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ICEJ Shelters those whose motto is to ‘never leave one behind’

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Posted on: 
8 Apr 2022
ICEJ Shelters those whose motto is to ‘never leave one behind’

The painful reality of trauma caused by war or terror attacks is that it never ends when the battle is over. For so many people the post-traumatic stress lingers, often invisible to others.

In Israel, there are thousands of people suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which impacts their daily functioning. For some, this trauma is so severe that coping with life is an enormous battle. And their frustration only increases when others cannot understand them.

For the brave Israeli military veterans suffering from the traumatic experience of war, visiting a rehabilitation center in southern Israel is a source of strength, hope and comfort. Mutual support for each other is valued in this desert oasis near the Gaza border. Within the community of some 100 IDF veterans served there, many form unbreakable bonds. The oldest veteran receiving support at the center served in Israel’s 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The therapy they receive includes training and emotional support dogs. Construction of a new kennel is now underway so the dogs can be permanently based onsite. In addition, 24/7 support and short-term stays in a protective environment help ease the loneliness and severity of the PTSD symptoms. Therapy can range from a few weeks to several years.

However, with Israel surrounded by hostile neighbors who regularly rain down rockets from across her borders, feelings of comfort and peace can be quickly shaken when emergency sirens go off and one must scramble within seconds into a nearby shelter. Just imagine the revisited trauma and panic they must feel being in a treatment facility which has not had a shelter to protect them.

Thankfully, this is a need we could do something about! Due to the generosity of Swiss donors, this rehabilitation center now is equipped with both indoor and outdoor protected spaces to run to when the alarm sirens sound. ICEJ Aid staff recently attended an inspiring dedication of these two shelters – one an outdoor shelter and the other an indoor shelter built into an inner room near where the private therapy sessions take place.

At the shelter delivery, it was evident just how deep these ‘transparent’ scars run. As the big crane hoisted the shelter from the truck, a young man standing there observing all that was being done shuddered and panicked at random moments. He later explained that he suffers from PSTD due to his IDF service during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. Since then, he explained, different sounds affect him, and the simple rattling sound of the crane’s security chains caused this physical reaction. Since the war, he struggles to integrate with the world in a normal way but feels at peace at the PTSD center.

During the dedication ceremony, several veterans shared their experiences. One, a father of three, spoke in swift, somewhat nervous speech as part of a therapeutic process, explaining the injuries he suffered from a roadside bomb near Bethlehem in 2004. He has not been able to function and get back into the routine of life and work ever since. Yet, his gentle love for his family and friends was evident to all.

Others voiced their pain through song and art. The following poems communicate some of their shared experiences - the relived traumas reviewed endlessly in the mind and the sleepless nights…

Short Musings/Poems from Elazar Finkovitz:

Like a trickle
that defies thresholds
and slowly seeps into the bottom of the well
hidden in the depths of the earth…
So, the thoughts disturb
the capillaries of the soul
and slowly devour every good
part of sanity


Between shards of sleep
That yearn to crystallize
And the bursts of wakefulness
That seek to fade…
Stand the body and the soul
That desire with all their strength
To choose
Either here or there.

The path to healing looks different for each one. Another gentleman began using art/sculpture by turning rocket shards into items of beauty as a means of finding peace to overcome the turmoil inside. Children attending the ceremony were kept well-amused by his skilled metalwork as he magically transformed metal forks into fun animals for them.

“When we heard about the need in this rehabilitation center, we knew right away that this was a project we wanted to be involved with,” noted Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah. “Israel lives in a ‘tough neighborhood’ which requires that she constantly be on guard. This never-ending need to stand on guard is wearisome, with many lives lost and many wounded. Those with wounds that cannot be seen often struggle alone without adequate support. This center is working hard to change that reality. Providing these shelters is our way of supporting them. We want them to know – ‘We see you. You are not alone. We appreciate all you have done to protect us and Israel’.”

With much appreciation, Moar Mintz, CEO of this Eshkol-based trauma center for veteran soldiers expressed his initial surprise at receiving help from Christians.

“It isn’t expected to have Christian friends around the world supporting our communities,” he said. “It is always shocking to hear where all the help is coming from. It is something that we never expect, and it really fills our hearts with gratitude for all our dear friends abroad.”

“We are 7.5 km from the border with Gaza and suffer a lot of mortars and rockets from Gaza,” added Maor. “About six months ago a rocket landed in the yard. This makes it difficult to build a safe place for people suffering from PTSD. Thanks to this amazing donation we were able to turn one of our regular rooms into a bomb shelter and make this place safe for people to come here no matter when, no matter what the situation around here. And this is something amazing for people for whom their main effort is to get out of their house.”

“These attacks are a daily reality,” he continued. “It is important to understand that the government will fund shelters only for a certain distance from the border with Gaza. And we are standing in a place where the line goes right through the middle of the settlement. So, one house will get a bomb shelter and another house 200 meters away will not. That is where this amazing help of our Christian friends all over the world is tremendous. It is the difference for entire families living in safety and harmony or not. And it is all thanks to you.”

Your support gives hope to so many Israelis. Please continue to give to the ICEJ’s Israel in Crisis fund, so that many more lives can be protected by portable bomb-shelters placed in vulnerable communities. 



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