Lisa Fliegel
Trauma Specialist

Sometimes The Therapy Works…

The railing has broken in a stairwell at the Nir Oz hotel. Somebody could fall and kill themselves! With missiles and bombs and everything else flying around–at least a railing should stay in on place. I find the manager, introduce myself, and explain a major trauma issue I want action taken on: the railing in the stairwell between the first and second floors.

“I’m working with people who have no real consistency in their lives right now,” I tell him. “And if their daughter or son falls through a railing…”

“It would be terrible.”

“You can’t have unstable railings when everything around here is so unstable–it would just trigger everything again.”

He is terrific about it; all he wants to do is help these people, to “serve the evacuees,” the hotel manager says. Handymen–two of them!–come and totally fix the railing.

Out by the swimming pool, I watch a security guy bend down to bandage a little boy’s foot. I quickly go and put my fingers in there, separating one toe from the next. The boy is pale and remains quiet and the security guy is able to bandage his little toes. When we finish, the boy’s grandmother is there, waving something at us.

“Here, take these bandages!”

“No, it’s okay.”


We’re gonna take the bandages. Soon the boy is up and limping, and wants to see his parents. (We try not to say parents. Instead: “who is the adult taking care of you?”,  because you don’t know if a child’s parents have been killed or kidnapped.)

“There’s my father!”

“The man in the bright green shorts?”


“What’s up,” asks Dad.

“He cut his toe and we put a bandage on it.”

“Oh, that’s nothing.”  But there is something going on with his wife. “Every time there’s a missile alert,” the man says, “she passes out. Cries hysterically. She’s fine, she’s tough. But she cries hysterically.”

I turn to her and ask, “You pass out whenever you hear a red alert?”

“And I cry and cry…”

“It’d be good for you to talk to somebody.”

“Yes it would…”

Her nephew was murdered at the Nova music festival.  Now, she says she can’t find herself, feels outside of herself. She’s disassociating. “Whenever there’s a missile alert,” she says, “I don’t know what’s happening to me.” She has big lips and big curly hair, false eyelashes and long fingernails with gold stars on them. I go find the welfare liaison, whose job it is to call the resiliency center, which deploys mental health practitioners.

She registers the wife and mother into the system.  She is from Beit She’an. “And you black out cold, unconscious?” she’s asked.

“Every time there’s a missile alert. Then I just cry and cry…”

I say how brave it is to talk about this, how strong she is.

The liaison enters more info and gets on the horn to schedule an appointment.  The next day will be Shabbat and the woman is observant, but for the sanctity of human life there is no issue about violating the Sabbath. To the mother of the boy with the bandaged toe, the liaison says , “See you at 4 o’clock!”

The woman hugs us. “God bless you,” she says. “God bless you for listening to me.”

And, dear reader, that is how it’s supposed to work: a railing is sturdy, and a woman from Beit She’an feels better because she’s going to go talk to a psychiatrist. And I go back to my room, looking forward to the next day being full of relaxation!

About the Author
Lisa Fliegel is a Boston-based trauma specialist and American-Israeli writer who has worked internationally, including in Ireland, Israel and Palestine. She is a special clinical consultant to The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a grassroots non-profit serving survivors of victims of homicide.