Passover is a time for families, food and get-togethers. For many Israelis, though, it is also a time of loneliness.
Dr. Shiri Daniels is the national director of a free emotional support helpline in Israel called ERAN. She said that the holidays can be tough for many.
“Seder night and the days of Passover put us before a mirror, which reflects our family and social relations. It is not always pleasant to look from up close,” Dr. Daniels explained. “People who feel severe loneliness around the holiday may be overwhelmed by stress over their situation.”
In the days before Pesach, ERAN beefs up its volunteer force to meet the flood of calls that come in before and during the holiday, operating around the clock to be available when people need help with a range of concerns from anxiety and stress to threats of violence against children and the elderly.
This year they expect to see a 20 percent increase in calls from approximately 4,000 persons who reach out via phone or the website to the support team.
While many of callers lack family support or may be spending the holidays alone, loneliness does not always mean being physically alone.
Many of the callers are surrounded by family but either cannot connect or find the memories too difficult.
“Loneliness does not depend on number of interpersonal contacts but their quality,” Dr. Daniels said. “Sometimes there is anger and painful memories that make it difficult for us to enjoy the holiday.”
No matter what the reason for feeling down, the ERAN team said that rather facing the tough times by yourself, it is important to reach out.
“Loneliness, despair, guilt, anger, embarrassment, fear, love, suicidal thoughts…..whom amongst us has not experienced at least one of these emotions in our lives,” the team says on its website, encouraging people feeling sadness this holiday to reach out to “someone who will listen.”