Project Spotlight: Helping IDF Veterans Who Struggle with PTSD

The Fellowship  |  May 10, 2016

Seven men on the deck of a boat helping it sail.
Project Spotlight: Helping IDF Veterans Who Struggle with PTSD

With both Israel Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day being celebrated this week, we are reminded of the many sacrifices that have been made to create and sustain the Holy Land. While remembering those who have given their lives is vitally important, so is caring for the heroes who survived and who carry the scars – both visible and invisible – of their time in battle. We are committed to helping IDF veterans in need.

To help care for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), The Fellowship supports a program called Etgarim, which uses sailing to help former IDF soldiers.

The program chose to conduct therapy at sea because living with PTSD is like being at sea – sometimes it’s calm and smooth and other times it’s quite tumultuous. The wind is also like PTSD – you can’t see it, but you can see its effects. The trick is to use the wind to your advantage.

The soldiers in the program meet for weekly adventures on the sea. During these outings, they are confronted with the challenges of teamwork and taking responsibility. These challenges help them defeat the depression that is often associated with PTSD, which in turn helps them manage their own lives and become contributing members of society.

Etgarim, which means “the boat is sailing,” recently celebrated its tenth anniversary with a special ceremony, at which they also launched the Flotilla of Hope. For this mission, members of the program will sail to southern Israel to demonstrate solidarity with the residents of the south, who have been living in the shadow of trauma for many years.

At the ceremony, leaders of both the program and the IDF praised The Fellowship‘s support over the years. And program participant Assaf, 40, shared his story. Married with three children, Assaf was injured in a terror attack 21 years ago, and spent the next 10 years in a depressed haze – until he joined Etgarim.

“There are people who have come here, just like me. 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. This project is very important. It doesn’t just help me, it helps my family.

“When you go out to sea, you go through an internal process. 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.”