January 26, 2015

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SUNY New Paltz students return from Israeli disaster preparedness session

NEW PALTZ – Graduate students from SUNY New Paltz and Ben Gurion University this month spent a weeklong workshop in crisis counseling and psychological first aid.

The international partnership with the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at New Paltz began when Ben Gurion University faculty Professor Richard Isralowitz invited the New Paltz students and institute Director James Halpern to Beer Sheva, Israel.

During the trip, students from both schools completed coursework in disaster preparedness, response and recovery

The course included excursions to communities in conflict as well as cultural sites like the Holocaust Museum and Jerusalem Old City. Students were brought as close as possible to the villages on the Gaza border and met with agency heads and officials from USAID in Tel Aviv, who were in charge of mental health, children and other vulnerable populations.

Halpern said those towns have been regularly hit by rockets and are often threatened with most of the people spending time in shelters.

“The class work completed at Ben Gurion University was an extraordinary, unique and beneficial learning experience for me and my fellow SUNY students,” said James DeArce.

Raya Truman, an Israeli student, called the workshop “one of the most interesting courses I’ve learned in the M.A. program.”

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