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‘Hibuki’ therapy helps Israeli children cope with trauma

“Hibuki becomes a trusted companion that children can nurture as they progress on their path to recovery.”

The Hibuki doll has been used to treat more than 1,200 children in Israel since Oct. 7, according to one of its creators, Dr. Shai Hen-Gal. Photo: Amal and Beyond.
The Hibuki doll has been used to treat more than 1,200 children in Israel since Oct. 7, according to one of its creators, Dr. Shai Hen-Gal. Photo: Amal and Beyond.

Employees of Israel’s Telem Institute, a nationwide network of mental health clinics, have been traveling around the country to help children suffering from anxiety and trauma in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel.

The Telem volunteers are utilizing an Israeli invention—a therapeutic stuffed dog named Hibuki (“huggie” in Hebrew). 

Dr. Shai Hen-Gal, who invented the Hibuki doll in collaboration with the late professor Avi Sade during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, told JNS that Hibuki has been used to treat more than 1,200 children in Israel since Oct. 7.

Hen-Gal is chief psychologist at Amal and Beyond, a leading Israeli nursing home conglomerate and Telem’s parent company. 

Hen-Gal said that Hibuki was “scientifically proven to be the most effective treatment for children aged 7-13.” He explained that children are introduced to Hibuki by a skilled therapist who utilizes play, art, or conversation to assist them in expressing their experiences and initiating the healing process after trauma. 

“Hibuki becomes a trusted companion that children can nurture as they progress on their path to recovery,” he said. 

“When we arrived at one of the hotels [housing refugees and survivors from both southern and northern Israel], a 22-year-old woman who saw Hibuki burst into tears,” said Hen-Gal.

“She explained that she was treated using Hibuki in ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in Gaza in 2014, and still has her own Hibuki with her at home today,” he said.

Telem has 140,000 Hibuki dogs in stock for treatment in Israel, and an additional 10,000 are being manufactured.  

Hen-Gal and his Amal and Beyond team, along with partners abroad, have led interventions with 150,000 children, including those affected by the war in Ukraine, tsunamis in Japan and the recent earthquakes in northeast Turkey. After a scientific study showing Hibuki’s effectiveness was published, it received recognition in the most important newspaper in Iran, though with the country of origin (Israel) omitted.

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