Born in Perm, an industrial city with a small Jewish population in the former Soviet Union (FSU), Anna Roze immigrated to Israel when she was 16 and was joined in Israel by her family two years later. After completing a degree in social work, she joined NATAL: The Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War, where she is the first point of contact for Israelis who are suffering from the effects of trauma and decide to seek help.
In the course of her work, Anna noticed that Russian-speakers rarely called NATAL’s hotline even though the vast majority of the community has been in Israel long enough to experience war and terror and to have either served or had their children serve in the IDF. Anna points to a number of practical and cultural reasons for this, including the lack of “emotional language”.
“It doesn’t mean that the Russian language doesn’t have words for feelings -- it has -- but they are almost not used, and for these people, it’s very hard to identify feelings and to talk about them,” says Anna. Her job often leads her to work with veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War who are just now beginning to speak about their experiences and who have suffered, along with their families, for more than 30 years. As a professional and as an immigrant from the FSU, Anna wants to make sure that Russian speakers who are struggling don’t wait decades to ask for help. She began to think of ways to reach them.
That’s where SHATIL’s Online Media Training Seminar for young adults from the FSU came in. After seeing the course announcement Anna decided to sign up. In her course, new-media professionals and traditional journalists introduced the basics of blogging to the students. Anna also formed a supportive professional connection with her classmates, who came from a remarkably wide range of professional and personal backgrounds.
“I went through a very significant process in the course,” she says. “I discovered the connection between being a professional social worker and writing and having a public presence on the internet.”
The 2011 pilot project brought together 15 young adults from the FSU to influence the Russian language discourse in Israel. They learned and received hands-on experience in creating Russian and Hebrew-language blogs with the aim of supporting non-extremist and balanced voices promoting tolerance and coexistence.
Anna began by launching a blog and a Facebook page and has since published pieces about the challenges of living in Israel; how teachers can help Sderot schoolchildren who have grown up amidst rocket attacks from Gaza; the toll husbands’ annual reserve duty can have on Israeli women, and other topics.
As a result of their training, course participants created six new blogs and upgraded eight. The Russian language blogosphere, heretofore consisting primarily of personal posts about food and parties or political sites with a right-wing agenda, now boasts blogs on Jewish pluralism; environmental sustainability; young people’s rights including the struggle for decent housing; the rights of mixed families, and more.
Anna says she expects that her new skills will allow her not only to disseminate information, but to create a safe, anonymous space, where Russian Israelis will be able to begin to express their unique struggles in their own language and in so doing, begin to heal.
SHATIL is opening two additional trainings for would be bloggers from the FSU community in the center and north of the country in 2012.
You can take a peek at SHATIL’s many and varied trainings for 2011-12 on our new training site (in Hebrew).