Creating a Culture of Healing

Creating a Culture of Healing

Recovering from Trauma in War-Ravaged Gaza

By James Gordon

January/February 2007

Entering Palestinian Gaza at the Erez Crossing, we step into an open-air prison--cinder block walls, wire fences, locked gates, bunkers. Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers with automatic weapons stand guard. Upon questioning, we explain that we're a team of health professionals there to work with Palestinians who've been traumatized by war and its aftermath.

Some of the soldiers appear interested in our work. Others are curt, incurious. A few seem hostile: "Why go there, to be with them?" All are achingly young. They pore over our identification papers and passes, check names against lists, rummage through our suitcases. We move ahead. Metal doors click and clang. Announcements from loudspeakers punctuate our passage through a 300-yard-long metal shed.

It's a harsh welcome, but we're still excited to be here. Our group includes six U.S. psychotherapists and physicians, two staffers from the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., and two Kosovo psychiatrists. Our job in Gaza--as it was earlier in Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and most recently in Israel--is to help Palestinian health and mental health leaders cope with the psychological trauma of war themselves, and to teach them to integrate our approach into their own work. So far, we've trained some 2,000 doctors, nurses, psychologists, and teachers in the U.S. and around the world to use and teach our model, which integrates aspects of mind-body medicine (meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback,…

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