some survivors, it can function as a stand alone treatment option.”

Dr. Peter’s involvement with treating Israelis us a deeply personal. “As a child, I deeply felt my father’s pain as a Holocaust survivor,” she said. “It ignited my lifelong dedication to assist others in overcoming their trauma. I’ve offered treatment to survivors of diverse traumatic events, spanning from rape and the aftermath of 9/11 to assisting U.S. army veterans, Iranians escaping the Islamic regime, and Palestinians and Israelis amidst conflict. However, the severity of trauma endured by the survivors of October 7 that I’ve treated surpasses any I’ve treated in my professional career.

“I met Neria soon after he faced the Hamas massacre and he was broken,” she continued. “But he told me despite his difficulty, he must speak, as he carries the voice of 600 survivors within him. I resonated with that because some powerful forces are propelling me forward, too. More than one person has told me that the trajectory of my life has led me to this moment to help the survivors. And my response is ‘Hineni.’”

Daniel Sharabi receiving trauma treatment.

Dr. Peter is also the founder and director of the Israel Healing Initiative. “We are going to Israel on March 15. We hope to make several trips. Our first trip will be for approximately one month. All doctors are volunteers. Currently, we are self-funding most of the expenses. …There is a massive need in Israel, and we have the skills and passion to make a difference. We need more support from the public to help us do more,” she said.

For more information and to donate to The Association for Survivors and Wounded, visit https://causematch.com/maman/forthesurvivorsandthewounded. For more information and to donate to the Israel Healing Initiative, visit www.israelhealinginitiative.org or contact [email protected].

Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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