Spouses of rescue volunteers get counselling to cope with trauma


there are hundreds of volunteers around Israel who rush to terror scenes after shots are fired or knives pulled. And almost all have a family - children who get left with neighbours at the drop of a hat; spouses who are abandoned without notice and who grapple with helplessness when their partner returns with a headful of traumatic images.

Volunteers' spouses have found the current terror wave so hard to deal with that the Charedi-run Zaka rescue organisation felt a duty to respond.

"During the past few months of terror attacks, we have offered counselling to Zaka spouses, many of whom are young mothers," said Zaka chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav.

"We realised that we need to give them the tools not only to help support their husbands in their holy work, but also to give them the emotional resilience to absorb the traumatic accounts of terror attacks that they are hearing first-hand and on a daily basis."

Volunteers refuse to let anything get in the way of their life-saving - even a car-full of kids.

Rachel Otmazgin is used to her husband Chaim, a veteran Zaka rescuer, pulling over at the scene of an incident and running to help. She is often left in the car with five children aged from two months to six years, trying to shield them from the indescribable scenes outside the window. "I tell them: 'Put your heads down, don't look.'"

The Otmazgins were setting out on a family trip to Bnei Brak when one of the first stabbings of the terror wave took place in Petach Tikvah, where they live.

Mr Otmazgin was the first rescuer on the scene while his family waited in the car, his wife trying to distract the kids.

Asked about the impact on the children, Mrs Otmazgin said they were proud of their father and had learned the importance of saving lives.

Although a volunteer, he is now being called out almost on a daily basis. "It can be in the middle of kiddush, the middle of a festival, the middle of Shabbat."

He does not discuss much of what he sees with his wife, although restless nights are an indicator of particularly traumatic call-outs.

But despite the toll on their life, Mrs Otmazgin said she would not want her husband to change.

She recalled being at a mall when a man in a wheelchair approach-ed them and said he owed his survival to Mr Otmazgin.

"I just think to myself that I'm married to a very special man," she said.

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