Therapy, golf and Primark is mission accomplished for Golani brigade in Elstree and Borehamwood
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Monday 16th September 2019

16 September 2019

Members of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue have enjoyed an inspiring week hosting 20 veterans of an elite unit of the Golani Brigade of the IDF. The veterans who were involved in a number of operations including Operation Cast Lead in 2009 are engaged in a process of therapy where they rationalise their military experiences and try to normalise them into their everyday lives. The programme, called Peace of Mind led by Metiv, the Israel Psychotrauma Center, works with units of ex elite combat soldiers over a 9 month period centered around a week of intense therapy hosted by communities in the diaspora. The 40 hours of therapy took place at the BES campus with local Jewish businesses kindly providing food for lunch each day.

20 veterans and 2 psychologists were hosted by members of BES as well as Ohr Yisrael and the Elstree Shtiebel who also arranged evening social activities to balance the intensity of therapy. Highlights of the week included a tour of Westminster, a trip to see the Lion King which was later used to help facilitate therapy around the impact of the veterans experiences on their relationships with their parents, an evening at a golf driving range, and an incredibly moving farewell party. The group had never played golf before or even picked up a club but unsurprisingly, after only 10 minutes they were hitting targets on the range with incredible accuracy. Of course no trip would be complete without a pilgrimage to Primark and armed with orders from their wives and children the veterans tackled the challenge and achieved their mission with dedication.

Veterans also spoke at Yavneh college and Immanuel college and were visited by Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev.

On Friday night the veterans spoke and enjoyed a chicken soup kiddush at Ohr Yisrael before enjoying Friday night together with their host families followed by a party at a local home. On Shabbat veterans spoke about their experiences in 3 adults services and to the youth at BES and also at the Elstree Shtiebel. Everyone present listened in awe as the veterans spoke not just about their experiences but also about how the week of therapy had already helped them, expressing the sentiment that 8 years after leaving active duty they finally feel they are ready to leave the army behind in their minds.

After the service the community enjoyed a sumptuous meaty Kiddush while members had the opportunity to meet the veterans and discuss their experiences and show them support. Dr Danny Brom who founded the programme also joined the community for Shabbat and spoke to 100 people at Seudah Shlishit.

The final session of the week was a joint therapy session together with the host families where everyone was invited to share their thoughts and feelings about the programme. By the end of the session there wasn’t a dry eye in the room as hosts and veterans alike spoke how the programme had created an unbreakable bond between them.

Simon Mitchell, Chairman of BES said “We feel humbled to have been able to provide a space for these heroes to help them try and move forward with their lives and avoid PTSD or other mental health challenges. Time and again these veterans put their bodies on the line in defence of the Israel and if we have been able to help them even a little we should be very proud. Having spent time with the group during the week I have been left feeling personally inspired not just by the incredible selflessness of the veterans but also by the enormous generosity exhibited by host families and other members of the local community.”

BES member and host Eddie Hammerman said “Farewell to our BES Golani Brigade. You were with us for a week and made an everlasting impression. We hope we helped you in some small way. It sounds like we did. It's the least we could do for putting your lives on the line. You certainly helped us see things differently and created a new bond with you and Israel.”

Group organiser Rochelle Miller said “ I’ve loved every minute and feel humbled, honoured and privileged to have been involved. Everyone I have spoken to has been so moved by this experience and I am sure we will be bringing additional groups to our community in the future”.

For more information please contact Simon Mitchell via chair@borehamwoodshul.org

By Simon Mitchell