“I was riding a bus when suddenly… I saw a motorcycle rider hit the bus, land on the pavement unconscious, with some blood stains on his head. I didn’t understand what had happened until the following day, when I read the paper and learned that I had been in a terrorist attack!! A car bomb had exploded and the force of the blast had thrown the motorcyclist off of his motorcycle and into the side of the bus.”
How does one deal with experiences like this? While hearing people have access to more sources of information, the deaf person quoted above is relatively isolated. The more than 10,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing people in Israel suffer daily, not from terrorist attacks, but from “crisis” situations of more mundane types – but nearly equal emotional impact. Unfortunately, their unique needs are rarely considered during times of crisis, emergencies, or terrorist attacks. They do not receive services equal to those received by the hearing population, and programs geared towards crisis intervention and trauma have not been accessible to them or created with them in mind.
 Through use of trained deaf mentors fears that are unique to deaf people in crisis situations are uncovered. One benefit of this approach is the power of peer support when learning to cope with crisis situations. Identifying with others who have the same disability is a way to uncover other unique aspects of fear and trauma, aspects that are then incorporated into the program’s curriculum. This identification with others and understanding often leads to a feeling of relief and confidence in coping with these stressful situations.
Over 300 people a year, many of whom are new immigrants, take part in this program. Although the participants vary widely in their experiences and lives, they have a common denominator: their inability to hear and a desire to learn to cope with the realities of life in Israel. The workshops are devoted to teaching skills relevant to emergency situations such as war and terror attacks. Participants are guided through the process of dealing with fear, loss and anxiety during these difficult times.
Participants benefit from receiving practical solutions and courses of action for functioning during times of emergency, danger or fear. They feel more self-assured and less fearful, which improves their emotional state and overall well-being. They have an increased level of self-assurance and self-confidence in themselves as well and in their newfound ability to effectively and calmly handle emergency situations of all types, particularly coping with terror attacks as deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, and their aftermath.
This program, along with many others at the Institute, helps deaf people to navigate the complexities of life as a deaf or hard of hearing person in Israel.