We were privileged to welcome Associate Professor Yoram Barak to our College on Friday 28 July 2017.
Yoram was born in Israel, studied psychiatry, and specialised in working with the elderly. This work led to him spending 25 years with Holocaust survivors and dealing with their psychological trauma. He is now living in Dunedin, and works in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago. Our year 13 history class, and several teachers, were lucky enough to learn from his experiences.
It was fascinating for us to have a psychiatric insight into the consequences of the Holocaust, rather than a historical one. We discussed how World War II changed the treatment of those suffering from psychological trauma and was responsible for the adoption of group therapy and other methods of treatment. He explained that 'testimony psychotherapy,' where survivors have their full testimonies heard, recorded, and archived, has been particularly healing.
We learnt about the how Israel dealt with Holocaust survivors and how this changed over time, and the role of the Holocaust in Israeli identity and society today. You may find it interesting, as we did, to learn that it is still illegal to play Wagner's music, a German composer, in Israel today. Yoram discussed his personal views on Israel today, the failure of the peace process, and his hopes for peace in the future.
50 minutes was not enough time to ask all the questions we had and this was an incredibly valuable visit.