Calls to emotional crisis hotline up 40%

Eran aid center, in emergency mode, brings in 1,000 volunteers "We’ve had people calling to say they cannot stop crying."

December 6, 2010 05:47
2 minute read.
Remains of bus burned in Carmel fire

Bus in Carmel fire 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)

Eran, Israel’s emotional first aid center, reported an increase of 40 percent in the number of calls for help it received this past weekend as fires raged on Mount Carmel and thousands were evacuated from their homes, The Jerusalem Post heard on Sunday.

Many of the calls were from relatives or friends who lost loved ones in the bus fire that killed 40 people – 38 on board from the Prisons Service and two policemen who tried to come to their aid, with other calls coming from those who had been forced to leave their homes or from people for whom this disaster revived memories of previous traumas such as the December 2008- January 2009 Gaza conflict, 2006’s Second Lebanon War, and wars going further back.

Dr. Shiri Daniels, Eran’s director of counseling, said that the hotline (1202) received around 520 calls a day over the past two days and more than 60 requests for help via the Internet ( She said that roughly 1,000 volunteers were brought in to answer phones and respond to Internet requests for help.

“We are operating in an emergency mode,” Daniels told the Post. “Our volunteers have been specially trained in how to help people deal with such traumas and anxiety; they tell them that what they are feeling is normal and give them hope for a better future.”

She said that many of the calls also came from people who had been glued to televised coverage of the fire, which started on Thursday morning, and who were panicking.

“We’ve had people calling who say they have sat by the TV all night and cannot stop crying,” said Daniels, adding that many of the calls also came from parents worried about the effect this tragedy may have on their children.

Daniels emphasized that parents should monitor what their children are watching on the almost constant news coverage of the disaster and carefully explain what is going on.

“Focus on the positive side,” she said. “Tell them about those who are being brave fighting the fires or about those who are volunteering, make the child feel safe and protected.”

Meanwhile, Selah – Israel Crisis Management Center, which provides assistance to the immigrant population during times of crisis, said it had been working hard to help several families of olim who’s lost loved ones in the fire.

Selah’s director Ruth Bar- On told the Post that professionals from the organization had already attended seven funerals, including that of Ethiopian immigrant and father of three Seyum Tzege from Nahariya and Kiryl Lengman, 28, whose wife is in her eighth month of pregnancy, from Afula.

“Our role is to be there at the funerals and make sure that the families are getting the help that they need,” Bar- On said. “We are talking about olim who do not have a strong family support system here and might need help in their own languages.”

For many new immigrants this type of disaster can be especially traumatic, because it can bring back memories of events experienced before coming to Israel, she said.

“We meet personally with each family and determine what its unique needs are; we then work to meet those needs,” Bar-On said.

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