The needs of Israel are great, but the resolve and ingenuity of the Israelis and the Jewish people are even greater. Over the next several weeks various organizations will be highlighted, about which many in America may or may not have heard, in order to convey the amazing work that is being done to help Israelis in all facets of their lives and give a peek into the extraordinary chesed and care within klal Yisrael.
The events of Oct. 7 pierced the souls of an entire country and an entire nation. In Israel, the term for mental health is “briyut hanefesh,” health of the soul. As our brave chayalim are on the front lines putting their bodies at risk, it is crucial for us to also remember that the mental health of an entire nation has been shaken and their souls are burdened.
On the evening of Nov. 15, I had the privilege to sit in a meeting at Kibbutz Nachshon alongside Ellie Rothstein, CEO of Kav L’Noar, a leading Israeli mental health organization, together with several other like-minded mental health organizations in Israel. The meeting brought together representatives from kibbutzim all over Israel to discuss a game plan for how to help the residents, workers and business owners in these kibbutzim deal with the aftermath of the psychological pain they’ve all been through.
I listened as these kibbutz representatives spoke of the difficulty in finding workers as well as their own challenges with staying focused on the task at hand on any given day. I watched as these individuals bounced back and forth between the horror of the events of Oct. 7 and the very real challenges they are facing in terms of getting their communities and businesses up and running again. The goal of the meeting was simply to listen. To understand. To internalize. And then, once that was completed, the next stage could begin; to plan, strategize, coordinate and support the mental health needs of an entire nation.
In addition to the work with kibbutzim, I had a chance to discuss with staff of Kav L’Noar their plans for working with displaced families throughout the country and developing a nationwide strategy for how to assist families and individuals through these tough times while managing both the acute and long-term impacts of nationwide PTSD. This work is crucial for the well-being of each individual as well as the future of the Israeli economy and society. Difficulty holding employment can be a key consequence of PTSD and many small business owners are already reporting that even the employees that are available to come to work are struggling to remain focused throughout the day, and in some cases struggle to show up at all. Further, one common symptom of PTSD is avoidance of places or situations associated with a traumatic event, which creates particular challenges for Israelis living and working anywhere near the Gaza border.
It has been shown that when it comes to trauma, a multi-faceted approach which includes education, individual therapy and group therapy that allows people to understand their symptoms and their loved one’s symptoms can be crucial in setting the foundation for long-term success. I had the opportunity to hear and discuss Kav L’Noar’s short- and long-term plan centered around four primary missions: 1) support for kibbutzim and displaced families; 2) urgent care for mental health, including an array of wartime mental health services, virtual care platforms and a plan for increasing capacity of mental health professionals; 3) support for mental health providers in partnership with the American Group Therapy Association; and 4) social and emotional learning and in-school therapy.
Unfortunately, long after the active military battles have subsided, the mental health crisis will continue to rage for years to come. I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to see, first-hand, the work that is being done to help Israelis of all types. Having an organization like Kav L’Noar that is active, available and has the vision and know-how to restore the health of the souls of an entire nation will be key to the ultimate success and rebuilding of Israel’s economy and society. Kav L’Noar is run by exceptionally talented leaders in Rothstein and Dr. Zev Ganz, head clinical supervisor, who have been tirelessly working to make sure no stone is left unturned in this battle to restore families and businesses. Rothstein can be reached at [email protected] and more information on Kav L’Noar can be found at www.kavlnoar.org/israelatwar.
Daniel Krausz can be reached at [email protected].