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.