With a Wealth of Trauma Experience, Israeli Therapists Set to Heal Toulouse's Pain

Delegation on behalf of UJA Federation of New York's Israel Trauma Coalition plans to arrive at French city to treat Jewish community in wake last month's murderous attack on a local school.

A delegation of Israeli therapists will set up a trauma treatment center in the French city of Toulouse next week, to serve members of the Jewish community affected by the recent terror attack on a local school.

The group, organized by the UJA Federation of New York's Israel Trauma Coalition, will be comprised of five French-speaking psychological social workers and art therapists who will embark on a week-long mission following the Passover holiday.


Selected for their vast experience with mass-trauma events, the Israel Trauma Coalition has in its 11 years treated those affected by the Second Lebanon War, the southeast Asia Tsunami, 9/11, as well as earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, in cooperation with groups such as the Community Stress Prevention Center, Natal, Sela, Eran, Hadassah, and Mahut.

The plan for the Toulouse clinic is based on materials collected by the chairperson of the Israel Trauma Coalition, Talia Levanon, a trained clinical social worker, during a tour of the community following the attack.

"This isn't the first time we've been asked to help," Levanon said," adding that, "unfortunately, with everything that's happened in Israel, our teams have acquired a great deal of experience and the goal is to leave that knowledge in places where it's needed."

peaking of her recent visit to Toulouse, the Israeli therapist said the "parents were in a horrible atmosphere, they don't know how to act and are worried that their children aren't talking at home, or understand that it could happen again."

"It was very painful to see scenes so familiar to use as Israelis, the memorial candles, withered flower bouquets, all in a country that even as far as we're concerned is a quiet one," she added.

However, Levanon added that it was "very impressive to see the community coming together and the government providing aid, a warm sense of family, something which gives a lot of strength.

"The mix of pain and strength is in our DNA in Israel, and suddenly I saw it there," she added.

According to the stated plan, the delegation's work will center on four groups. The first will be children until the age of 12, mainly comprised of students at the Rashi school where the murdered children of rabbi Rabbi Jonathan Sandler studied, who will be treated using art therapy techniques.

The older children, the students of the Ozar Hatorah school where the attack took place, will undergo talks with the Israeli social workers and psychologists, accompanied by local teachers.

Another focal point is the teaching staff, which Levanon said still displayed signs of trauma and need time and the right tools to deal with the loss of their colleague as well as with the post-traumatic behavior of their students.

The teachers are planned to undergo support group meetings as in which they will share their experiences with colleagues.

The last group, parents of children in the community, which Levanon said have to deal with the fear of a similar event taking place again as well as with their children's difficult questions and post-traumatic behavior.