By BARRI BRONSTON, Courtesy Tulane University Publications
Israel is nearly 7,000 miles from Tulane University, but Ron Marks, dean of the School of Social Work, could think of no better place to study trauma than a land that lives with traumatic events, or at least the threat of them, 24 hours a day.
So Marks and Charles Figley, director of the Tulane Traumatology Institute, traveled to Tel Aviv recently to launch an exhaustive study on how Israelis cope with traumatic stress.
Working with professional videographers, they interviewed seven of Israel’s foremost trauma and resilience experts. Based on their findings, they plan to hold a summit on trauma in New Orleans and Israel, produce a special issue of the Journal of Traumatology and make a documentary.
“It provided us with an opportunity for total immersion into this world of experts,” Marks says. “With the constant threat of terrorism and chronic warfare, we wanted to find out what they have discovered in terms of trauma and resilience.”
One such discovery was the need for high-quality and easily accessible mental health services. “The trauma and stress was so widespread (in the 1990s) that national policy needed to be changed so that community centers could be established to deal with this,” Marks says.
Among the experts they interviewed was Zahava Solomon, a social work professor at the University of Tel Aviv who has studied war-induced stress since the Lebanon War in 1982. They also met with Dr. Avi Bleich, an expert in military psychology.
“My sense of the motivation to talk with us was high because they knew we got it, and they know that the world can benefit from their knowledge,” Figley says.
Marks agrees. “There are lessons to be learned about Israel and the nature of this place, and these people that enable them to survive and prosper.”