web analytics
August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

How The Media Can Help Heal Gilad Shalit


For five long years, a media campaign swirled around the abduction and internment of Gilad Shalit, gaining momentum with every passing day. Without a doubt, it was the media that helped keep his story alive and contributed significantly to his release, creating public pressure in favor of the historic (though unsettling) exchange of over one thousand convicted terrorists for Gilad’s freedom.

But now that he has been freed, will the media claim their “pound of flesh”?

Aside from the interview he was forced to give Egyptian television immediately following his release, Gilad has yet to speak publicly about his 1,941-day ordeal. His father, Noam, continues to serve as his mouthpiece, and his family and friends have formed a protective shield around him, disallowing any media contact. As they see it, the media can only harm Gilad at this point, slowing his recovery and reintegration into normal life and society.

But is that true?

The experiences of survivors of captivity, maltreatment and torture from many parts of the world teach us that the phase of re-entry into society plays a critical role in the quality of recovery. The societal attitudes and the degree of acceptance and assistance available to survivors as they return from an ordeal determines their success in psychologically reintegrating their traumatic experiences into a sense of themselves that feels continuous and consistent.

When survivors are met with a conspiracy of silence where society and even relatives are not able to listen to their experiences, as was true with many survivors of the Holocaust, the survivors do not speak of their trauma. And when war veterans and prisoners of war are met with negative attitudes toward the war in which they participated, as was the case with Vietnam veterans, they also refrain from sharing their experiences.

In such cases, where the trauma cannot be discussed and shared in an accepting and truly empathic context, survivors attempt to cope by hiding or denying their distress. Paradoxically, the more disassociated the traumatic experiences become, the more they interfere with daily life.

Newly acquired scientific insight into brain functions and structures have illuminated much about how trauma is registered, stored and remembered. Extremely traumatic events are initially stored in non-verbal images, sensations and feeling states. As such, they can continue to remain vivid and timeless, disturbing the survivor’s habituation and integration into normal life for years.

The presence of supportive, empathic listeners who are genuinely interested in hearing what the survivor has to say is critical to the healing process. Such listening must be truly motivated by sensitivity and deep care and attuned to the needs of the survivor. Listening that is motivated by other, voyeuristic or self-serving interests will lead to additional trauma.

From what they have stated, this is the concern shared by Gilad’s family and friends regarding his exposure to the media. There are no guarantees that the media will be the sensitive, empathetic listeners he requires, and it simply isn’t worth the irreparable damage to Gilad.

Furthermore, because Gilad was only a teenager when he was abducted, he has a lot to learn in order to catch up with his twenty-five year old self, a great deal to re-learn about normal life, and a tremendous amount to unlearn from his years in captivity. Most important, he has to regain a sense of ownership and control over his life, and the freedom to explore who he is.

Exposure to the media, even in the best of circumstances, is often accompanied (true or not) by a feeling that one’s words were twisted to mean something else and that the message intended was hijacked and misrepresented. While generally irritating for the masses, such experiences might be truly damaging for an individual attempting to achieve a personally meaningful integration of his own traumatic experience, and might constitute a repetition of loss of control over one’s words, self-definition and life.

It goes without saying that a relentless pursuit by the media would interfere with Gilad’s ability to explore and re-establish his personal life. Many bereaved individuals express feeling an added burden of having to live with the image that others project upon them as “the bereaved.” Having become recognizable to every Israeli, he will have a difficult enough task returning to normal life. Having the paparazzi chase him and “experts” volunteering their interpretations for every move he makes will only make the transition that much more difficult.

However, the media could play the hero if they so choose.

It has been shown that the method of giving testimony has particular value for survivors of captivity and torture. Even decades after their traumatic experiences, survivors of the Holocaust showed significant positive changes after giving testimony. While the processing of traumatic experiences in therapy and other private settings might confront the survivor with feelings of fear, loss of control, irreversible damage and shame, the process of testifying restores the right order of things, as it establishes who did what to whom, and places the moral burdens where they belong, with the aggressor.

Due to its public format, testimony creates a social and cultural context for the individual trauma and accelerates the healing process.

This might be a benign role the media can play, providing Gilad, at his own pace, with the opportunity to heal and add his personal story to Israeli society’s collective narrative about the painful cost paid by everyone’s children in war.

So now it’s up to the media – the very media that helped bring about Gilad’s release. Will they move in for the “scoop” – or do whatever they can to help free him from his painful past?

Irit Felsen, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and trauma specialist, and an adjunct professor at Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf School of Psychology.

About the Author: Irit Felsen, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and trauma specialist, and an adjunct professor at Yeshiva University's Ferkauf School of Psychology.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “How The Media Can Help Heal Gilad Shalit”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Swiss Amb. to Iran Giulo Haas presents his credentials to Iranian Pres. Rouhani
‘US and Iranian Cartoon Doves’ Shown Defecating on Bibi by Swiss Amb to Iran
Latest Indepth Stories
Ben Cohen

Corbyn leading the Britain’s Labour Party polls, describes Hamas & Hizbullah as England’s “friends.”

PA Chairman Abbas proudly celebrating with released terrorists.

The convicted murderer was released from Israeli prison with more than two dozen other sociopaths

New Israel Fund

JCF is a donor/supporter of The New Israel Fund which supports BDS & wants IDF soldiers prosecuted

Moshe Feiglin

The ‘Peace Industry’ promotes its adherents; weak leaders, both military & political, is the result

The conundrum for US Labor Zionists: Lobbying for Iran deal while Israel’s Left lobby’s against it.

What does the Torah want from our small nation described as “they who struggle with God & with men”?

Mr. Nadler’s support for the deal is a naked political gift to a president who has defied logic in his quest to reinvent international affairs according to his ideological inclinations.

In practical terms, the proclamation surely makes a compelling argument:

BDS activists are not shy about discriminating against Israelis simply because they are Israelis –

A Federal Ct Judge ordered the PA to post JUST $10 million due to interfering letter from State Dept

Osakwe, like many other students at the CAMERA conference, described an extremely hostile campus environment when it comes to the issue of Israel.

Many people view a letter or manuscript by a chassidic rebbe or the Chofetz Chaim as intrinsically holy.

Key Iran Lobby figures had been major donors to both Biden and Kerry when they were in the Senate,

Abbas’ resignation has now sparked speculation about who will fill his place if and ‎when he leaves

More Articles from Dr. Irit Felsen

For five long years, a media campaign swirled around the abduction and internment of Gilad Shalit, gaining momentum with every passing day. Without a doubt, it was the media that helped keep his story alive and contributed significantly to his release, creating public pressure in favor of the historic (though unsettling) exchange of over one thousand convicted terrorists for Gilad’s freedom.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/how-the-media-can-help-heal-gilad-shalit/2011/11/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: