As the war between Russia and Ukraine drags on with no end in sight, the wife of the Ukrainian President, Olena Zelenska, told Israeli media that she wants her country to learn from Israel's resilience.
"Your past experience is inspirational for Ukrainians," she told Channel 12 on Sunday in a special program initiated by the wife of Israel's President, Michal Herzog, designed to upgrade Ukraine's mental health services. "If you forget us, it's like forgetting yourselves.
"Obviously, it's hard," Zelenska added. "And it doesn't look like it's going to be over anytime soon. We're going to have to make tough decisions about how to apportion our resources. From my perspective, which I think is shared by a majority of Ukrainians, the best thing to do is keep busy and not think too much. The worst is to be constantly listening to news of fresh victims. But the word I keep hearing over and over is 'resilience.' And it gives us encouragement, but we also realize that there's a limit to that resilience. Only someone who places no value on his life or the lives of others can avoid the anxiety."
According to Zelenska, over 60 percent of Ukrainians are suffering from post-traumatic symptoms and severe anxiety. "When we look at Israel, we see your strength, your determination, and your resilience in the situation you've been in for years, which is far from simple," she said. "We see you as our role models."
The Netel fund, organized by the Schusterman Family Foundation, is offering support to Ukraine, just as it has funded similar projects in Israel in the past. "At first, when I had only read about the Netel foundation and before I met them, I was extremely impressed at how they pull together to help Israeli citizens," Zelenska said.
27 Ukrainian psychologists and therapists have been undergoing training in Israel from mental health experts who are passing on their expertise in dealing with trauma to those who will be assisting Ukrainians in processing their experiences of war. "According to the estimates of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, around 15 million Ukrainians will need mental health assistance of some form," noted Zelenska. "That means we have no time to waste. We have to get to work right now, without delay."
Asked whether she thinks Israel should be offering more assistance to Ukraine, the President's wife said that she was grateful for all the help her country had already received. "You surely realize that our health system is absolutely overworked and flooded with demand. I appeal to all my counterparts in other countries -- please, do what you can to help, in whatever form that may be. If Israel can spearhead a global effort to offer us support, that would be incredible."