Addressing the Challenges in Gaza

The Palestinian territory of Gaza is a 25-mile long sliver of land between Israel and Egypt isolated from the outside world by both countries, and regularly referred to by its own inhabitants as “the world’s largest open-air prison.” One of the most densely populated places on our planet, Gaza has, over the last 16 years, experienced violent political and clan schisms, as well as unpredictable land, air, and sea attacks that have claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and destroyed both infrastructure and residential housing. Even before the current devastating bombardment and invasion by Israel in retaliation for Hamas’s October 7th attack, the entire population of 2.2 million has been afflicted by high rates of unemployment and poverty, by limited and unreliable access to basic needs, including water, sanitation, power, food and adequate health care.

Program Update

The death and damage in Gaza from Israel’s retaliation for Hamas’s October 7th attack have been immense. As of February 2024, over 30,000 Gazans have been killed, a significant majority of whom are children and women, and more than 50,000 have been injured. Well over 50% of the buildings in the north of Gaza have been completely destroyed, and over 90% of the population has been forced to leave their homes. Infrastructure, which was already inadequate and unreliable, has been utterly crushed, with the majority of hospitals currently non-functioning, power rarely available, and many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of schools and mosques destroyed. Much of the population has no access to potable water, sufficient nutrition, or adequate shelter. Public health officials are warning of lethal epidemics of viral and bacterial disease.

The entire population is suffering from profound psychological trauma. Children are asking questions that should never be coming to their minds— “Am I alive only to be killed?” and “When will it be my turn to die?”—and many adults are immobilized by despair.

Our Gaza Faculty has, along with the rest of the population, suffered greatly. Two of our Faculty—Shaher Yaghi, 59, and his daughter, Sumaia—were killed along with 20 members of their family when a bomb destroyed their home in Jabalia. Shaher, who had been a member of our Faculty for 17 years, was an enormously gifted clinician and a compassionate person who had worked coordinating the UN’s program for special needs children.  Sumaia was a gifted and promising young psychologist who joined her father as a member of our Faculty 5 years ago. In addition, two sisters of our Country Director, Jamil Abdel Atti, have been killed, as have family members of many of our other Faculty.

Though all of our Faculty have suffered greatly—with the vast majority forced to leave their homes—they have, at great personal risk, been bringing our program of emergency trauma healing and resilience building to UN shelters, and to schools and hospitals, as well as to people who are living amidst the rubble on the streets of central and southern Gaza. To date, they have shared mind-body skills, via workshops, Mind-Body Skills Groups, individual counseling, and recreational groups with over 16,000 children and adults, in-person and virtually. They are providing trauma healing as well to the first responders from the Palestinian Red Crescent, who are transporting the wounded to hospitals and recovering the bodies of the dead.

The CMBM-Gaza Faculty hopes, in the weeks and months ahead, that with sufficient financial support, they will be able to significantly expand their program to meet the needs of tens of thousands of deeply traumatized, internally displaced people, and to bring it to all 6,000 of Gaza’s first responders.

CMBM x Islamic Relief USA | Gaza Testimonial 1

CMBM x Islamic Relief USA | Gaza Testimonial 2

CMBM x Islamic Relief USA | Gaza Testimonial 3

Our Work

CMBM’s program in Gaza is one of the world’s largest, most effective and most culturally acceptable programs of trauma healing. Since 2005, CMBM has trained 1,500 Palestinian clinicians, educators, key figures in women’s groups, and other community leaders in its model of psychological self-care and group support. These trainees have in turn brought the CMBM approach to more than 280,000 children and adults.

Some 60,000 have participated in 10 sessions of Mind-Body Skills Groups, which have repeatedly demonstrated, in studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, that they can reduce by 80% or more the numbers of children, adolescents, and adults who qualify for the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

CMBM works closely with the Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Welfare; The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA); and 200 international and local NGOs.

Each week, before the current war between Hamas and Israel, many thousands of men, women, and children gathered to practice CMBM’s mind-body skills to regain a sense of calm and control in the midst of many challenges.

CMBM-Gaza Faculty on a retreat in 2022.


  • 280,000+ children and adults served
  • 1,500 clinicians, educators, and leaders of women’s groups trained in the CMBM model
  • 25 gifted and committed local faculty members, led by Country Director Jamil Abdel Atti, PhD, MA
  • As many as hundreds of Mind-Body Skills Groups meeting each week
  • Immediate emergency response during conflicts
  • Cooperation with the Ministry of Education as CMBM begins to completely integrate its model and mind-body skills into all of Gaza’s public schools
  • Service to 39,000 children and their parents living in UN shelters during the 2014 war
  • Emergency services for orphans of war, those who have lost family members, and those rendered homeless by conflict and disruption
  • CMBM model used by all of Gaza’s major programs which address gender-based violence
  • Special programs for disabled children and adults, those with cancer and other chronic illnesses, and first responders

Our Research

Staples, J. K., Abdel Atti, J. A., & Gordon, J. S. (2011, June 27). Mind-Body Skills Groups for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression Symptoms in Palestinian Children and Adolescents in Gaza. International Journal of Stress Management. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024015

Gordon, J. S., Staples, J. K., He, D. Y., & Atti, J. A. A. (2016). Mind–body skills groups for posttraumatic stress disorder in Palestinian adults in Gaza. Traumatology, 22(3), 155–164.

Our Model in Action

CMBM-Gaza Faculty prepare for workshops in shelters, December 2023.
CMBM-Gaza Faculty in the south of Gaza lead an expressive meditation with children to relieve stress, December 2023.
CMBM-Gaza Faculty lead a workshop with war traumatized children in a school serving as a shelter in the south of Gaza, December 2023.
CMBM-Gaza Country Director Jamil Abdel Atti, PhD, stands in front of collapsed buildings in the south of Gaza, alongside another resident, December 2023.

The Lesson of War,” CBS 60 Minutes (5/3/2015)

Mind-Body Skills in Use at the Hetten School in Gaza

Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund & CMBM Childrens’ Summer Camp in Gaza

Community-Wide Healing

Finding Hope in the Face of Another: Trauma Relief in Gaza

Healing and Hope 3 Project

CMBM Gaza in the Press

The Jerusalem Post

Stressed Gazans Turn to Meditation After War

“‘We are teaching very simple tools of self-care,’ said Dr. James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist who runs The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., and offers a parallel trauma program in Israel.” Read more.

The New York Times

Finding a Steadier Path in Gaza

“‘We try to look to the light, to the hope,’ said Jamil Abdel Atti, who heads [The Center for Mind-Body Medicine] in Gaza. ‘We say, ‘Take off those dark glasses.’” Read more.

Funding partners

Thank you to our funding partners for their generous support:

  • Atlantic Philanthropies
  • Irene Meister-Armington Trust
  • O.L. Pathy Foundation
  • Sam Ben-Avraham