Healing by Horseback


Shilo Equine Therapy Center ICEJ Aid News and Reports 2023 Statue of Beersheva light horse

“For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 30:17

A thriving community stands next to one of the most significant biblical sites in Israel. Shilo is where the Tabernacle in the Wilderness stood for over 300 years following the entry into the Promised Land and where today visitors are offered a glimpse into that ancient period at the Visitors Centre.

Shilo Equine Therapy Center ICEJ Aid News and Reports 2023 synagogue patterned after tabernacle
Shilo’s synagogue is patterned after the Tabernacle.

Sadly, like others who live in the area of Samaria, residents of modern Shilo have suffered from terror attacks. A father and his three year old son were seriously injured in a shooting attack on their car. The wounds healed but the trauma for the little boy remained. The father realised that his son, and other children affected by terror attacks needed help. Along with others in the community he developed a Therapy Centre. Today it offers a wonderful range of therapy from art to animals including Therapeutic Horseback Riding. The Centre is a place of healing for traumatized children and teenagers. David Rubin, founder and director of the Centre explains, “The immediate reaction to a traumatic experience is different for every child. Treating trauma in children is very different than treating adults. Adults can go through a trauma and speak to a therapist, to talk it out. Children aren’t like that in most cases. Children kind of bury it inside.”

The therapy centre at Shilo.

This was the case with Liora, A twelve-year-old girl, whose brother was murdered in an attack in a community. She was brought to the Centre every week for therapeutic riding for a period of two years. She didn’t miss once, which clearly showed the importance and meaning of the place for her. She made great progress in riding and built a special bond with the horse, which boosted her confidence and feeling of safety. Her relationship with the guide was very significant. The conversation and the sharing of feelings about what she felt after the particularly brutal attack enabled the guide to help her to cope with those feelings, which led to more mature reflections and, ultimately, personal empowerment in her day-to-day life. At the end of the two years, she came out more independent, more mature, and with better communication skills to cope later with ongoing challenges.

The horse riding has certainly proved an invaluable tool but the hot summer sun limits the time they can spend on this important therapy. Recently, ICEJ Aid was approached for help in providing shade over the yard for horse and rider.

The Australian Branch would like to answer this call! Australians have a special connection with Israel through horses and their riders! And ICEJ has received a call for assistance in a very special and necessary project in modern Shilo that is to do with horses and riders.

We would be helping a child like Moshe, a seven-year-old boy, who was traumatized by the terrorist attack that killed his brother, just one year younger than him. The two of them had been very close, and not just in age.

Shilo Equine Therapy Center ICEJ Aid News and Reports 2023 children with therapy horse
A therapy horse and his young riders at Shilo

His parents brought him to our horse farm with the goal of helping him overcome many fears that had escalated into great anxieties and insecurities. His voice was barely audible, and there was regression in various basic functions.

The first time he came with great trepidation, afraid to mount the horse, afraid of falling. After several attempts, encouraged and accompanied by the guide, he got on the horse. He sat and firmly gripped the reins, but asked to come down.

After a few sessions, with gentle guidance, he started to build confidence, slowly trying to direct and spur the horse. Over time, he loosened up, becoming calmer and happier on the horse, and this gradually carried over into his behaviour with friends and classmates. He reached a state where he could discuss his emotional pain with the guide. He understands and accepts the pain better than before and has developed a willingness to move forward in life and to be less afraid of new challenges

Like the horses of the ANZACS that liberated Beersheba, we can help bring freedom to traumatised hearts and minds through the gentle and understanding horses of the Shilo riding therapy program.

Can we give in the sacrificial spirit of the ANZACs to bless the children of Israel’s Biblical Heartland? Any donation, no matter how small, will help us provide the ‘Australian Riding Therapy Shelter’. Click here to donate, select ‘ICEJ Aid.’

Photos courtesy of ICEJ & Shilo Israel, Therapeutic Horseback Riding Centre.

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