Help on hand

Right in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv, is a building 3 stories high. It is not an office block, or shops, or apartments, but the former home of Matilda and Daniel Recanati, a Greek-Israeli Jewish family of a dynasty of bankers, that is now a center for Israeli civilians and soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The building is testimony to the astonishing devotion and generosity of the late Recanati’s daughter, Jude, one of Israel’s most popular philanthropists. Instead of distributing sporadic donations to many needy organizations, Jude has deservedly won the attention and affection of the public because of her choice to focus on projects that she believes will bring about significant change, such as bolstering the society’s resilience by advocating the integration of youth with aim of preparing them for future leadership roles. 

Jude was deeply affected by the Yom Kippur War of 1973, like most Israelis of that generation. She lost friends and classmates and witnessed many people struggling with the physical and emotional effects of war. When her parents eventually passed away, Jude found herself facing an emptiness and looking for meaning. She decided to study occupational and expressive therapies. Using the camera and taking pictures, she went on to apply this as therapy and work with patients in rehab centers and hospitals. 

Way ahead of her time, Jude saw the need to expand the available options of treatment for people suffering from PTSD. In Israel, psychiatry via socialized medicine is stretched and therefore often inadequate. Further, PTSD is a specialist field within psychiatry itself. Alternative private treatment is expensive, especially for people whose psychological disorder renders them unable to work and meet the most basic of bills. With that in mind, in 1998, (in the decade known as the “bus bomb years,)” Jude founded the charity NATAL, (a Hebrew acronym for “Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War),” which circumvented the problems of the limitations of treatment. Under her direction as chairman, one of the first things the charity did was to modify her late parents home in Tel Aviv to the NATAL national center. The charity offers helplines, therapists, psychiatric and psychological consultation, group therapy for families of the injured, and several individual and collective creative activities such as theater and art for people suffering from PTSD. 

Israel is a tough place. Most have served in the army, or have lost someone to this or that war, or this or that terror attack creating an underlying societal message that you have to be tough. You have to cope. You have no choice. This makes the practice of asking for help in Israeli society, a courageous deed in itself, especially for those with unseen wounds. But through NATAL, Israelis have started to learn that it’s OK to ask, and necessary to confront traumatic experience. In the last 20 years, the charity has expanded its work, opening up helplines and a national network of therapists. It has also expanded its mission to help other communities throughout the world who are impacted by trauma. 

With the onset of the Corona pandemic, within just a single day, NATAL had moved their operations to Zoom to keep their services highly functional. 

During those uncertain days, Jude (a proud and thankful grandmother of eight), widened NATAL’s capabilities to help the elderly who live on their own. Active on social media, she encourages the general public to understand the severity of these times, and to reach out to those in need. It is understandable that when she was named the recipient of the Presidential Award for Volunteerism, the entire country rejoiced with her.