ASIA/HOLY LAND – “Smile therapy” sponsored by the Latin Patriarchate, to help Palestinian women cope with psychological pressures and heal their internal wounds

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Jerusalem – They call it “laughter therapy” or “smile therapy”, a formula that indicates techniques and practices aimed at using and channeling in a therapeutic key the beneficial effects that good humor and joy can exert on states of suffering, especially of a psychological nature. The social services department of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has organized a laughter therapy workshop aimed especially at Palestinian women in the Holy City. The workshop was attended by 16 Palestinian women from East Jerusalem, the part of the Holy City where the Arab population is concentrated. The workshop, also promoted at the initiative of the parish priest Amjad Sabbara and entrusted to the specialist Bianca Morcos Tourjman, is an integral part of the support programs in favor of the local female population sponsored by the Latin Patriarchate since the first spread of the pandemic of Covid-19, programs carried out with the participation of Caritas Jerusalem and the operational contribution of the Al-Sabil Palestinian Ecumenical Center.
The initiative – inform the official communication organs of the Patriarchate – tries to take on at least partially, the discomfort and the psychological suffering that have affected Palestinian women in Jerusalem in particular during the last year and a half, a time in which social problems and chronic economic conditions faced by the Palestinian population of the Holy City have been compounded by social isolation, the collapse of work activities, fears and medical-health problems linked to the pandemic. Many of the women participating in the workshop survive on unemployment benefits that barely cover the cost of renting their homes. Most of them, or their husbands, worked in hotels and restaurants that were left without customers, after the pandemic led to the interruption of the flow of pilgrimages and tourists from abroad.
The support projects inaugurated by the Latin Patriarchate in the time of the pandemic offer women and girls in East Jerusalem with manual activities and professional training courses to provide basic skills, in view of the development of future initiatives aimed at increasing female entrepreneurship in the area. A report published in the past by the Israeli National Insurance Institute had stated that in 2012 only 13% of Palestinian women in Jerusalem were in paid employment.
“Women in East Jerusalem suffer from strong pressure”, explains Ms. Dima Khoury, director of the social services department of the Latin Patriarchate, who adds that women “are the base and the pillar of every family”.
Therapy can help them not to make inner wounds disappear by hiding them in their subconscious and to “release pressure and anger in a healthy way”, in order to preserve or restore their psychological balance.