The recent Jerusalem premiere of Rebecca and Rabbi Raphael Shore’s new movie “When the Smoke Clears” is another in their collection of well thought out, meaningful films which delve deeply into the realities within the State of Israel. Produced by their organization, “JerusalemU,” which reaches high school and university students worldwide, this film focuses on the lives of three very real soldiers and their dreams of serving their nation, shattered by the reality of war.
This film follows their continuing journey through the “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” resulting from horrific war experiences. The viewer is privy to their rehabilitation both mental and physical. It is an inside look at the realities of military service versus the excitement and perceived glory by those who enter. This is an in-depth view of how PTSD affects every soldier who sees battle, albeit in varying degrees. The film is currently premiering around the world but will be available to the public in the months to come. Meanwhile, you can go on-line to www.jerusalemu.org to see a trailer about the film.
What the film does not address are those soldiers who are so traumatized that they are unable to function at all. The vets who are unable to leave their homes, get out of bed, or communicate with their wives and children having returned from battle totally debilitated. There is one woman in Israel who has devoted her life to these cases. Having lost her son to a traumatic brain injury as a result of the Lebanon war, Anita Shekedi — an avid horsewoman in England in her youth, made aliyah and decided to devote her background in therapy and nursing to develop a specific brand of treatment for PTSD soldiers . Her groundbreaking book on the subject has become the textbook for therapeutic horseback therapy around the world. She created the Israel National Therapeutic Riding Association (jwww.intra.org.il) which is now focusing specifically on PTSD as it affects Israeli veterans. Anita was recently honored by the Wingate Institute for having developed a theory into a science. Her equine center “INTRA” works with PTSD soldiers constantly. Often, they are sent to her by Israeli hospitals which have exhausted their own rehabilitation efforts. While she has seen miraculous improvements from many soldiers after repeated treatments, the medical world is anxious to see clinical documentation which will quantify the benefits of equine therapy in the cases of PTSD. Mrs. Shekedi is now embarked upon what she has aptly named “The Jonathan Project” named in honor of beloved son, of blessed memory. With the help of a new Israeli high-tech device developed in Caesarea Israel, it is now possible to record the benefits to the brain, the heart, to stress and many other physical functions of the PTSD soldier after receiving multiple sessions of “Equine Therapy.“ This project which will treat and monitor 100 Israeli soldiers clinically diagnosed with PTSD, still awaits sufficient funding to begin this research. Without the results, the medical world cannot receive the grants that it requires to take this therapy to soldiers around the globe. Mrs. Shekedi remains hopeful that “angels” will come forward to enable this research to come to fruition. Once again Israel is on the cutting edge of improving the lives of those who suffer everywhere.
When we speak of PTSD, it is generally considered a trauma that only affects soldiers after combat. In fact, it is a condition which must be faced by hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have experienced trauma without wearing a uniform. Instead, they witnessed a suicide bomber detonate a bomb inside a bus or public building. Often, they were victims themselves. When terrorist attacks take place, our question is usually “How many were killed?” Rarely does one ask about those who must live with damaged bodies and minds after having survived these attacks. These are Israel’s un-sung PTSD victims and heroes. These citizens of every age, color, and ethnicity must go forward with their daily lives and plow through the trauma, much like that of a soldier after battle.
The truly secret PTSD victims of the future may not even realize what is waiting for them. The thousands of children who have spent their childhood rushing to bomb shelters as missiles have rained down upon them in the southern portion of Israel may not yet be feeling the full effect of the stresses upon their young minds and bodies. It is irrelevant whether the missile landed on their home or missed its mark. Damage is done every time a siren screams for all to take cover.
Fortunately for many of the victims of PTSD, private individuals seeing the trauma of terrorism and war have created organizations to help in the aftermath. The One Family Foundation, the Brothers for Life organization and INTRA equine therapy center are but a few which have emerged to help souls in crisis.
All of these centers of care are funded by the generosity of concerned citizens and friends of the State of Israel. Relatively little PTSD funding actually comes from the government. Many organizations request grants for assistance and receive a lukewarm response when they should actually be funded in full by our government. The time has come for this to change. It is necessary to face the fact that we are a nation which will continue to need to face PTSD for everyone-from children to adults, for generations to come. A nation which requires every citizen to serve in the military, will have a far higher toll to pay – than one which has the luxury of a volunteer military. This is now an area which needs to be prioritized. Israel needs to partner with those who have served them well, and who continue to suffer. We are waiting for the politician willing to address this issue with clarity- and who is prepared to be passionate about the nation’s responsibility to heal the lives of those who have been impacted by the consequences of a nation which must be vigilant in order to survive. It is not only our borders which need defending.