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October 09, 1987 - Image 55

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-10-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

o

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Jerusalem Hotline Aids
Israelis In Distress

RICK RAEL

Special to the Detroit Jewish News

erusalem—If someone
were to ask what the
average Israeli worries
about most, many would be
surprised to hear that per-
sonal relationships are at the
top of the list. "In fact," says
Etty Kenny, head of the Tel
Aviv branch of ERAN (Ezra
Rishona Nafshit, or Emo-
tional First Aid), "when we
compared statistics with a
similar organization in
Switzerland, which is certain-
ly one of the more peaceful
countries in the world, we
found that people there tend-
ed to call with almost the
same problems."
"An overwhelming sense of
loneliness. That's the primary
reason why people in Israel
decide to use our services,"
says Moshe Kron, director of
Jerusalem's ERAN telephone
hotline. "This loneliness can
be expressed in various ways
and -is not confined only to
socially isolated types. A wife
who is unable to com-
municate openly with her
husband may ask for help; a
teenage boy unhappy with his
relationship with his parents,
or perhaps a young office
worker who just needs to
unload about a boss. The
common denominator is a dif-
ficulty in reaching those near
to them."
Founded in 1971 when the
first branch was established
in the capital, ERAN now has
six additional centers
throughout the country, in-
cluding a recently opened of-
fice in the rural northern
Galil. In a typical month,
ERAN will receive between
3,000 and 4,000 telephone
calls that Kron identifies as
"calls of distress."
"If I had to note one signifi-
cant change over the last
decade," says Kron, "I'd say
that Israeli callers have been
getting younger and younger.
Although their problems tend
to reflect the universal dif-
ficulties of youth—getting
along with parents and
teachers, establishing peer
friendships—young people
seem more influenced by the
issues of today. I think Israeli
society is going through its
own growing pains. Socially
and politically its trying to
find its own identity and that
leaves young people more
vulnerable. They desperately
look for direction from
society".
In direct response to the in-
creasing volume of calls from
young people, ERAN's gel
Aviv branch has introduced a

j

special hotline exclusively for
juveniles. "We hear from 17
and 18 year-olds who are
about to enter the army and
are secretly a bit scared about
leaving home and having to
adjust to army life, and there
are those with problems
related to pressure to achieve
in school. Passing graduate
examinations, or bagrut, is
crucial for many young
Israelis and we often receive
calls from youth who express
their fear of failure," explains
a volunteer in the 'Ibl Aviv
office.
How do Israeli adults cope
with the numerous stresses
and strains of a society beset
with a host of formidable
problems? What prompts the
individual to dial ERAN?
Kron believes that comtem-
porary events can often
motivate citizens to pick up
the phone. This, however, is
often a pretext for a discus- •
sion of more personal
concerns.
"Volunteers find that a
news headline, the Pollard af-
fair, for example, will increase
the number of incoming calls.
People at first only want to
talk about international rela-
tions, but gradually the con-
versation shifts to more im-
mediate problems. Then we
discover what's really troubl-
ing them."
The Demjanjuk trial in
Jerusalem has resulted in
many calls to ERAN from
Holocaust survivors, who,
now elderly and mostly alone,
are, as a result of the trial,
once again reliving their hor-
rifying experiences. They
need to talk and to verbalize
their painful recollections,
despite the passage of 45
years. Frequently ERAN has
to confront the emotional
burdens of the offspring of
people who lived through the
Holocaust. These children are
oft6n from homes where
parents never discussed their
experiences.
"Sexual problems generate
a great deal of calls," says
Kron, "especially from the
ultra-religious communities
where there is little access to
basic facts about sex." Confu-
sion on sexual issues is not
limited to one segment of
society, however, and callers
express their fears or ask
questions on a wide range of
topics, including AIDS. bur-
in the last several months,
calls to ERAN about AIDS
have increased greatly.
Israelis now recognize the
serious nature of the problem
and want to know more about
it. For those who fear they
may have contracted AIDS,
we refer them directly to local

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

M2=11

53

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