Monday, January 10, 2011

A Nation That Works as a Family: A Guest Post from an American in Israel

Robin writes: Dr. K. is an American citizen who is currently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, teaching Mental Health First Response. He was asked to do this in order to introduce Israeli citizens to the world of mental health and encourage them to gain the power to act in the event of a crisis. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor from the Orlando, Florida area, who has been board certified in General Counseling by the National Board of Certified Counselors for more than fifteen years. He has a Masters Degree and a PhD in his field. I asked him to tell us about his life in Israel. For the safety of his family, we identify him only by a pen name:

This is a neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, where the writer of this post has been living and working for six months.

An American Living and Working in Isarel
a Guest Post
by Dr. K

"“Hamas asks Gaza groups to stop attacking Israel” reads the headline in today’s Jerusalem Post. Every day we read something like this; yet, another Kassam missile has struck the Western border of Israel. Last week, a nursery school was hit during the time that parents were dropping their children off in the morning. So even the terrorist group Hamas, which has called for the destruction of Israel, is asking for this to cease, because they fear retaliation from the Israeli Defense Force.

It is Monday morning; the second day of the work week in Israel. (RC note: in Israel the work week runs Sunday to Thursday.) On Sunday, the streets were busy with little vans that pick up children for school--including my three children--and cars and buses driving to work.

As far as I can tell, there are no weekends in this country. No one mows lawns, because there is no grass. No one washes their cars, because there are tight water restrictions. The neighborhood here in Ramat Beit Shemesh has no single dwelling house like my home town of Longwood, Florida; rather, the buildings are usually five to six stories high, and are all the color of sand, made with Jerusalem stone.

All buildings are made with thick cement walls, so you can forget about ever using a hammer and nail to put up a picture. Oh, there are plenty of homes that have plenty of beautiful pictures on the walls, but they were put up using drills. You see, the beauty of the houses are all combined with the functionality of safety.

This is a necessity in Israel. My two young boys share a room (painted blue) which doubles as our bomb shelter. It has thick cement walls, a huge metal door, and no air vents; but to them, it’s the “boys room,” because the “girl’s room” is pink, and it belongs to their four-year-old sister.

I am preparing for a morning class and an evening class this month, since I am wrapping up the last class on Mental Health First Response, a twelve-week course I designed, in order to teach lay people exactly what mental illness is, and how to react when there is an unexpected crisis. I am equipping them with the capacity to act, and, I hope, helping them to have the courage to be able to assist their friends and family in a time of crisis. Fortunately, for me, there is a huge interest in the class.

People care about each other very much here. A teenager knocked on my door on Saturday, going house to house with a sad-eyed little girl, trying to find which house her family lived in. A couple of months ago, my seven-year-old son did not come home from school on the van with the other children. He apparently got carried away in his play, and had no cognizance that the van was even there to pick him up.

I was livid, and I called the van driver on his cell phone and yelled at him. “That’s it! My son is standing on some street corner lost in the in the Middle East, and I need to call the police”. Hell, I don’t even know the phone number for the police, and they may not understand my language. The van driver tells me in his broken English: “Relax. This is Israel. We will find your son.”

Then, a taxi driver, who knows me from the neighborhood, suddenly beeps his horn outside my dwelling. He recognized my son from the neighborhood, and gave him a ride home.

That is something that would not have happened in Orlando. It is one lesson I will take home with me, when I return to America."

Dr. K
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel

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