Overwhelming Trauma from Israeli Conflict

The post discusses the despair and trauma caused by the recent violence in Israel and Gaza, urging individuals to advocate for peace and justice.
Palestinians evacuate an area in Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike as Israel continued to battle Hamas fighters after Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel. Courtesy LA Times, (Mahmud Hams / AFP/ Getty Images)

Like most Americans, I’ve been watching the many news reports about what has been happening in Israel and within the Gaza Strip. The stories are horrifying to watch. Families who were rising in the morning to begin their day were brutally murdered in their homes or taken captive. The individuals at a music festival were mass murdered or kidnapped leaving families devastated at the losses. The elderly and children were taken away and seemingly will be used as human shields to prevent or limit retribution.

The impact of the Hamas attack is causing global reactions. We have known for decades that the middle east conflicts have been constant. It seems it’s become a ticking time bomb that has exploded into a violent and terroristic upheaval of tragedy. In its wake, lives and families have been destroyed with no real strategies for a way out. We are praying for an end to the violence and peace to be restored, but cannot envision how such a goal is possible.

One manifestation of trauma is the sense of hopelessness with little power to change the outcomes. It’s that trapped sense that we are in a trauma vortex, with little hope for change and a great deal of angst about the future. I don’t think any of us, no matter how removed we are from these events, can feel like we live in a world that’s safe. Similar to the 9/11 tragedy, it leaves our entire planet feeling vulnerable and fearful about what can happen to any country or community.

There are a variety of stress responses anyone could feel. We can deny, have anxiety, worry, be angry, sympathize, judge, grieve, or be triggered in several ways. It’s important to note it’s hard not to have some kind of strong response as we witness such incredible injustice.

As we watch our world respond and witness all of the activities that will ensue, we need to be aware we are witnessing overwhelming trauma. It’s embedded in our mental models that there needs to be some kind of response and yet for many of us there is a sense of helplessness in how we can have impact to such a massive tragedy. There are certainly avenues available to provide relief and help to the victims in practical ways. We also can pray for these families as we empathize with their sense of loss.

For each of us, it’s useful to have discussions about how we are reacting with trusted friends and family. As we consider this injustice we all need to support each other, stand for justice, encourage our leaders, be patient, and work for peaceful change in our own families and communities. As we are reminded of the potential of such devastation to families, we need to be vigilant to be fervent advocates for peace, unity, and repudiate the violence and divisiveness that can lead to this outbreak of cruelty. We can look at our own country and community, strive to prevent injustice, and provide care for one another even in how we handle controversial differences. It will be essential to our own survival to be proactive to prevent overwhelming trauma like we have seen in Israel and other parts of the world.

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