Project Spotlight: Etgarim Program

The Fellowship  |  May 23, 2017

IFCJ volunteers on the side of a dock while four others are sitting on a boat.
Project Spotlight: Etgarim Program

Many soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cannot sleep at night. But The Fellowship‘s Etgarim program, meaning “the boat is sailing,” brings some hope – and sleep – to former IDF soldiers who suffer from this condition.

Often, soldiers who have returned from war experience disturbing thoughts and frequent flashbacks of trauma. They suffer from feelings of rage paired with sudden outbursts, and feelings of paranoia, guilt, depression, isolation, and loss of control.

However, this Fellowship rehabilitation program for former IDF soldiers uses sailing as therapy to treat these PTSD symptoms. The soldiers meet for weekly adventures on the sea. During these outings, they are confronted with the challenges of teamwork. By using both the freedom and the discipline associated with sailing a boat on open water, the weekly therapeutic sailing program helps participants learn to deal with their emotions. Also, being out in nature has positive, calming effects.

Taking Responsibility for a Living a Meaningful Life

This program helps veteran soldiers like Assaf, 40, who was injured during a terrorist attack 21 years ago. For the next 10 years he spent his days believing his life had no meaning. He’s happily married with three children, but his mental state prevented him from enjoying life like he deserves.

But when he joined the Fellowship‘s Etgarim program, he started to feel more hopeful for the first time in a while.

“There are people who have come here who are just like me,” says Assaf. “They were doing nothing with their lives and they had no self-confidence. When I look at everyone and the progress we’ve all made, I get excited.”

The program allows those suffering to finally have a moment of peace in nature – and so far the program has had a lot of success.

Assaf will vouch for the fact that nature has powerful healing effects on both the mind and spirit.

“When you go out to sea you go through an internal process,” he says. “The quiet, the wind, and the waves give you a perspective about yourself and about life. When you return to dry land you begin to lose the dark thoughts and begin doing things and taking responsibility for yourself.

“At a more advanced stage, you take responsibility for the community and what you can do for it. That’s the big benefit that this project provides. I want to thank The Fellowship for its generous contribution. It means so much to us, and we don’t take it for granted.”

These men and women have already suffered so much while protecting Israel’s borders. They deserve to enjoy the peace and freedom that they fought to preserve.

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