Updated: May 30, 2021
Guest blog by Susan Eisenstein
Israel is a land of miracles. David Ben Gurion said: "Anyone who does not believe in miracles is not a realist"!
In Israel, miracles are synonymous with daily life, as we see the magic unfold around us. But that doesn't come without hard work! Our dedication and commitment to seeing these magical results are exactly what helps them come to be.
Israelis are constantly asking "how can we do this better?" and "what can I do to bring in the miracles of life?"
And then they get to work.
This is exactly how The Israel Guide Dog Center came to be, founded by Orna and Noach Braun, and Norman Leventhal. They saw an opening for some new Israeli magic, and as they say, when there is a will, there is a way!
At the Israel Guide Dog Center in Beit Oved, Israel, just south of Tel Aviv, all the dogs are trained for jobs and after training, go to work.
The dogs are born, raised, and trained in Israel. The dogs even learn about 40 Hebrew commands, so that they can understand the commands of their human companions. The Israel Guide Dog Center is the ONLY accredited guide dog training facility in the entire Middle East! Guide dogs are given to anyone who lives in Israel that can prove that the dog will help make them a productive citizen. Clients are mostly Jewish, but there are also Christian, Muslim, and Druze clients. The Israel Guide Dog Center trains dogs to work with the blind and visually impaired, allowing people to be completely independent, giving them the ability to resume active and productive lives. Dogs also work as emotional support dogs for children with autism or other special needs.
Now, a new program at The Israel Guide Dog Center has Israeli dogs training in special skills and working as service dogs to help IDF soldiers and veterans, as well as other Israelis suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress disorders). This is a debilitating illness that is characterized by recurring nightmares, frequent panic attacks, depression, and other trauma symptoms. Often people with PTSD fear to sleep, because of persistent nightmares that torment and awaken them. The Israel Guide Dog Center's PSTD program is built on the methodology, best practices, and shared experience of established PTSD service dog programs in Europe and the USA, and with the oversight of their in-house psychologist.
PTSD service dogs have already shown to be effective in assisting PTSD sufferers by calming the sufferer during panic attacks, waking them from nightmares, and reducing nightmare frequency and severity. Additionally, these service dogs orient the sufferer and calm anxiety and stress in public situations, increase feelings of personal safety, reduce anxiety when reacting to loud noises, and help forge personal connections, providing companionship to reduce depression, isolation, and guilt feelings. A PTSD service dog is able to detect when people are stressed or anxious, e.g., they hear labored breathing. Then, the dogs interrupt the increasing anxiety by distracting the person, offering comfort by hugging them (jumping with two or four paws), and licking the person’s face. When the dogs realize their partners are having a nightmare, flashback, or panic attack, they are trained to disrupt the episode and offer comfort.
So you see, just like us, Israeli dogs attend "school," train for jobs, and work at these jobs. Israeli working dogs help to make people's lives more productive. And in keeping with the Israeli spirit of being actualized, the Israel Guide Dog Center has grown from its start in 1991 (just as Sadam Hussein shot SCUD missiles toward Israel), to be a true Israeli miracle to all of Israel's citizens.
Susan Eisenstein is a long-time Jewish educator, passionate about creating special innovative activities for her students. Susan has two Master’s degrees and a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University. Her passion is in Judaic studies and the Hebrew language.