IDF soldiers with PTSD learn to make music as part of their therapy
Listen here, my child
Daddy has a scar
Long since the times of war
Shards never hit his body, only his soul
That's why daddy can't find peace
There's a groundbreaking project at the Lin and Ted Arison Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv called Soul Key. Combat soldiers of both genders who served in IDF and are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD or 'shell shock', come to the Conservatory and learn to play instruments, to sing, to write lyrics and set them to music, to compose and more. Some take individual weekly lessons with Conservatory teachers; some study in ensembles with weekly rehearsals under the guidance of Conservatory staff; and some join group sessions with well-known Israeli artists who give their time to hold workshops and talks, such as Achinoam Nini and Gil Dor, Alon Olearchik, Yoni Rechter and Ester Rada, as well as radio presenter Yoav Kutner who gives regular lectures on music subjects.
The program was founded five years ago by clinical psychologist Yifat Greenwald Cohen who manages it on a voluntary basis and was herself injured in an army training accident in 1992. Yifat recognizes the healing value of music as part of the rehabilitation process to facilitate integration back into society, and help overcome the trauma. "Music is a therapy that exists in nature," she says. They started with 12 participants and today have 60. Outstanding IDF musicians serve as mentors for those learning to play instruments. A support system is operated by the Conservatory's circle of volunteers, along with a professional team from the field of mental health.
Avichai Hollander, 28, a fighter in the commando Egoz Unit, lost friends and comrades as well as a part of himself in operation Protective Edge [Tsuk Eitan]. He wrote the words and composed the music for the song "Can't find peace" (Lo nirga) which has been released as a single with great success and which he has dedicated to the effort to maintain the Soul Key program; it's the first song written in Israel describing the personal experience of PTSD: rage, stress, flashbacks, nightmares, inability to relax, constant state of alert. It was composed for his 3-year-old son Ari.
"Because the injury's not visible it doesn't make it easier or harder - it just has to be explained to other people. Music makes it possible to take a break, create silence and sail away to other places."
Dror Zicherman: "At first, I said, I'll join a group, just to have something to do to pass the time. By the third lesson I was hooked and I realized – hey, it's doing me good."
Eyal Atzmon: "Before I was post-traumatic I was Eyal. Then came the post-trauma that blurred Eyal. And the inner peace that music gives is bringing Eyal back, back home…… every time I come here I'm a completely different person. It's very hard to believe you deserve to live life a good life."
The program is funded by voluntary donations to the Israel Conservatory of Music which awards scholarships to those involved. But it is in danger of shutting down if sufficient funds are not available. Participants are extremely concerned at its possible closure, which threatens their rehabilitation process.
Annual scholarships and/or individual music lessons are being donated in order to ensure the program can carry on.
More information, including some video clips, can be found on the website: https://savesoul.icm.org.il/playing-away-the-trauma/