Using Unconventional Therapies, Gush Shiloh Therapy Center Heals Terror Victims

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalms 127:3)

In response to an increase in the number of children traumatized and injured by terror in Judea and Samaria, the Gush Shiloh Therapy Center is growing, adding new treatment rooms, state-of-the-art facilities, and more workshops to its long list of existing services.

In an interview with Breaking Israel News, David Rubin, founder of the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, described the work of the Center, which is located in the Biblical town of Shiloh. Its many therapies, he explained, including therapy programs in which terror victims are encouraged to use music, art, animals, and drama to help the healing process, “are designed to heal the trauma of terror victim children, mitigate the effects of PTSD, and to improve the quality of family life in the region.”

Once Rubin’s organization started the therapy program in 2007, the Center, located in Samaria, began to grow and grow. “Therapy programs have become our flagship, in addition to many educational projects and summer camps and playgrounds in different parts of Samaria,” Rubin said.

The Center uses many different kinds of psychological post-trauma treatments. On the more traditional side, the Center offers physical, occupational and speech therapy. On the non-conventional side, in addition to music therapy and art therapy, it also boasts a petting zoo for animal-assisted therapy and a therapeutic horse farm.

Rubin described the pressing need for even more resources for young victims of terror. “The therapy center was expanded in 2008, and since then the amount of sessions have been increasing, and the amount of children of children in the region have been increasing as well,” he explained. “There are certain needs that we see that we aren’t able to meet in the current setting.”

To meet those needs, the Center is adding a third floor. The renovations will include a diagnostics room where psychologists and social workers can meet with parents for an initial confidential evaluation. Also in the interest of privacy, the Center will install an exterior elevator so that parents will no longer have to enter the main treatment area to get to the offices. “We’re trying to be sensitive to everyone’s needs,” said Rubin.

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The new third floor will also house a conference room where the Center will conduct its many workshops. “The therapy center in the past two years has started to do a lot of workshops with parents, with teenagers, and also ongoing training for the therapists,” Rubin said, but again, a designated space is needed.

The impressive list of workshops includes programs for parents of children with developmental disorders; workshops teaching preventative measures for kids at risk; a class in which parents learn how to help their children get through the trauma of being left without water or electricity, a common occurrence in Judea and Samaria; a parents’ workshop on identifying early signs of issues in toddlers; and special programs for immigrants and veterans, among many other workshops.

“In addition to that, there will be two new treatment rooms for individual and group treatments,” said Rubin. Currently, the Center provides about 500 therapy sessions every month. “With the new floor, we can greatly expand the amount of children that could be served,” added Rubin.

Rubin also spoke about the dedicated staff of the Center, pointing out that nearly every one of the trained professionals working with the children has a personal connection to trauma which deepens their own ability to empathize with what the kids are going through. “For instance,” he said, “The director of the Center, her father was killed in a terrorist attack. The person in charge of the art therapy program, both of her parents were killed in one terrorist attack, shot and killed when they were sitting at their Shabbat table.”

For many of these men and women, these life-changing events were what set them on the path to the Center. Bat Sheva, the director of the art therapy program, had been studying physics when her parents were killed, but was so distressed, said Rubin, that she stopped her studies and went for her own therapy. “The therapy that helped her was therapy using art,” he explained. “She said that after what she had been through, she could not continue as usual, and she went back to school and she trained to do art therapy with children and adults.”

The therapeutic horse farm is run by Daniel, a young man whose brother, killed at age 18 in a terrorist attack, had loved horses. “Daniel went back to school to learn therapeutic horseback riding and that’s the background on which the horse farm was established,” Rubin said. “He’s been running it ever since the beginning.”

“It’s those personal connections that make it that much more meaningful,” Rubin concluded, adding that many of the therapists who didn’t have a close connection to terrorism specifically had still experienced their own traumas. “Everyone has their own personal pull to do therapy, and aside from the professionalism, it’s that personal connection that makes this a special place.”