JERUSALEM – On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, the Social Services Department of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in cooperation with Fr. Amjad Sabbara, parish priest of Jerusalem, organized a Laughter Therapy workshop for 16 Palestinian women from East Jerusalem, in the Latin parish of Jerusalem.
Mrs. Bianca Morcos Tourjman, trainer of Laughter Therapy, gave the workshop which was the first “physical” workshop within the Women’s Empowerment Program since the outbreak of COVID-19. Mrs. Mervat Naber, Head of social department at Caritas and Mrs. Sawsan Bitar, Local Program Coordinator at Sabeel Center, were also present.
“The idea of presenting a laughter therapy workshop emerged, in order to help women get rid of negative energies and charge them with positive ones through several activities,” said Mrs. Bitar.
This target group of women suffers from very difficult economic conditions, with many of them living on unemployment benefits which hardly cover living costs of renting houses, especially in some areas where house rent prices are high, such as Beit Hanina and Shufat. Since the beginning of 2020, the situation worsened, especially since the majority of these women, or their husbands, had been working in hotels and restaurants that depend mainly on tourism, which is the sector most affected after the outbreak of the pandemic.
The workshop comes within the Women’s Empowerment Project which has been seeking, since 2020, to empower women from East Jerusalem economically, socially and psychologically, especially following the outbreak of virus, by providing various training activities and manuals aiming at training the women in life and vocational skills, as well as skills needed to start their own business.
According to a report issued by the Israeli National Insurance Institute for the year 2012, 79% of Jerusalemites live below the poverty line, and only 13% of Palestinian women in East Jerusalem participate in the labor market.
“Women in East Jerusalem suffer from severe pressure, and thus this project aims not only to empower women on the economic level, but also on the personal and psychological levels, through several workshops that will be offered in the coming period, including life skills, laughter therapy, first aid, positive thinking, and self-empowerment workshops,” said Mrs. Dima Khoury, Director of the Social Services Department.
“These workshops seek to raise women’s self-confidence. Women are the foundation and pillar of every household. This is why we help women to vent the pressures and anger in a healthy way, so that women are able to give. We do not teach women what to do, but rather provide them with ideas and the right environment to help them see life from a different and more positive perspective through various activities,” Mrs. Khoury added.
At the end of the workshop, the women expressed their gratitude and joy especially as it brought out some repressed wounds, and helped them get closer to each other through these shared wounds. The workshop concluded with assurances and mutual promises of strict confidentiality among participants about what was discussed during the workshop.