The reservists who make it their mission to help mental recovery

Science and Health

Following the outbreak of war last year, hundreds of mental health officers were drafted to help treat the mental pain experienced by soldiers, but two decided there was a more practical way to help.

Meet Dush and Jonam, two medical clowns enlisted in the Home Front Rehabilitation Center, where soldiers in need of long-term mental health care are sent.

Dush, David Barashi, first collaborated with the IDF rehabilitation centers in 2016 when he helped to introduce rehabilitative clowning as part of the treatment for victims of the conflict.

Its success led to the founding of a new military position: the medical clown; currently, the unit is staffed by Dush and Jonam religiously.

A medical clown at Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital (credit: Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital)

The Little Chief of Staff and Major Takes-her-orders

“The clown has his own signs, universal qualities that must be consecrated,” describes Dush, or as he calls himself, “The Little Chief of Staff.” “For example, the big shoes symbolize the fact that he is always in a place that is several sizes bigger than him. It does create many obstacles, but he keeps moving forward and overcomes them in a funny and sometimes exciting way. Also, the clown has a flower, so he always has something to give to others.”

Jonam, who goes by “Major takes-her-orders,” provides her opinion explanation for other familiar elements: “The red nose allows people to open up to us. There is also the element of stripes – the clown always jumps between borders. He doesn’t see walls; he sees challenges, and this allows him to reach deep places in the human soul in a very short period of time.”

“Every time we talk to a soldier, or even to a sick child in the hospital,” Dush says, “we have to remember that there’s really nothing to smile about because right now everything is bad, but there are many reasons to smile back, and that’s our goal.” 

“I don’t look at the day after because there isn’t one for me – this is my new journey. This feeling I have when I’m here is priceless,” Dush said when asked about after the war.