A woman walks alone in a park.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Haim Oron, the former Meretz chairman who is currently the chairman of the executive board of Eran, a hot line for people in emotional distress, said on Sunday that considering the services that his NGO provides, the government should boost the increase in its annual budget of NIS 10 million from an additional NIS 2.5m. to an additional NIS 5m.
This would enable Eran to serve more people, especially those in peripheral communities, he said. While Eran is quite well-known in the center of the country, it is less well known in the periphery.
Oron was speaking at a reception hosted by President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, for members of the Eran board of management, who are among the organization’s 1,200 volunteers from many walks of life who counsel people in distress at all hours of the day over the phone, via SMS and through the Internet.
As members of Knesset, Oron and Rivlin, though on completely opposite sides of the political divide, worked closely on social welfare issues, and Eran was one of their mutual priorities.
The important thing is to listen to every sector of society, said Oron, adding that more volunteers are needed in peripheral communities and that more people in peripheral communities need to be made aware of Eran.
Eran chairman Giora Bar Dea, a former CEO of Strauss Israel, vice chairman of Maccabi World Union and holder of executive positions in other enterprises, said that Eran provides a unique service which has not been emulated by any other organization in Israel.
Eran CEO David Koren told the Rivlins he had gone into a shop to purchase some supplies for Eran and was served by a man who was about 30 years old. When quoted the price, which he considered to be too high, Koren grimaced and said it was too expensive for a nonprofit organization.
The salesman inquired about the name of the organization, and when he heard that it was Eran, he dropped the price to almost nothing.
“It’s because of you that I’m here,” he told Koren.
He explained that at the age of 16, he had contemplated suicide and had called Eran. The anonymous volunteer to whom he spoke had talked him out of it – a gift he said he’d never forgotten.
Generally speaking, said Koren, anyone with suicidal tendencies who calls Eran is unlikely to commit suicide that day. He estimated that since 1971, when Eran began operating its emotional first aid service in which there is no exchange of names between the caller and the counselor, 20,000 lives of potential suicides have been saved. Last year alone the number came to 800, he said.
The average annual figure for suicides in Israel is 500, he said. While it was fairly safe to say that those who connect with Eran won’t commit suicide on that day, he was worried about those who don’t call.
To extend its reach, Eran is currently setting up services for the Beduin community in the Negev and for Israelis living in North America.
The most prevalent concern is over young students who know that one of their classmates is suicidal but won’t tell anyone because they don’t want to snitch and they don’t want to be accused of shaming, said Bar Dea. This sentiment was shared by the Rivlins.
Nechama Rivlin remarked that she had recently learned that David Ben-Gurion too had suicidal tendencies.
President Rivlin recalled that his parents and grandparents spoke of what Ezrat Nashim used to do in Jerusalem for people in distress, and saw this organization as a forerunner to Eran.