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Israeli Post-Trauma Experts in Mumbai

A team of Israeli post-trauma experts has flown to Mumbai to train their counterparts on how to help victims of the recent terrorist massacre.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 12/9/2008, 3:25 PM

A team of Israeli trauma experts has quietly flown to Mumbai under the auspices of a non-governmental organization to train their local counterparts on how to deal with post trauma and prevent the subsequent development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Jewish State has a widely regarded reputation in the area of trauma management due to Israel's unfortunate and extensive experience with terror attacks and massive disasters, IsraAID chairman Shachar Zahavi noted in an interview with Israel National News.

The project, jointly underwritten by IsraAID, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto, was not IsraAID's first in India. As in a previous program, AJC's Mumbai representative arranged the invitation from Jaslok Hospital and Research Center's Trauma Counseling Unit, according to AJC's Israel Director, Dr. Eran Lerman.

"We've worked with IsraAID ever since the [December 2004] Tsunami," he said. "It has been a highly successful, cooperative relationship. Our representative in India, Priya Tandon, knows everyone in Mumbai and made it very easy for the team to get immediately to work.

"I think it is remarkable that the [Indian] government is not asking for their help," he added. The Indian government, also politely but firmly refused all offers of assistance from the Israeli government during the three-day terrorist killing spree that shook the city of 17 million. However, he said, "the government reacted positively this time" to IsraAID's program being carried out at the private level.

"We will send more teams in the future," said Erdan.
 
The terrorists focused most of their attention on three main targets: the city's two largest and most luxurious hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Trident-Oberoi -- and the Chabad Jewish Center, known as the Nariman Chabad House. Six Jews, four of them from Israel, were murdered in the rampage.

"We picked two of the best post-trauma experts here in Israel, and just flew them abroad," said Zahavi. "Hopefully when they return in a week or so, we will develop further programs to help these people."

The IsraAID member team, comprised of Dr. Rony Berger, and Dr. Mark Gelkoff, both clinical psychologists who are experts in post-trauma issues, are training their counterparts in the Mumbai hospital, according to Zahavi. In his regular "day job," Berger works in the post-trauma NATAL program in Sderot. Gelkoff is a professor at Haifa University and also works at Tel HaShomer Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

"We have also received requests from the local schools as well, and the team will provide some training there as well," Zahavi added. The two psychologists are offering initial training for teachers on "how to impart resiliency to their students as well as how to provide direct support to the victims and their families." In addition, the team is making itself available to foreigners and Jewish and Israeli personnel in Mumbai who were on the ground during the attack.

When they return, the two psychologists will also have completed an assessment that will enable them to create a post-trauma program specifically tailored to the needs of the Mumbai community. "IsraAID will continue to send teams there to help them heal from this disaster," Zahavi said. "The information the team brings back will help us design a program that will fit the needs of Mumbai."