I can't even begin to tell you how many people have come over to me since we opened our Israel office and said, "Come on, do you really need an office in Israel?"
The answer to that question is absolutely, positively, yes. But don't take my word for it. Read this and then tell me what you think.
Like so many other girls who graduated high school, Miri Nussbaum* was thrilled to go spend a year in Israel. She wrote her seminary essays, nervously went to her interviews, and then anxiously waited for her acceptance letters to arrive. And when the time came to leave for Israel, like so many other 18 year-olds, Miri packed up her pleated skirts, her button down shirts and her sweaters, and headed for the airport.
But the similarities ended there. Unlike her peers, Miri had packed a few extra items in her suitcase - like several years of unresolved serious trauma, a longstanding rift with her parents whom she hadn't spoken to in years, and a teeny-tiny habit of occasionally turning to drugs or alcohol when she got stressed out. Which was pretty often.
Miri had actually done a pretty good job of keeping her forays into the world of substance abuse secret from the world, surreptitiously sneaking the occasional pill or drink when she thought she needed it. Until one day she ventured out of her dorm after having downed more than a few shots of vodka. As she wandered down a Jerusalem street babbling incoherently, she was approached by a police officer who noticed immediately that her speech was slurred and that she was extremely disoriented. She was taken by ambulance to a nearby ER where the on call staff thought that her altered mental state and bizarre behavior, further compounded by the language barrier, were clear signs of a mental health issue, and she was transferred to a local psychiatric hospital.
You still with me? Good. Because things are about to get a lot more complicated.
Miri's older sister, Leah, lived in Israel, and after three days of unsuccessfully trying to reach Miri, she was frantic. She finally managed to track Miri down once it occurred to her to try calling mental hospitals, but since Miri was of legal age and hadn't signed a consent form, the hospital refused to share any medical information with Leah. Leah called her mother, hoping she would have better luck, but the answer was the same. No consent form, no information.
Meanwhile, Miri was not doing well. Scared, alone, and without the meds she often took to manage her moods, she started becoming aggressive towards the hospital staff, who placed her in solitary confinement for five weeks where she had no ability to interact with anyone outside the hospital staff. I promise you - you don't want to know what five weeks in solitary feels like.
Desperate for some way to get Miri out of the hospital, Leah called Amudim Israel and shared the whole crazy story with a caseworker. Arrangements were made to fly Mrs. Nussbaum to Israel, coordinate a meeting with the hospital staff, set up an English-language treatment plan for Miri, and to consult with a family court judge to determine the Nussbaums' rights in case legal action was needed. Knowing what steps the family had taken, the hospital agreed to speak with Mrs. Nussbaum, and satisfied with the proposed treatment plan, Miri was discharged less than a week later.
Today, Miri is going for therapy and will hopefully be able to address the deep-seated issues that have been haunting her for years. Best of all, Miri and Mrs. Nussbaum are talking again and working towards repairing their relationship. We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
Miri's story is just one of 25 that have come into our Israel office over the last four weeks.
So now it's my turn to ask the question. Does Amudim really need an office in Israel?
You tell me.
* Names and Certain Details changed to protect privacy