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Center in Bethlehem Treats Trauma Victims

btisam Ilzghayyer, director of the Ghirass Cultural Center, claps with children at the center in Bethlehem, West Bank, 19 July. Ilzghayyer received help at the Wings of Hope for Trauma Organization, which focuses on treating people with post-traumatic s tress disorder and other forms of trauma. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill) 

31 Jul 2012 – by Judith Sudilovsky

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) — Every week for the past month, when she has the money, Suha Alladin takes her 10-year-old son Mohammed, from their West Bank Village of Ma’asara to Bethlehem in a shared taxi.

She tells her family and neighbors that the boy is going to the dentist.

What she does not tell them is that they are going to the Wings of Hope for Trauma Organization located in an unassuming office building on a busy side street on the edge of Bethlehem's Old City. There he gets a chance to come to grips with the trauma of witnessing his father, Akram, being beaten in the family home and arrested by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night when he was 4.

After the incident, Mohammed, who already suffered from health and cognitive problems, began wetting his bed and clinging to his mother. He became fearful of strangers and exhibited aggressive behavior. Later, he had trouble in school.

Alladin, 30, knows the meetings with a social worker at the center are helping her son, but she does not want the boy to be stigmatized by the fact that he is receiving psychological help.

“We live in a small community,” she said. “I don’t want the children pointing at Mohammed and whispering that he goes to a psychologist.”

Alladin said the meetings have helped calm Mohammed. When people come to the family home, he is able to greet them rather than go into hiding.

The Wings of Hope for Trauma Organization was founded in 2011 by Ursula Mukarker, 34, a Catholic Palestinian mental health practitioner, after she had worked with Wings of Hope Germany. The organization focuses on treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder, counsels adults and children with trauma and trains professionals to identify symptoms of PTDS and how to address the effects of trauma.

It’s people such as Mohammed that Mukarker knew were unable to receive the counseling they needed. That there has been an increase in walk-in clients in recent months is a positive sign that people are more aware of its work, Mukarker said.

As in other countries, there are other sources of trauma for Palestinians that have left emotional scars, including accidents, family deaths and the stress of living under constant occupation has left emotional scars, Mukarker explained. But Palestinian society has not often looked at psychological counseling positively.

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Tags: Middle East Christians Palestine Holy Land Bethlehem