By David Zev Harris

“Your English is stronger than mine, can you come and help with this American family?” a social worker at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem asks on a phone call.

Senior social worker Anat Hercz answers in the affirmative and helps the father of a soldier shot through the jaw to process seeing his son post-surgery with a tube in his throat assisting his breathing.

“We’re dealing with so many new situations,” says Hercz, “like the families showing up at Hadassah Ein Kerem looking for their missing loved ones. It’s their last hope, and in many cases, they are going to get the answer they are not willing to hear.”

There are some 60 social workers spread across both campuses of the Hadassah Medical Organization. Some of their regular work was put aside as they dealt with the dozens of wounded brought to Jerusalem from southern Israel following the Hamas invasion.

Hercz arrived at Hadassah Ein Kerem at 10:40 on Saturday morning, just as the first wounded were being brought from the helicopter pad into the trauma unit and operating rooms. She left 24 hours later for a few hours of rest.

“My 12-year-old daughter is sleeping elsewhere now. She’s used to my way of life.”

But even for someone with Hercz’s experience, this reality is like nothing before. And for many of the younger social workers, this is the first time they are dealing with such a situation. That means Hercz and the more senior staff are involved in intense training in addition to the extra duties they have already taken on at this difficult time.

The work starts with identifying patients as they are brought into the hospital.

“Every patient is treated as ‘identity unknown’ until we are 100 percent sure of who they are,” she says. “The last thing we need in this situation is a case of mistaken identity.”

If the patient is able to talk, they are asked to make the call to their family, so relatives can hear their voice and know they are relatively okay.

Families arriving at the hospital are funneled into a private space where they meet social workers before being taken to the ER or other departments.

The social workers, along with trained Israel Defense Forces members, work with the wounded on acute stress reaction (ASR), a technique aimed at minimizing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) down the road.

In the departments, they will often speak to the head of a family group visiting a patient and ask them to request that the group leave the room so they can speak calmly, quietly and at length with patients.

“We are just at the start of the work during this war,” says Hercz. “Tragically, I’m of the opinion that we’ll have much more to do in the coming days, but that’s why we’re here.”