A personal appeal
At this time of reflection, I ask you to support one of INTRA’s most important projects – the mental health and wellbeing of our soldiers that I consider my life’s work. On Monday is Yom Hazikaron, and I, along with most of Israel will remember all those who have who died during active service for the State of Israel. My family and friends will especially remember my son Jonathan who joined the Israeli Army and served his country with pride with enthusiasm. He died after being mortally wounded on a recuse mission in the Bekar Valley in the Lebanon. He was a fighter and became known as a very brave soldier. I gave the State of Israel my most precious possession…Jonathan who was mortally wounded from a bomb that landed next to his vehicle and three weeks later died from his traumatic brain injuries.
When your son dies, a part of you dies with him. I was left with a choice, either to stay at home, or go back to work and try to cope with the most terrible pain by dedicating the rest of my life to his memory. My remarkable child during his army service, dedicated himself to fighting for Israel.
Eight days after his death when I went back to work at my therapeutic riding center I met another parent who brought her son who had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury to the center for equine therapy. With the raw emotions of my son’s recent death, I realized that I should dedicate much of my working-life to helping soldiers returning damaged from the horrors of war.
Since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has witnessed many thousands of soldiers returning home from campaigns with severe injuries and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Following acute and chronic exposure to stressful wartime events, many soldiers have returned with symptoms of PTSD, which is a severe mental health problem that causes intense anxiety, fear, helplessness, and often horror. Veteran soldiers suffering from PTSD constantly re-experience the traumatic event, causing them to avoid, what are called activities of normal life. PTSD leaves many with a feeling they will always have a gun at their head. Unable to find peace and happiness veteran sufferers become depressed, have difficulties falling asleep, AND when they do go to sleep they frequently awaken from sleep after nightmares and anxiety dreams.
Everyday there is news, loud sounds and smells that remind veteran of war situations. A safe place for some is hiding under the bed covers or going no further than the end of the street.
Our veteran soldiers with PTSD become very vulnerable. They lose contact with their families and friends. They are unable to work or study. Their quality of life regresses to emotional numbness and mental pain.
Israel is no stranger to trauma. The country’s small geographical size exposes even the civilian population to ongoing threats of missiles, Constant acts of terror – kidnapping and suicide bombing affect every man, woman and child. Every child from every home in Israel is a conscript; and we should not forget that Israel’s civilian army means that every Israeli family is committed to defending the Jewish State and often provide years of military service.
From the Yom Kippur war until today, thousands of our Israel Defense Forces soldiers have returned home with PTSD. Moreover, since the second Intifada we have seen the numbers of soldiers with PTSD symptoms rising and, since Operation Protective Edge, the Gaza campaign of 2014, we have seen these numbers escalate to mammoth and tragic proportions. Many of these vulnerable veterans come to INTRA wanting to participate in the equine therapy program. Unfortunately, we can only offer places in the program when we have sufficient funding. Currently, there are only eight veterans benefiting from INTRA’s equine therapy. Connecting to another living being – the horse – veterans face their reality; rebuild trust and personal confidence and communication. Building this new relationship and emotional bond helps reset boundaries and limits. It renews family relationships, reduces reliance on medication, reduces anxiety attacks and as they would often say, gives them back the will to live.
As Yom Hazikaron approaches, I can never forget those young men and women who gave their lives for the State of Israel. I am also reminded of a well-known interpretation of our Sages’ statement:1“All Israel are responsible for one another,” [that] the word areivim [translated as “responsible”] has [three] meanings: a) sweet, b) intermingled, and c) responsible. The love for [every] Jew causes the Jewish people to be intermingled and responsible for one another. From this interpretation one can derive instruction concerning the vastness of the charity every Jew is required to give his [own] G-dly soul by establishing fixed times for Torah study, both Nigleh, the revealed dimensions of Torah Law, and Pnimiyus HaTorah, the Torah’s inner dimensions, i.e., the study of Chassidus.
The soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces protect the Land of Israel and by extension the Jews around the world. They put their young lives on the line, and many come home damaged by the traumatic experiences they endure. Our responsibility is to make them whole again.
Dr. Anita Shkedi
Director INTRA- Israel National Therapeutic Riding Association
It cost 2,500 dollars a year to provide one soldier with Equine therapy.
Please support this project either through the INTRA website: www.intra.org.il
Go to the donate page for Pay Pal. Other ways to donate. Friends of INTRA:
Or through the Good People Fund: www.goodpeoplefund.org
Myisrael stating INTRA Veterans project: www.myisralcharity.org-INTRA