A recent APS delegation to Israel was let by Erica Frydenberg from Melbourne and Amanda Gordon from Sydney. Participants included psychologists from Perth, Albany, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. The purpose of the trip was to familiarise the group with developments in psychological practice in Israel and to share developments in Australia, particularly as they relate to professional practice, education, stress and trauma. Only one of the participants had previously been to Israel, another was motivated to explore her roots, and the rest were there for professional engagement. There was strong interest in how people from all parts of the world adjusted culturally, academically and socially in Israel. It is expected that there will be a strong contingent of Israeli psychologists attending the International Congress of Psychology (ICAP) in Melbourne in July 2010 and that collaborations in research will follow.
It is clear that Israel is a natural laboratory for trauma research, and some high-powered research studies were reported to the group. The presentation from Professor Zehava Solomon, who is head of the Adler Research Center for Child Welfare and Protection and consults with the Israel Defence Force and the US military, highlighted that post traumatic stress is experienced in all situations where the military are serving in a war zone.
A highlight of the visit was a musical tribute to Richard Pratt, which was held during the study tour. In addition to the quality of the artistic presentations, which provided a unique cultural experience, the wonderful range of over 350 projects that the Pratt Foundation is supporting in Israel was a powerful reminder of the extent of philanthropic support that benefits Israel.
The program was highly informative and the hospitality extended by Israeli colleagues far exceeded our expectations.
The study commenced with a dinner in Abu-Gosh with Dr Orna Berry, chairperson of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and guests from the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa including Professor Nehemia Friedland, Professor Avraham Schweiger and Dr Ofer Fein.
This was followed by a morning of presentations by staff at the Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center, hosted by Dr Esti Galili-Weisstub, Dr Fortu Benarroch, Chana Oppenheim and Dr Chana Deitcher. There were also presentations by the Australian clinicians.
There was a short visit to the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel hosted by the co-chair, Dr Debbie Weissman. Dr Weissman is a veteran Jewish educator and inter-religious educator and activist.
The geopolitical briefing held over dinner that evening helped to orientate the group.
On day two the visit focused on the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center. Following a brief introduction to the history of the campus and the university, it was down to business with presentations from Professor Eytan Bachar, Professor Moshe Tatar, Dr Sarah Friedman and Dr Sarah Hamari. The APS group were given clear examples of the high quality and extent of trauma research that has been and is currently being conducted in Israel.
At the Hadassah Medical Centre, Professor Orly Manor, Dr Yehudah Neumark and Dr Ronny Shtarkshall informed the group about the outstanding public health programs that are being conducted there. Some indigenous Australian scholarship recipients had already participated in the programs.
The professional visits were interspersed with visits to Yad Vashem, the Beit-Hatfutsot Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, the Western Wall Tunnels, the Old City, Massadah and the Dead Sea, and Kibbutz Ma'agen Michael.
In Be'er Sheva the group visited the Park of the Australian Soldier, an initiative of the Pratt Foundation, which has been developed as an outdoor facility for children, particularly those with special needs.
A visit to Ben-Gurion University highlighted the issues relating to the Negev Bedouin community and the education programs that are in place, particularly for girls. A lively discussion was had with Professor Hanoch Flum, Professor Avi Assor, Dr Michael Weinstock, Professor Shifra Sagy, Dr Guy Roth and Professor Ismael Saaid.
On day three the group moved to Tel Aviv University where we were hosted by Professor Tova Most and met with Professor Moshe Israelashvili, Dr Dorit Aram and Professor Michelle Slone.
Meetings followed with the chairman of the Israel Psychological Society, Professor Dan Zakay, as well as Professor Mario Mikulincer, Dr Moshe Landsman, Dr Israel Feldman, Dr Noa Barak, Dr Tal Ben Shahar and Dr Gay Doron.
At the Schneider Children's Hospital we were hosted by Dr Orit Krispin. On the final study program day we were hosted at Haifa University by Professor Moshe Zeidner and his colleagues Professor Avi Sagi-Schwartz, Professor Gavriel Salomon and Professor Rachel Seginer. Finally, we were treated to a tour of the cognitive laboratories and the impressive world class research being conducted by Professor Aher Koriat, Dr Morrie Goldsmith and their team.
We received the most wonderful hospitality from our colleagues in Israel. The breakfast with Australia's ambassador to Israel, Mr James Larsen, provided a balanced perspective on many aspects of life in Israel. It all contributed to a very successful experience where we each learnt a great deal about issues relevant to our profession, experienced some of the current research and practices in Israel, and advanced (in a small way) the healthy relationship between Australia and Israel. Altogether, our group had a very positive experience.
I am sure various members of the group will follow up with the individual contacts that we made. There are already excellent professional collaborations between Australian and Israeli psychologists and it is hoped that such a trip extends the possibilities further.
The staff at the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce, a not for profit organisation, who were responsible for the ground components of our trip, were most helpful and professional in all their undertakings with us both in Israel and Australia.
Given that volunteering and community service are a well-developed component of Israeli life in the tertiary and philanthropy sectors, it is anticipated that another professional trip to Israel will be organised in the next 18 months.
Erica Frydenberg PhD
University of Melbourne
Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society
14 November 2009