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Hope for Israel’s Discharged Soldiers

Retorno project (Photo: IFCJ)

Many combat soldiers who were discharged from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) suffer with emotional distress, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet many cannot afford to seek the therapy treatments they need to better cope with their condition. Thankfully, the Fellowship-supported Retorno program provides psychological care to soldiers who need it most, like Binyamin.

Terror Tunnel Leads Soldier to Darkness

“A tunnel was found.” Those were the only words spoken to Binyamin, a newly inducted IDF soldier, before he found himself traveling to an undisclosed location by jeep with his commander and a few other soldiers.

“As we were driving, I understood that we weren't on our way to the tunnel; we were on our way to the seven terrorists who had infiltrated into Israel through the tunnel,” he said. “I prepared myself for the worst. And then it happened. I heard a loud explosion. There was ringing in my ears. Then everything went quiet.”

Before joining the IDF, Binyamin had been a typical college student, spending time with his friends and girlfriend, studying, and going to class. But all of that changed the moment he put on his IDF uniform. He left his old life behind for the responsibilities of a soldier.

When Binyamin woke up after the explosion, he was in the hospital. But he felt something was wrong, and looked down to see that his hand was missing. “Later they told me that our jeep had hit a roadside mine and exploded,” he said. “Both the driver and the commander were killed. I had been sitting in the back and was wounded. I lost my left hand.

“There I was, lying in the hospital and thinking only two days earlier I had been a student, and now I'm handicapped without a hand.”

Binyamin was left with the emotional anxiety and aftermath of this traumatic experience.

“For a year and a half I couldn't stand myself. I was totally depressed. I lost my girlfriend. Not because of the injury, but because of my depression. No one could get close to me. It was as if I were dead.”

These feelings are experienced by many discharged soldiers like Binyamin, say the founders of the Fellowship-supported Protective Hug project, which is hosted by the Israeli organization Retorno and helps discharged soldiers deal with their symptoms of PTSD. This is why The Fellowship decided to support this program that can possibly bring some relief to soldiers like Binyamin, especially those that cannot afford this help otherwise.

The Fellowship-supported Retorno program provides individual and group therapy to discharged soldiers, as well as offering animal therapy to those who would benefit from this type of treatment.

When Binyamin saw a Facebook advertisement for Retorno, he immediately met with the director of the program. “I can honestly say that the program and its staff saved my life. Thanks to their help, I've managed to cope with my situation. Before I entered the program, I didn't have the courage to move on. Now I've started swimming again. I've begun enjoying life again. I go watch basketball games and other things I had stopped doing because of the depression.”

Today, Binyamin has a prosthetic hand, something that makes life a little easier.

“I want to thank The Fellowship's donors for supporting Retorno’s Protective Hug program. I'd like to give all of you a big hug and let you know that the program has saved my life, as well as the lives of my parents and brothers. I'm no longer afraid of having new relationships. All I can say is thank you!”

Thanks to The Fellowship’s generous donors, this program continues to help Binyamin, as well as other discharged combat soldiers and their families, live a healthier and happier life.

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