February 2016, Tel Aviv – NATAL recently teamed up with the US based non-profit Patton Veterans Project to bring the "I WAS THERE" film workshop to Tel Aviv. "I WAS THERE" film workshops was founded in 2011 by American author and producer Benjamin Patton, the grandson of General George S. Patton, senior officer of the US Army during World War II. "I WAS THERE" hosts 4-day filmmaking workshops, where veterans collaborate to conceptualize and produce short films that help them come to terms with traumatic experiences associated with their military service in a therapeutic and healing environment. The workshop is proving to be an extremely effective approach to dealing with PTSD. Based on survey results from the hundreds of American veteran workshop participants, veterans report a nearly 20% average decrease in PTSD symptoms over the course of the workshop, which is free of charge for all participants.
NATAL and "I WAS THERE" collaborated for the third time, which combines aspects of each organization's signature services that help veterans and their families cope with PTSD. Through the use of digital storytelling workshops, with the help of experienced film directors and under the supervision of mental health professionals with expertise in trauma, this project encourages Israeli veterans to digitally portray their personal stories, many for the first time, which will help on their path to healing. This workshop was generously sponsored by Dror for the Wounded, an NGO that provides financial and emotional support to wounded Israeli veterans.
The workshop consisted of 15 Israeli veterans ranging in age from 22 – 75. Participants were active soldiers during different prominent wars and operations in Israel, most notably the Yom Kippur War (1973), the First Lebanon War (1982), Operation Defensive Shield (2002), the Second Lebanon War (2006), and Operation Protective Edge (2014). As NATAL's lead therapist put it, "All of the wars in Israel are represented in one room."
Over the course of four days, the participants worked collaboratively in small groups to make a film based on their direct or indirect personal traumatic experiences and the aftermath it had on their lives. Each group teamed up with a professional film maker and therapist from NATAL's community outreach unit to bring their stories to the screen. The workshop culminated in a screening of the films to family, friends, NATAL staff, and Dror for the Wounded.
CLICK HERE to watch 'Making Sense', a film created by four Israeli veterans in the workshop, which is a creative take on the different senses that triggers can come from.