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In the picture (left to right): Ziv Nevo Kulman (Consul General in Montreal), Prof. Limor Aharonson-Daniel, Rotem Segev (Vice Consul of the State of Israel in Montreal), Mark Mendelson (CEO of CABGU).   In the picture (left to right): Ziv Nevo Kulman (Consul General in Montreal), Prof. Limor Aharonson-Daniel, Rotem Segev (Vice Consul of the State of Israel in Montreal), Mark Mendelson (CEO of CABGU).

On April 23, 2017 CABGU Quebec was delighted to welcome Prof. Limor Aharonson-Daniel to share the history and growth of the PREPARED Center for Emergency Response Research at Ben-Gurion University.

CABGU Quebec Board member Gail Palevsky and her husband, Simon Mendelson, extended very warm hospitality to a group of BGU supporters.

CABGU Quebec President Larry Nachshen began the event by describing his visit to Beer-sheva in 2012 when rockets flew over the Beer-sheva region and he and everyone around him had to run for safety and seek shelter. This chilling experience led Larry to commit to supporting the PREPARED Center.

Rotem Segev, Vice Consul of the state of Israel in Montreal, recounted her experiences as a student at BGU, with special reference to the strong community spirit in Beer-sheva. Robert Elman, Chair of the Kindle Your Imagination Lecture Series, provided the formal introduction to Dr. LImor Aharonson-Daniel’s talk, noting how far the PREPARED Center has progressed in the few years since its founding in 2009.

In her opening words, Prof. Aharonson-Daniel noted that the gala event in Montreal in 2013 honouring Larry Nachshen, which raised funds for the Center, has made a very positive contribution to its success.

She explained that the concept of BGU being part of the community is central to everything the Center does - making a difference to the city, the community, the world and to the local political situation as well. The Center’s Master’s program is for mid-career people (doctors and nurses, business people, fire brigade workers, psychologists, etc.) who spend one day a week at BGU over a two-year period to study management of emergency situations. The course material comes not only from the staff but from the students. The diverse student body of 40 individuals consists of the above as well as representatives from Magen David Adom (Israel’s Red Cross), and all benefit from sharing their input and experience derived from real-life situations. Faculty has been recruited from all over the world.

Emergency response research is a relatively new academic field and has attracted a great deal of interest worldwide. BGU’s PREPARED Center has gained attention and respect - for example, in 2013 the World Health Organization commissioned the Center to create a publication summarizing its emergency planning.

The Center relies on a variety of financial grants in order to function, and since the delay in receiving a grant is generally two years after applying, CABGU’s support has been critical to keep the Center going.

Prof. Aharonson-Daniel described a very special case study: Paulina, a young immigrant from Chile, came to Israel at 19 with no Hebrew and felt unable to go to university. By chance the two women met, and Paulina described the challenges faced by her parents, both of whom are deaf. This meeting developed into a strong friendship - Paulina is now one of the PhD candidates at the Center.

During the crisis in 2012 when rockets were falling, Paulina realized that deaf people like her parents would not know when it was necessary to seek shelter. She began a qualitative study of deaf people in the region and found that they had not been consulted on many issues that they faced daily. Her study was used to approach the Ministry of Health in order to institute changes in communication. Since text messages that were sent to old-fashioned cell phones were too short to be useful, and since old phones needed frequent battery changes, now 96% of Israel’s hearing-impaired population uses smart phones. It was clear that an app was needed to help Emergency Medical Services communicate with this group, and so “Signs in Crisis” was developed, providing phrases in sign for EMS and doctors, including useful instructions and advice. This app was made possible by funding from CABGU Quebec.

Another aspect of the Center is its focus on Community Resilience. Eighteen top Israeli researchers - sociologists, psychologists, etc. - spent three years collecting data in order to produce a five-point guide to community resilience, including notes on leadership, physical preparedness, cohesiveness, connection to the community, and so on. This study has been applied to Israel’s border regions, Beer-sheva, and also to Turin and Milan’s Jewish communities. Increased terrorism in Europe has made this guide very relevant as a tool to help a community strengthen itself.

A project initiated by the Center in 2008 and funded in part by Montreal’s Eldee Foundation, trained Jordanian paramedic students, since Jordan had no paramedics at all. During the three-year course the Jordanian students studied at BGU and lived in the university dorms. Upon returning home after graduation they had difficulty finding work due to the fact that they had studied in Israel, so the program was not continued; instead, the graduates were expected to lead emergency training in Jordan on their own. The relationship between this group and the Center has been maintained. Recently a three-part venture has taken place between BGU, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to prepare for earthquakes - the fault line runs along the Jordan River. Each community has 90 volunteers in the venture and a final drill is being planned in the near future.

Next September the Center will launch an International Master’s program. Taught in English, it will attract Israelis, Jordanians, Palestinians and international students. The course will develop regional projects which are practical and applicable, and knowledge will be shared and disseminated. Though there is no funding yet for the PhD program, candidates from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are already in place. Funding will come from the European Union as well as from the center, and grants will be sought.

A new clinical project at the Center will explore the relationship between creativity/imagination and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study will focus on children and youth affected by long periods of exposure to threats, since it has already been shown that creative ability is negatively affected by crisis.

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