In 2007 Herzog Hospital’s Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma began a pilot program addressing the therapeutic needs of the Jewish Ethiopian community in Israel. It has become clear that within three years of work, we have become a leading resource for referrals relating to the therapeutic needs of the Ethiopian community. As a result of our intense work, we have just secured a two-year contract with the National Insurance Institute, approved by the Ministry of Welfare, to expand the successful pilot project in Jerusalem to two additional sites. This partnership is outstanding in that it recognizes the fact that this issue has not been comprehensively addressed and acknowledges the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma’s role as the leading professionals in the field spearheading this innovative intervention.
In the past three years we developed a three-part model, focusing on therapy, resilience groups for parents and adolescents, and video documentation. Dozens of groups have participated in our resilience workshops, adapted to match the unique needs of the community and the issues most relevant to them, such as the trauma of the immigration and absorption process, the inter-generational gap affecting communication between parents and children, understanding violence within the family and providing alternative tools, while remaining sensitive to and addressing specific cultural norms, such as keeping problems within the family and not turning to outside sources of help.
We have trained dozens of mental health professionals from the Ethiopian community, as well as non-Ethiopian professionals who work with the Ethiopian community, on identifying and understanding PTSD and relating it to their work with the community. We have also trained Amharic speaking therapists in an intense two year course on treating trauma, who are currently working with patients in individual treatment and receiving supervision. The third annual half-day seminar in memory of those who died in Sudan will be held this June in Jerusalem in collaboration with other NGOs. Radio interviews and articles in the Amharic newspapers as well as group meetings with parents and influential members of the community have also helped encourage the legitimacy of sharing personal pain and speaking about the collective and individual trauma carried by the community members.