Israeli and Palestinian Teachers Learn about Children and Trauma

Dr. Alan Flashman Psychologist

Beer Sheba, Israel

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The article “Security, Connection, Meaning: Israeli and Palestinian Teachers Learn about Children and Trauma” was published in Community Stress Prevention, Volume 5, 2003.

The entire article is available to read or download here.

About the Author

Dr. Alan Flashman is a graduate of Columbia College and New York University Medical School. He trained and completed board certification in pediatrics, psychiatry, and child psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and has been working with and learning from children and families for more than 30 years. As a practicing psychiatrist specializing in adult, child, adolescent, and family treatment, Dr. Flashman speaks, consults, and writes regularly on many topics, including adoption, drug and alcohol addiction, the emotional strains of physical illness in families, death, and bereavement.

Article Excerpts

It should be stressed that the material presented here was designed for application by Israeli and Palestinian teachers in their classrooms, as a primary community intervention for the alleviation and secondary prevention of excessive stress due to the on-going violence and its traumatic effects.

Levels of coping with trauma: theory and practice

Children are faced with three levels of difficulty facing trauma. These levels can be described as relating to needs for personal security, for a sense of connection with others facing the trauma, and for giving voice to the personal meaning that the traumatic situation bears for each child (Flashman, 2002). Each level of difficulty deserves close attention in its own right. This report is devoted to an overview, to demonstrate each level and the differences between them. A brief sketch will be made of one possible approach to the needs of each level. Finally, one approach that could integrate the three levels together will be demonstrated. The participant teachers were encouraged to bear in mind all three levels while trying to help their students cope with the trauma of the current situation.

Practice and experience

In the Rhodes training, we used “therapeutic cards” as a group activity that could create this sense of connection. We used the HABITAT set of cards, which Dr. Ofra Ayalon selected and donated for the demonstration. A group of six teachers volunteered to sit in a small circle. All the HABITAT cards were spread out on a table nearby.

  1. Each teacher was asked to choose one card that gave expression to a dominant feeling she experienced when her community had been threatened, as a response to a recent terrorist attack (against Israelis) or a military raid (against Palestinians). Teachers approached the table one or two at a time until each had chosen her card.
  2. All the teachers revealed their cards together while sitting in the circle. Thus each teacher could see the inner experiences of the other group members represented simultaneously.
  3. In turn each teacher took all the cards. She placed on the ground in the middle of the circle first her own card. Then she positioned the other cards which she collected from her colleagues according to how her feelings related to the other feelings. Thus this teacher now could see how her feelings connected with the group feelings.
  4. The other members of the group (both Israeli and Palestinians) were invited to experience through the cards how their colleague experienced herself in relation to their feelings. This way each teacher saw how this colleague experienced her own feelings and absorbed the feelings of the group.
  5. Steps 3 & 4 were repeated for each member of the group.
  6. In the end the group created a sense of WE by seeing how each individual found a particular place and related in a special way to the feelings of the rest of the group.

This exercise was demonstrated to the entire group of participants. Teachers were encouraged to think in their own culturally appropriate ways of modifying such an approach in their Israeli and Palestinian classrooms.

(See the full article for more information about references shown above in parentheses.)

Related reading: An OH Story by Alan Flashman: Training with OH Cards