A Community of Heart Profile: Mazal Menaham



Mazal Menaham lives in the southernmost tip of Israel called South Arava, near the Red Sea. It is the junction where Israel, Jordan and Egypt come together and is a peaceful part of the country. Her parents were Malka, who was born in Jerusalem, and Samuel Menaham Bahar, who came to Israel early in the 20th century from Turkey, where he had been incarcerated for being a Zionist. After Samuel arrived, he settled outside the walls of Jerusalem and worked as a train conductor. He had a great understanding of people as a result of his friendly manner and ease with languages. The same loving and generous manner that caused him to bring people he met on the train home was expressed within his family, resulting in a close-knit and connected family. Mazal’s mother was the pragmatist in the household; a hard-working woman who raised their four children with discipline and a love for education. Although her mother was very intelligent, she had to put her schooling on hold at 14 years to take care of her mother. From both parents, Mazal learned the importance of the family that continues today with her own sibs, her own nuclear family and her lifestyle. Growing up, school was her passion. One of her most influential teachers in elementary school was a woman who talked to her students eye-to-eye and taught them by example about how to fulfill their own dreams. By high school, she noted that she had good teachers but they were no longer warm and humane. Mazal saw herself as a scientist and began her first semester at Tel Aviv University as a computer and special education major. However, she had impersonal classes with large numbers of students with teachers who did not face their students but kept their faces to the blackboard. This was not for her and she changed her major to psychology – a course of study that was more supportive of her education degree. In 1982, she won the Award of Excellence from her university. Mazal’s home is on a small kibbutz called Samar. It is one of the few kibbutzim that continue to maintain a way of life that is consistent with the original socialist tenets of the kibbutz movement. This kibbutz is famous for its support of “maximum individualization” and “maximum cooperation; “ there are no institutes here and they consider themselves an anarchy. There are committees when they are necessary but everything is done on a voluntary basis. They do not vote on issues and people do what they want. They spend what is needed; nothing is divided equally. The question they ask themselves is if they take what they need, ‘Can the community sustain it?’ When she decided to go to college, the kibbutz paid for it and she also worked in the city to support herself. When she came back as a special educator, she found that she needed more knowledge to understand what she did not know and wanted to go into neuropsychology. Since there were no programs in Israel at the time, she looked to the United States and ended up at Drexel University. It was the 1980’s and Mazal, her husband and two children, at that time, moved to Philadelphia, PA to do her M.S. and the Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology. She was on a Stein Fellowship from 1988-1991 and received the International Students Award of Excellence in 1990. Her thesis was a theoretical model integrating a new neurocognitive model concerning the pre-frontal lobes and tested on children with ADHD. She was interested in combining neuroscience and behavior. After this, she had a one-year internship at Lowenstein Hospital in Raanana to rehab those with head injuries. She also worked with children who had developmental problems in Eilat. She finished her degree in 1994. Before she finished her doctorate, in 1992, she had become the Director of the Psychology Center for the Hevel Eilat Regional Authority until 2006. At the same time, she acted in the capacity of a Rehabilitation Psychologist and Clinical Neuropsychologist for the same center and created her own School Psychology Center as a private clinic. In this same span of years, she and her husband had three more children. In 2001, after 9/11, the Entifada and more war, the concern of the Israeli community grew about how this was affecting the children and the importance of doing something about it. Coincidentally, Mazal had registered for the October ISTSS conference. It was interesting to her that there was so little about children and the effects of war; although the influence of home violence was already being studied and she learned as much as she could. When she returned to Israel, the Chief District Psychologist in the South asked her to organize a conference to find out what was being done with children concerning trauma. In March 2002, 300 people came to this meeting put on by the Israel Ministry of Education; they included all of the school psychologists. She was the coordinator of an expert panel on “From Trauma to Resilience.” During that time, Mazal found that psychologists in Mental Health clinics were only treating about 30 or 40 children with PTSD a year. Part of the reason was that Israelis were not supposed to admit that they suffered at all from anything, much less PTSD! She began thinking that children needed to be treated in their own community not in clinics; a child’s community is school. The Chief Psychologist in the South asked her to create a National Committee of School Psychologists for the Treatment of Traumatized Children and she did. She was asked to begin a 3-year project –with the expert panel- to train school psychologists to treat trauma. This project was called “Trauma and Its Treatment” with the National Training Project for Educational Psychologists in Ashalim and underwritten by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Part of her job was to look into therapies that were developed to treat trauma and that would be relevant for this program. In the course of her research for this project, she met Udi Oren, President of EMDR Israel and Past President of EMDR-Europe. From 2003-2006, 500 school psychologists were trained with trauma therapy all over the country. These clinicians were exposed to a number of trauma treatments and could decide which ones they would use. Since 2006, Mazal has been the National Director of Trauma and Resilience in the Psychology Division of the Ministry of Education. All of her national projects are under the umbrella of this position. After the Second Lebanon war, in 2006, Mazal and her colleague, Dr. Shai Hen Gal developed clinics at schools providing psychotherapy for children with PTSD. They also had programs for parents and teachers. They provided therapy for 3000 children and collected data pre and post intervention for 500 children; they had no control group because they felt that ethically they had to treat their young subjects. The therapists themselves were included in the data collection in a qualitative research project where the therapists and school staff were interviewed. The concept of “common fate” was examined with therapists, most of them were personally involved in events of war. The gains and negative effects of “common fate” on both therapists and children were studied. This program continues in the South. Mazal noted that they found that the diagnosis of PTSD did not fully capture what was going on for the children; often, they had been traumatized but their symptoms did not meet the full criteria for PTSD. From 2005-2010, Mazal was a Member and Initiator of a Professional Panel in Ma’anim for a Treatment Center for Expelled and Relocated Settlers from Gush Katif and Shomron. This was a program set up to support people evacuated from the Gaza Strip and Arabic settlements in the West Bank. By 2008, the government in Israel decided to take care of all children at risk in Israel as a national project. The criteria are wide from learning disabilities to war-related trauma. There are about 150 municipalities who are using this national project and it is written into the budget of the country so it no longer has to be voted on; it is just given. One of the big programs in this project is the school psychotherapy project, developed and implemented by Mazal and Shai, where psychologists, social workers and art therapists are trained to work in schools with children at risk. These professionals are trained in long-term psychodynamic therapy as well as short-term therapies like EMDR, CBT, DBT, etc. They also are taught individual and group therapies. Although Mazal had heard of EMDR in 1989 when Francine Shapiro gave her first EMDR training, she was a young clinician and did not train then. She did start her Basic Training in 2003 and finished her Part 2 in 2004. She became an EMDR Supervisor and works in her mental health community center. Six of the 15 psychologists in her clinic are trained in EMDR and she is looking forward to getting the others trained soon. She uses AIP and EMDR with her clients and supervisees and each year she presents a case study with EMDR to her team in her clinic. Mazal also continues her support in training more school psychologists in EMDR, especially with children. When studying “common fate” with Professor Ester Cohen from Hebrew University, they found that about 30-50% of the therapists did not do trauma work.. They did resource work but avoided working with trauma. What the data showed was that many of these therapists were children during the 1967 Six-Day War. The researchers found that they were not doing this work because they were dissociated from their own issues, not because they had not received supervision. Mazal, as well, realized that she was not as strong as she wanted to be combining AIP and dissociation. She read more widely about dissociation and at a conference that integrated psychodynamic therapy with EMDR, she spoke about the dissociation of therapists and how you can use EMDR to deal with one’s own dissociation to progress in therapy. She noted that if a therapist is dissociated it is hard to do deep therapy work. Most of Mazal’s work is written in Hebrew and not yet translated into English. She meets regularly with a group of women in Eilat. They “think, work and consult” with each other as senior EMDR practitioners and are rejuvenated by their connection and work together. She has spent time working and training Palestinians on the West Bank who are working with children. In fact, on the first day of the Second Lebanon War, she was giving a workshop with Palestinians from East Jerusalem. There are more than 50% of children at risk from the Israeli-Arab population and they have found that the school psychotherapy model suits their culture.

For the EMDR Community:

'In our roles as therapists, our daily practice consists of children and adults at risk and in emotional need, as well as communities at risk. The optimism, creativity and hope that EMDR and AIP provide, affords us a great opportunity to assist peace and wellness.'

For enjoyment, Mazal likes to cook, travel, hike and read non-professional books. She is very active in her kibbutz and helps develop programs there to support the continuance of their way of life. She was the treasurer for the kibbutz for a period of 2 years. Recently, her eldest son and his partner have come back to Samer to live; this is a great source of happiness for her. Mazal is a warm, intelligent woman who is known for her ability to organize and get things done. She is an important member of our community and we are lucky to have her.


“A Community of Heart Profile: Mazal Menaham,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/24292.

Output Formats