English speakers living in Israel – as well as people in English-speaking countries with loved ones living in Israel – can turn to several organizations for free emotional support and information in these difficult times.
When we are stressed, most of us prefer to communicate in our native language, whether we’ve been in Israel for weeks, months, or decades.
The reasons prompting us to reach out for guidance are quite varied.
Some seek expert advice on how to explain the war to their children or to their families abroad. Others are dealing with anxiety or fear, or are feeling overwhelmed because a spouse is serving in the army reserves. People abroad who have children serving as lone soldiers or have elderly parents living in Israel need guidance. Many immigrants require assistance in understanding Hebrew instructions for emergencies.
Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI)
“People who know us look to us for dealing with anxiety and sadness, or for help in explaining the situation to their families outside of Israel. Because people have an emotional reaction to what’s happening, there is sometimes difficulty expressing it in a way that someone who doesn’t live here can understand. And there’s frustration when they don’t really understand. We provide support and validation of their feelings,” says Yanina Musnikow, a social worker with AACI.
She and her colleague Sheila Bauman answer dozens of calls every week, providing emotional support and resources to new and veteran immigrants, which include English-speaking evacuees from the North and the South.
“Sometimes people are alone and don’t have enough Hebrew to follow what’s happening. And sometimes people are experiencing difficult situations. We also provide guidance in navigating government offices during this time because schedules are not regular but life is going on and people need to reach out to various agencies. It’s just a little more challenging,” says Musnikow.
“The counseling we provide is very individual and depends on the person’s circumstances. We meet with people in the Jerusalem and Netanya AACI offices, and we also use Zoom, emails, and phone calls. All of these are ways we can help,” she says, adding that she and Bauman can give referrals to mental health clinics and call centers when indicated.
To make an appointment with Musnikow or Bauman, email email@example.com.
Founded by Ruth Bar-On in 1984, Selah provides comprehensive support to immigrants from any country of origin when they find themselves facing challenges and lack the resources to cope.
CEO Galit Dekel says that since the war began, Selah has been approached by immigrants from Ethiopia, Russia, Brazil, and English-speaking countries who are experiencing everything from general anxiety and being evacuated from their homes, to the murder or kidnapping of family members.
“Unfortunately, a few lone soldiers from Canada and the United States died, and another was badly wounded. We stay in touch with their families if they want us to. We visited the wounded soldier in the hospital. We go to shiva houses to sit with the families. Whatever they need, we are there to encourage, embrace, and give a shoulder to lean on, to feel they are not alone,” says Dekel.
A lone reserve soldier from England reached out to Selah in distress about his overdue rent. Volunteers not only took care of the rent payment but also spoke to the bank to help him with the debt “so he won’t be in a stressful situation financially.” They also offered to cook meals for him when he is furloughed.
“We are also helping immigrants obtain the governmental rights they are entitled to at this time,” says Dekel.
“We have English speakers on our staff of 10, including social workers, plus dozens of volunteers all over Israel who are trained in trauma therapy. And we can pay for [private] psychological counseling according to need.”
To access Selah’s services, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Galit@selah.org.il, or call (03) 796-4000.
English-Speaking Residents Association (ESRA)
Thus far, ESRA’s War Effort for English Speakers project has helped 12,700 English speakers who have benefited from services and activities such as free events, workshops on managing stress and anger, webinars, and interactive sessions aimed at providing social and cultural relief.
ESRA offers free informational and emotional support sessions with professionals in English over Zoom and in person; check-in calls to elderly immigrants living alone; and donations of goods and financial assistance, among other services.
ESRA’s emergency line is open 24/7: 058-736-0010.
Although Chai Lifeline is based in the US, its health and trauma support services are available worldwide.
Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox, the organization’s California-based director of international crisis and trauma services, says that right after October 7, he started receiving calls from parents in the US, England, and Australia who had children in yeshivot or seminaries or the IDF; and from English-speaking gap year students and immigrants in Israel.
Chai Lifeline opened a designated hotline for calls pertaining to the war, in addition to its regular 24-hour crisis line staffed by trained volunteers from around the world, Fox says. “We have gotten well over a thousand calls so far.”
His department has uploaded 30-second instructional videos to YouTube and Instagram featuring experts on how to speak about the war to a spouse, an elderly parent, or a young child. “Some [of the videos] are spiritually uplifting, and all are clinically practical,” Fox says.
Chai Lifeline also has partnered with Chaim V’Chessed, a nonprofit in Jerusalem that helps the English-speaking community with health insurance, visas, and passports. “If they get a call that’s more clinical, they refer them to us.”
In addition to the crisis line, Chai Lifeline has helped relocate Israeli families with children in active cancer treatment out of high-risk areas and provided counseling, programming, and support; distributed trauma resources and materials in multiple languages; and is ensuring that medical care continues uninterrupted for families affected by the situation.
The Chai Lifeline crisis helpline in Israel can be reached at (03) 978-6304. For more Chai Lifeline Israel crisis support and trauma resources, visit www.chailifeline.org/israel.
Nefesh B’Nefesh and Yad L’Olim
Immigrant support organizations Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) and Yad L’Olim are both offering to refer English-speaking immigrants to therapists who can provide free online mental health support.
Fill out a request form at www.nbn.org.il/mhresources/#form or https://www.yadlolim.org/war-effort.
In addition, NBN has opened an English-language hotline for overseas parents of lone soldiers: +1-201-605-7440.