Church’s “smile therapy” helps Palestinian women cope with the pressure

Palestinian students who have received letters from American children send messages in bottles in response during a field visit to Gaza City on June 26. In May, 11 days of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas killed and injured dozens of people, including children. (Photo: AFP)

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem organized a Laughter Therapy workshop that will help Palestinian women in the Holy City cope with psychological pressures and heal their internal wounds.

“Laughter therapy” or “smile therapy” aims to make people laugh in group and one-on-one sessions and can help reduce stress as well as improve interpersonal skills.

Sixteen Palestinian women from East Jerusalem, the part of the Holy City where the Arab population is concentrated, attended the workshop organized by the social services department of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, according to the Vatican’s Fides report.

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The workshop, an initiative of parish priest Amjad Sabbara and entrusted to specialist Bianca Morcos Tourjman, has been an integral part of the support programs for women sponsored by the Latin Patriarchate since the start of the pandemic. The programs are carried out with the participation of Caritas Jerusalem and the Palestinian Ecumenical Center Al-Sabil.

The report says the initiative was aimed at alleviating the discomfort and psychological suffering of Palestinian women in Jerusalem, especially over the past year and a half, a period in which the chronic social problems and economic conditions in which are facing the Palestinian community in the holy city were made worse by social isolation, the collapse of work activities, fears and health problems related to the pandemic.

Many of the women who have joined the workshop survive on unemployment benefits that barely cover the cost of rent. Most of them, or their husbands, worked in hotels and restaurants that were left without customers following the pandemic that interrupted the flow of pilgrims and tourists from overseas.

Women in East Jerusalem are under great pressure and women are the foundation and pillar of every family

The Latin Patriarchate has inaugurated pandemic-time support projects to provide women and girls in East Jerusalem with vocational training activities and courses to provide basic skills for the development of future initiatives aimed at increasing the female entrepreneurship in the region.

“Women in East Jerusalem are under great pressure and women are the base and pillar of every family,” said Dima Khoury, director of the social services department of the Latin Patriarchate.

“Therapy can help them clear inner wounds by hiding them in their subconscious and release pressure and anger in healthy ways in order to maintain or restore their psychological balance.

According to a report by the Israeli National Insurance Institute in 2012, only 13% of Palestinian women in Jerusalem were in paid employment.

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