By Hedva Haymov, Musalaha Women’s Programs Manager

Musalaha offers a Trauma Conference every two years as part of our curriculum training for the Musalaha Women's Programs. It is important for women to understand the basic causes and symptoms of trauma and the generational trauma that most people in this area either have witnessed in their families or have experienced themselves. It affects reconciliation and it affects our daily lives.

This year, it was my hope to open the conference to others who also work with those in trauma: teachers, nurses, social workers and ministry workers in the area. I was so happy to have four people register who are in full-time ministry with Bedouin people in the south. Two others, who help people with substance abuse, joined us in learning about tools to help understand family dynamics. Among our participants was a woman who recently opened a clinic to help children with ADHD and another woman who volunteers with four different ministries and teaches English to children with learning difficulties. Many of our Musalaha participants are nurses and teachers. We also hosted several doctors, counselors and journalists who heard of the conference and asked to attend.

We started our conference with a simple ice breaker. You won't normally hear about these in our reports because it's a tool to get to know others and only a door to open and warm up to new people. For the exercise I took 20 hearts and cut them in half in different ways. Each person had to find the matching half of their heart. I heard of one special moment from a matching pair, that they discovered each had lost their husbands in the last four months, and they had never met before. They promised to visit each other in the coming months to support each other.

Our guest speaker, Dr. Ruth Pat-Horencyzk from Hebrew University, has extensive experience with childhood trauma, as well as having co-authored a study on the trauma suffered by Bedouins forced to move from the traditional way of life into modern style houses.  

Dr. Pat-Horencyzk taught us the basis of trauma understanding and terminology. Then we dived into the symptoms and the potential failure to diagnose trauma when the symptoms can be isolated and treated through several separate diagnoses, with a common thread stemming from a traumatic event or series of events. We were then taught tools to help someone relax and pass through a traumatic trigger. Relaxation and imagery, breathing and focus can all help lower the immediate physical symptoms in order to help someone through a difficult situation.

The last day was spent delving into the possibility of growth through trauma, and I will leave you with this imagery: A severed tree branch is at first sight an obvious trauma. Painful and limiting at first glance, of course this kind of pain is better avoided. However, in this world, it is not possible to avoid all pain, and we all suffer trauma at one time or another. Let's go back to this tree after eight months and you may see a small bud coming from that tree. Fast forward one or two years later and you may find branches and leaves growing, though the cut branch is still visible and part of the tree.

Yes, there are catastrophic traumas that can kill a person. However, there is always hope. There is always a possibility for growth. We will not forget our traumas, but there can be a beauty that comes after an intense pain– and together, as a community, we help each other grow and heal.