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Dec 5, 2023

Federation Beneficiary Maslan Treats Survivors of Gender-Based War Crimes

TRIGGER WARNING: The content of this article may be emotionally challenging and contains references to sexual assault.

As global feminist organizations dismiss — and even question — the gender-based war crimes committed by Hamas terrorists, Israeli NGO Maslan has been tirelessly treating survivors who suffered unimaginable trauma on October 7. Serving as the only crisis hotline in the Negev, Maslan is a longtime Federation partner and has been receiving annual grants from the Women’s Amutot Initiative since 2009, predominantly through allocations from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation/UJA Campaign. Federation also provided an Israel Emergency Fund grant to support Maslan's critical work during the past two months. In addition to administering practical aid and emotional support, the nonprofit also raises public awareness to create social change and reduce the levels of sexual and domestic violence. As the startling extent of the October 7 atrocities unfold, Federation’s robust and enduring partnerships are ensuring a swift and well-informed response. Ilene Kossman, Chair of Federation’s Women’s Amutot Committee, said, “I am very grateful we have the knowledge and the contacts in Israel to make the most informed and responsible decisions, especially at this critical time.”

Kossman, who is also a Board member of Jewish Federations of North America National Women’s Philanthropy, attended this week’s special session Hear Our Voices at the United Nations (UN) on December 4. Initiated by the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, in response to the untenable silence by the UN to condemn the inhumanity of October 7, the session detailed sexual and gender-based violence in the Hamas terror attack. “I felt it was important to bear witness,” Kossman said. “Opportunities such as this UN special session are vital for the healing process to take place and to give voice to the voiceless.” In addition to gruesome accounts of the carnage, the program also revealed glimmers of light, such as the abundant compassion shown by female personnel tending to the burial of those brutality raped, mutilated and murdered. “They were defiled in life, shown no humanity in death, but received tender care in their burial,” said Kossman, who continued, “It’s always been women taking care of women.”

Since the onset of the war, Maslan has been providing discreet and specialized care for individuals and families impacted by the resulting trauma, the severity of which has proven unprecedented in the Israeli mental health community. A group of young women hospitalized for physical injuries, sexual assault and subsequent trauma after escaping the Tribe of Nova music festival massacre opted for Maslan’s treatment over social services. They preferred its privacy and advanced care including eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a nontraditional type of psychotherapy.

In yet another case, a young woman from a Gaza-border community who was sexually assaulted during the terror attack and witnessed the horrific loss of family members — some murdered and others taken hostage — is being treated by Maslan therapists. At her request, they meet her at the hotel where she is living temporarily, and with complete discretion, they are able to provide the emotional and psychological assistance she so desperately needs. Many of those seeking help are dealing with secondary trauma, having witnessed sexual assault, the murder of loved ones or distressing online content depicting Hamas savagery. In all instances, Maslan remains dedicated to navigating the intricate and often uncharted layers of trauma and the vast diversity of client needs.

While grappling with the profound effects of war on the mental well-being of those impacted, Maslan professionals often encounter remarkable resilience — underscoring the collective strength within the grieving Israeli community as a whole — and take heart in the support that makes their work possible. “Our partnership with [the Greater Miami Jewish] Federation and its funding not only allow us to help children, women, men and entire communities during these difficult times,” relayed Maslan CEO Yarona Ben Shalom Richardson, “it gives us motivation, hope and the feeling of belonging to one big, loving and strong Jewish community.”

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