We are all guilty of the same superficial reaction to terror attacks. We listen for the victim count. If no one died it was a light attack, if only a few people died, it was a moderate attack and if five or more people died, it was a serious attack. The number of wounded is rarely factored into the figuring of how serious the attack was. Measuring the significance of an attack just by the number of victims who were killed, or even wounded, leaves out the most crucial factor. It doesn’t consider the number of victims that suffer emotional trauma and mental health issues from the attack.
In an article titled, “Resilience and Vulnerability in Coping with Stress and Terrorism,” Dr. Zvi Zemishlany wrote, “Studies on the impact of war, political violence and terrorism around the world have revealed a range of detrimental mental consequences, including heightened anxiety, depression, reduced sense of safety, post-traumatic stress symptoms and increased use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and psychotropic medications.”
According to the studies cited by Dr. Zemishlany, the post-traumatic stress disorders that stem from terror attacks aren’t only manifested by the immediate victims of the attack, but even by the entire city that suffered the attack – the trauma is widespread. A report on the short-term emotional effects of one city in Israel two days after a homicide bomber’s attack showed a higher prevalence of stress and fear and a lower prevalence of joy in the city population in comparison to the rest of the country.
When media reports measure the effects of a terrorist attack by the number of people killed and wounded, they are giving a superficial report of the true effect of a terrorist attack. The attack’s consequences are greater than the number of victims who end up receiving treatment in the hospital or worse.
Recently, my daughter was a victim of a Palestinian terror attack at a bus stop at the entrance of Jerusalem. The media reported the attack as two people killed and twenty-two wounded.
My daughter was one of the twenty-two wounded. She was hit by a piece of shrapnel, likely a screw placed in the bomb to increase damage, and needed her wound treated at the hospital.
While we were waiting for doctors, my daughter told me that one of her friends that was with her in the attack had gone into complete shock. She wasn’t hit by any shrapnel or injured by the blast, but she couldn’t talk or catch her breath. She called her parents who told her to come home on the next train – a two-hour trip. I don’t know how she’s doing, but from the way my daughter explained her symptoms, she sounded much worse off than my daughter. Her friend wasn’t listed in the media reports as one of the wounded, but she should have been. I imagine there are hundreds just like her.
How does Israeli society, plagued by over 100 years of Arab terrorism function when so many Israelis have suffered from the trauma Dr. Zemishlany described in his report?
The answer is Israeli resilience or as Michael Dickson and Dr. Naomi Baum coined the phrase, “Isresilience.” In the afterword of their book, “Isresilience” which is about the unique Israeli character trait of resilience, authors Michael Dickson and Dr. Naomi Baum ask, “Is resilience a product of nature or nurture? Is an Israeli child born more resilient than, say, a Mexican, an American, or anyone else? Israelis come in every shape, size, and background but environment does matter. Israel has a paucity of oil and natural gas, a deficit of neighboring allies, and innumerable national challenges to face, but Israelis do seem to have an innate resilience that is actively honed by the society they grow up in.”
Zionism was a modern political movement built on three thousand years of ideology that forged an iron-clad connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Zionism was as much a struggle as a movement to bring the Jewish people back to their historic homeland. The Talmud taught that the return to Israel can only be achieved through pain and challenges. Its lesson has been proven time and time again. The Jewish people knew that their struggle to return to Eretz Yisrael would not be easy; but they also understood they possess the resilience to succeed.