Israel at War – Emunah Counseling Centers Now More than Ever

22nd October 2023
Update on Emunah Counseling Centers:

As we start the third week of the war, we wanted to update you about how the 13 Emunah Counseling Centers are responding to the enormous need for psychological support that exists now in Israel. Whilst we rely on the IDF to provide physical defense of the state, Emunah is fighting for our psychological and emotional wellbeing, providing emergency relief to those who have been most affected by the outbreak of the war.

Israelis are typically strong and tough and have always lived with an awareness of imminent danger since the founding of the state 75 years ago. However, the events of the 7th October have shocked the entire country. The depravity of the atrocities committed, and the ongoing concern for the welfare of more than 210 hostages as well as the IDF chayalim, the sons and daughters of the country, means that many more people require urgent emergency psychological and emotional support than ever before. Many have experienced extreme trauma and are unable to function normally. Emunah has the highly qualified staff who can provide the therapies needed, but in this war, nothing is straightforward.

Our therapists in the south, from the counselling centers in Sderot and Netivot, have been displaced by the war. The centers in the south themselves are closed, either because the whole area is evacuated (Sderot), or because there is not a safe area close enough to be able to reach it in time (Netivot). Tragically on the first day of the war, one of the Netivot therapists was murdered by terrorists in her home in the Gaza border communities. Her colleagues have had to put aside their own grief, to be able to continue to reach out to clients and to give them support.
In Sderot, Tami Beck, the Director of the Sarah Ronson Counselling Center has been evacuated along with her whole family and is living in temporary accommodation alongside other families from her community, far from home in relative quiet. Despite living in very basic accommodation and dealing with her own family’s needs, Tami continues to provide support and direction to her staff and to her own clients. Her strength and resilience are exceptional, but she is human, and the toll of the last two weeks has been great.

Where centers aren’t open, due to safety concerns across the country, all Emunah therapists are maintaining contact with vulnerable clients by phone or zoom. The Sderot telephone hotline means that anyone can make a call and receive support directly.

In summary, of the 13 Emunah counselling centers:

Jerusalem – open for frontal therapy and on zoom
Bet Shemesh plus satellite – open and on zoom. Many patients are not coming in person because their children are home (school has not been open) and because they are afraid to leave their         homes.
Petach Tikvah – open for frontal and on zoom therapy
Ashkelon – working on zoom
Rishon Lezion – working on zoom
Netivot – Center is completely closed. Therapists are working on zoom as much as possible. Patients are scattered all over the center of the country.
Sderot – The area is evacuated. Therapists working on zoom and phone where possible. Many of the staff have been displaced themselves.
Nahariya and satellites in Maalot and Acco – same as Netivot. As tensions rise in the north of the country with rockets from Lebanon, many people are displaced and receive therapy by phone or zoom.
Modiin- open for frontal and on zoom therapy
Tiberias – currently closed.

Ruthie Meri, the overall Director of all the Emunah counseling centers explained the following: All Emunah staff are continuing to be in contact with their clients, wherever they are in the country, and whether or not the center is physically open. However, people are not ready for actual therapy. We are in an ongoing and developing emergency situation and all of our directors and therapists are giving help as ‘first responders’.

Parents need help speaking to their children. Children have been out of a normal framework since before Sukkot – with no school, and as a result they are being overexposed to screen time generally and news coverage in particular. Young and old alike are hearing sirens and the loud booms from Iron Dome interceptions, and there is greatly increased stress and tension in their families, particularly as so many with young children have been called up to the reserves leaving one parent at home alone with their frightened children. In fact, because of the long summer vacation and the early chagim break, immediately followed by the war, children have had formal schooling for only 10 out of the last 120 days! This is not healthy for our children. And it becomes an additional stress for parents who are struggling to work to maintain their income.

Ruthie describes the family being “in chaos”. In addition, Ruthie says that almost every citizen feels that their personal safety and confidence has been threatened. Many are expressing feelings of being shattered and broken. Every person must find a way to restore their personal feelings of safety, and everyone will have a different response to how they can do that. For some it is through prayer, others by enhancing their own personal security. Therapy is a vital tool to be able to restore emotional and psychological resilience in the longer term and Emunah will have a crucial role to play in the weeks, months and years ahead.

At the moment Israel is experiencing trauma on a national level. Emunah’s therapists are the emotional first responders.

It is important to know that not every traumatic situation needs to result in PTSD. Correct therapy will help avoid PTSD. A human being can live with trauma – it is how we learn and are taught to cope with it that makes the difference. This is what Emunah’s qualified professionals can provide. To this end Emunah Israel is launching a 24-hour hot-line available to the general public across Israel. This hotline has been open for the past week for Emunah employees and their children, following the principle that if you are on an airplane and the oxygen masks come down, you must first put on your own mask, before you help others to put theirs on. The hotline is manned by Ruthie and staffed by 11 therapists from the counseling centers in Modiin, Petach Tikvah, Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh. Therapists speak Hebrew, but English is also available.

Even before the war, all Emunah counseling centers had waiting lists of people needing therapy. Every therapy session is funded partially by the client and the rest is by donations. There is currently no government funding for any of the Emunah Counseling Centers. Some of our centers have contracts to work in partnership with other organizations and local agencies. Emunah Israel is currently looking for more funding within Israel from government and NGOs. However, as you can understand while the need is greater than ever, resources within Israel are limited and there is an urgent need to respond. Israel is hurting just when we need to be psychologically strong. Emunah is a key player in the fight to rebuild the resilience of a nation! Please partner with us today in this vital work.