Shattered Yet Resilient: Israel’s Ongoing Trauma

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Psychological traumas remain ever-present among Israel’s 7.4 million-plus Jewish population. That’s why, month after month, mental health professionals in Israel are busy developing new research and programs to meet the needs of the small, traumatized nation.

After October 7, 2023, Israel’s citizens experienced a new kind of trauma when Hamas broke through Israel’s complex border security systems, murdered 1,200 Israelis, and kidnapped around 250 hostages. It was a day when Israelis suffered the most egregious losses in one 24-hour period since the Holocaust, this time on their own soil.

Based on ancient Jewish history in the hymnbook of Israel, King David describes his own mental health in Psalm 120:6-7: “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” In Psalm 31:9-24 David asks God for mercy, saying in verses 10 and 13, “I am consumed by anguish. … I hear many whispering ‘terror on every side.’” And herein some of David’s long-ago assessments of his life could easily apply to Israelis living next to Hamas and Hezbollah—who “hate peace.”

During an enlightening panel at Israel’s Ono Academic College, PhD psychologist and author Pamela Paresky described the October 7 trauma as “unique” and wondered if another term might be more fitting than “trauma.” For example, “shattering” conveys a stronger meaning than the word “trauma,” she stated. Paresky observed that Israelis are also not allowing terrorists to rob them of their joy, but instead are filled with “a firm determination to cherish life and live life to its fullest.” Adding that “Jews are strongest” after their enemies try to break them, she addressed the lack of critical thinking among those currently protesting Israel’s response to Hamas—especially on university campuses where they rely on “logical inversions” that create oppressors and victims, naming Jews as the oppressors.

As an aside to Israel’s increasing mental health initiatives, I discovered a phrase coined by the late actor Mark Venturini. While it had nothing to do with anti-Semitism, it is descriptive of worldwide Jew hatred: “The eyes are useless when the mind is blind.” Despite terrorists’ body cams recording hours of horrors—and 4,000 journalists viewing these—millions of minds are blind despite the evidence so many have witnessed with their own eyes. Clearly, mainstream media has aided and abetted the whipped-up emotional responses by locking into, for example, the Hamas Health Ministry’s inflated statistics about Palestinian deaths and instantly accusing Israel of inhumane acts rather than Hamas, a world-designated terror organization backed by the Islamic regime.   

Despite those lies and accusations, the classic Israeli response to tragedy and crisis—and their persistent search for solutions—often results in creative new ways not only to address the Jewish nation’s unique challenges but also in discoveries that bless the world. One solution undertaken by Hebrew University is its Institute for Traumatic Stress and Recovery. Their pioneering research to address trauma among Israeli children held hostage in Gaza could someday benefit children around the world—children who have been scarred by traumatic events of violence or natural disasters.

Professor Asher Ben-Arieh, one of Israel’s highly regarded experts in childhood trauma, remarked about the hostage children, “These experiences are beyond anything we have seen.” Part of the National Task Force to care for children who were abducted, Ben-Arieh mentions that the Hebrew University program urgently needs complete funding “for a stable center to think out of the box,” he said. “And we need it urgently. We’re not even post trauma. We are not past this. It’s still happening!”

It is disturbing to read the National Task Force’s descriptions of six groups of vulnerable children: child hostages; those who witnessed severe violence and murders; newly orphaned children; children who lost a parent, sibling, or other relatives; children whose friends or peers were killed or kidnapped; and children displaced from their homes. (About 200,000 Israelis and many thousands of children are internal refugees displaced for security reasons due to Hamas and Hezbollah’s aggression.)

Ben-Arieh noted than many parents on October 7 could not save their children. He pointed out, “We have new forms of trauma that we don’t understand.” Updated training for mental health professionals is also part of Israel’s efforts to provide help and comfort. Amid reports that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are in acute psychological distress, an outpouring of those in counseling-related professions have volunteered to become involved. Metiv-Israel Psychotrauma Center in Jerusalem calls such training “mental health first-aid,” where PTSD specialists are instructing other psychologists who want to help but don’t know how. An accredited course is now in place to train psychologists who hold at least a master’s degree.

After reading about Israel’s traumas, if you are compelled to act, The Israel Forever Foundation offers letter writing, a small action that carries big results of encouragement. To participate in their Letters of Friendship program, click here. Choose whom to write to—a lone soldier, a terror victim, Holocaust survivor, or someone with special needs. Simply submit on their website—and your solidarity blessing is on its way.

We welcome you this week to join with our CBN Israel team to pray with King David these closing verses from Psalm 31:14-16. “But as for me, I trust in You, LORD, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me for Your mercies’ sake.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for Israel’s efforts to help those suffering from trauma and PTSD.
  • Pray for the release of all remaining hostages in Gaza and comfort for their families.
  • Pray for the safety and success of IDF soldiers as they defend their nation and people.
  • Pray for the IDF to be vigilant and cautious in detecting Hamas-planted IEDs.
  • Pray for the thousands of wounded soldiers and their families.
  • Pray for families who are grieving the deaths of their soldiers, now numbering 319.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. By invitation, Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summits. She also hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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