The psychologist who helps families of hostages: 'As if my daughters are in Gaza'

Noam Yehuda says his role is to ensure the emotional well-being of families of the hostages, accompanying each delegation abroad on their emotional roller coaster

"I go on missions as if my daughters themselves were in Gaza," says Noam Yehuda, the psychologist accompanying families of the hostages on behalf of the Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Ministry.
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Some of the reality imposed on them, he explains, is taking part in delegations abroad without prior preparation. "Until the last moment, I didn't know which families were leaving. We only met at the airport, and that's where the work began."
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נעם יהודה חדש
נעם יהודה חדש
Psychologist Noam Yehuda
"A delegation is an emotional roller coaster," he adds. "Families encounter everything there. I join to ensure their emotional well-being, so they won't experience exploitation and loneliness as other families did after meetings and interviews. I was surprised by the therapeutic effect."
One of the destinations he visited was the European Parliament in Brussels. At Ben Gurion Airport, Yehuda met with Shai Venkert, the father of hostage Omer Venkert, 22.
Shai Venkert shared: "This delegation is very confusing and bewildering. We receive the itinerary minutes before meetings, everything is very spontaneous. On the one hand, I was excited to talk to the bigwigs of the world, and on the other hand, what do I care? The mission to Brussels was my first, and before that, I met with several ministers in Israel. It was a month after Omer was abducted, and I interviewed everywhere. I wanted to understand if it was effective and if it could bring him back. But this mission brought me to the peak; I felt I did something meaningful for Omer and all the hostages."
Regarding Yehuda's support, he says: "The presence of someone holding your hand in all this is so important. Noam's support came in private conversations. I know he's a professional, but for me it felt like speaking to a friend. He was able to look into my soul and explain to me how I'm coping with trauma but also able to do things and be efficient. I still can't break down completely; sometimes, at night, I cry and shout and talk to Omer. They say men cry at night, so do I."
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שי ונקרט
שי ונקרט
Shai Venkert
(Photo: Gal Ganot)
One of the meaningful experiences with the delegation is the transition from the streets of Israel, where they don't allow you to forget reality, to the streets of Europe, where the world continues as usual.
"In one incident," Yehuda recounts, "we had an hour in the hotel to organize for the next thing, and suddenly Shai didn't wake up. He told me his body just shut down. We didn't have the constant tension we have in Israel, no aircraft above us, and no rocket sirens."
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