The entire world knows of the isolation and difficulty that COVID has brought. People feel stuck in their homes and in many ways in their lives. Even though we have provided so many programs and counseling sessions via Zoom, it can never replace the healing that real human connection brings, especially when it comes to overcoming PTSD.
Last week, deep in the heart of the Negev wilderness, we ran a PTSD workshop trek that was so profound we will continue programs like this long after everyone is vaccinated.
This was three days of off the grid living – no cars, no TV, and no computers. Instead, brothers learned how to survive in the outdoors, went through mindfulness workshops, and spent time sharing what was in their hearts in group therapy sessions. Although the terrain was challenging, our soldiers soon found that the combination of comradery, skills building, and being out in nature was like a huge restart for their inner world.
The leader and organizer of the trek, Ofer Chai Meir shared: “The advantage of being in the wilderness and living in a basic way is that there are no distractions or mobile devices to escape to. Our brothers face all sorts of challenges, difficulties, and frustration, but manage to transcend them and then find their resilience and power. This is only possible when everything else is stripped away.”
One of our brothers, Alex D, was profoundly moved by the experience.
Alex was injured doing an operation when his team was bombed by terrorists and then caught in an intense shootout. Just as his soldiers reached a house that they thought would provide safety, they were caught in a second massive attack. Alex’s close friend died and this and other battles left him struggling with acute PTSD. It’s something he has lived with every day since 2008. For Alex this trek was something different: “Breaking away from my routine and connecting to my inner psyche gave me new insight and perspective. I’m coming back different and with the feeling that I can now help myself.” We love hearing this as the goal of these treks is for our soldiers to bring back with them the skills to heal themselves.
The impact of nature on the general wellbeing of our brothers was profound. Combining this with therapy and the challenges of a trek created shifts in our soldiers. They felt like they could breathe again.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel and Happy Chanukah!