I was born and raised in a German kibbutz in northern Israel. The kibbutz was established by Germans who came after WWII to try and do good in Israel after the evils of the Holocaust, however, they were also very religious and controlling. As my father was Jewish, when I finished high school I naturally wanted to serve in the army. They were opposed to the idea and kicked me out of the community.

I met my would-be-husband while in the army. We were both volunteering at a women’s shelter and were both believers. Because of my sheltered upbringing, I had little experience in the real world and he seemed to have everything I was looking for in a lifelong mate. So, within a year of meeting, we married.

My husband had told me that after his service in the Lebanese war he was diagnosed with PTSD, but I didn’t recognize at the time that this was only the tip of the iceberg. We had four kids together (ages 4-9) when his struggles began taking a serious toll on our marriage. His friends and family were always very forgiving of his behavior because of his PTSD, but this only enabled him. He became reckless with our funds, with drugs, alcohol and violence—and blamed it all on his PTSD.

I grew up conservative so to me there was no such thing as divorce—it was all about going to counseling and fighting for our marriage. I was ashamed to discuss the issue with my circle of friends. I was also scared to report the situation because he told me if I did, social services would see me as an accomplice to his violence against the children and would take the kids away from me.

One night I had a nightmare that still haunts me when I think of it. In it I was weeping over the graves of my children and calling out their names when I heard a voice in the dream say, “This is what will happen if you don’t separate yourself from this man.” Not long after that he got angry about something while we were at home and told me if I didn’t leave with the kids right then he would kill us all. I packed everything up in an hour and fled to my parents’ house.

His drug abuse only got worse; he followed us to my parents’ and threatened all of us.  I prayed for deliverance, and one day I received a letter. It informed us that my husband had two weeks to pay off his debts or he would no longer be allowed to leave the country (a common restriction placed on Israelis with outstanding bills). To this he responded that he wanted to go on a vacation and left the country. The good news was, I knew he would never come back to pay those bills and my kids and I would finally be safe. The bad news was that I was left with all his debts—hundreds of thousands of shekels! I pursued filing for bankruptcy, but when the judge heard my story he told the collection agencies to remove my name from the debts. It was a victory, a true miracle!

I had a massage therapy business that gave me flexible hours to work, provide for the children, and have enough left over to put myself and my children in therapy in order to work through our trauma. I tried several different types of therapy, but my kids continued to struggle and would regularly wake from nightmares at night.

When a friend of mine said, “Just put them on a horse and see how it helps,” I thought it was funny advice, but I was willing to try anything and was shocked at the positive influence that equine therapy had. My kids began sleeping through the night and I saw a real change so I tried the therapy myself and was in awe of the good it did. I knew there were others out there who could benefit from this and so began looking into becoming an equine therapist myself.

It was help from ISWI that made it possible for me to study and earn the credentials I needed to become an equine therapist. It’s a privilege to be able to earn a living doing something I Iove and believe in. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to own my own equine therapy ranch that will specialize in helping women who have come out of violent situations. In the meantime, however, I am just thankful I can take all the pain and suffering I have experienced and use it to help other people heal from their struggles.