Israel's 'Post' Traumatic Stress

 THE BLOGS @The Times of Israel  Published August 8, 2018   I recently returned from a fund raiser in north Alabama led by two great friends, a pastor and his wife. Their efforts resulted in the purchase of a bomb shelter for the Gaza Envelope. Israel’s Operation Lifeshield Executive Director Shmuel Bowman spoke at three events there in one day. 
     The week before, another friend in South Carolina wrote one check to buy a Fire Trailer. I personally know of several other fundraising efforts at this moment along with numerous Christian organizations like International Christian Embassy Jerusalem which provide multiple bomb shelters. Why mention this? I want to remind our Israeli friends that the pro-Israel Christian community not only prays for you. We take action.
     We are acutely aware that Israelis cope with “post” -traumatic stress every day. In this category, Israel is a stand- alone nation except for those like Syrian civilians and persecuted Christians scattered throughout the world. Is a new moniker needed to describe Israel’s specific trauma? Perpetual Traumatic Stress Disorder? Non-stop Traumatic Stress Disorder? Permanent Traumatic Stress Disorder?   While trauma has lodged itself in a centuries-long narrative for the Jewish people, the narrative took on new dimensions since 1948 when Israel officially declared itself a modern Jewish state. 
     A succession of wars has extracted a toll on Israelis. Citizens on Memorial Day this year paused to remember the sacrifices of 23,645 Israelis. Considering that Israel’s Jewish population just now hovers between 5.7-6.8 million, 23,645 Israelis is an agonizing percentage of national loss. I’ve often heard Israeli friends say that everyone knows someone who has died defending the nation or in terrorist murders. Perpetual stress.   
     In recent years, the build-up of massive weaponry from Iran and its surrogates in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza has added another layer of traumatic stress. And since late March, the simple yet destructive fire kites and balloons aimed at civilians living in southern Israel join the rockets and tunnels weaving more webs of trauma around parents, children, and the military alike. Ashes replace vegetables, charred land replaces green leaves, and the color black replaces sunny soils.  
     On many trips to Israel, I’ve often visited southern Israel and talked with kibbutz residents who live next door to Gaza. Their stories are heartbreaking; among them much-delayed  for potty training for children, never knowing when to take a shower since the Red Alert may go off or trying to figure out which young child to grab first to make a run for the safe room or a bus stop bomb shelter. Non-Stop Stress.     
     Many therapeutic solutions have taken hold to heal broken bodies and spirits since by necessity, Israel is a world leader in traumatic stress solutions. Yet, how does an entire nation or a region like southern Israel heal?  
     A combination of characteristics prevalent in the Jewish people helps until this very day. I in no way am minimizing traumas yet Israel’s culture of life, tenacity, and the ability to rise above the worst hatreds and evils demonstrates strength in the middle of sorrow. Israel’s example during tragedy is a valuable lesson for all of us. You choose to live not as victims but as victors. I am inspired.   
    In closing, what I’m about to say will not erase the wrongdoings and prolonged traumas. But I pray that the unconditional love and active support of Christian Zionists like me from all corners of the world will remind you that you have friends. Not to boast, but only to encourage you, we buy portable bomb shelters, fire trailers, interact with the US Congress on Israel’s behalf, provide blankets for Holocaust survivors, support the IDF, give toys to children in underground play places, organize hundreds of tours for millions of Christians, and finance Aliyah for Jewish people to return to their ancestral homeland. 
     Why, you may ask? Judaism is the bedrock of our Christian faith. And our Christian faith is the bedrock of our lives. Our gratitude motivates us. I pray that one day the biggest stresses Israeli Jews face will be which child to hug first, what date is the next bar mitzvah, what college to attend, and which restaurant serves the best food.
Arlene Bridges Samuels has held pioneering professional positions with Israel Always, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA. With many trips to Israel, she is an networker, consultant, and free lance writer. Her expertise includes writing and speaking about Israel, the JCPOA, Jewish and Christian relationships, and the Arab Israeli conflict.

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