While the rash of terror against Israel has often been in the news, with 1,334 people killed in Israel by Palestinian violence and terrorism since 2000, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, another aspect of terror is often hidden or forgotten: ongoing trauma.
When a terror attack is reported by the media, the story generally focuses on the number of casualties, while the psychological trauma to individuals and communities who experience terror goes undiscussed, according to David Rubin, a former mayor of the Samarian community Shiloh. Rubin was the target of a terrorist attack in December of 2001.
Rubin and his then three-year-old son were driving home to Shiloh from Jerusalem when a hail of terrorists’ bullets hit their car. Rubin was struck in the leg and his son was shot in the head, causing a skull fracture and internal bleeding in the cerebellum. The bullet had missed his son’s brain stem by one millimeter.
After the physical wounds healed, Rubin realized that his children were suffering from deep emotional wounds. This led Rubin to found the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund (SICF) to heal child victims of terror. Today, the program has a therapeutic-educational campus with a formal therapy center using art, music, movement, and bibliotherapy, a separate horse farm for therapeutic horseback riding, two regional schools, kindergartens, informal therapy stations, such as a music playground and studio, and a petting zoo for animal-assisted therapy.
More than 2,000 children are served on the campus, with many others served in surrounding communities and in other parts of Samaria. SICF is also building playgrounds within communities and the program offers support for youth and summer camps.
Terror, of course, is not the only cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop after any very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience, such as serious road accidents, violent personal assaults, mugging or robbery, but the children in Israel are confronted with the added challenge of terror and war.
How do you know if you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD?
Here are five ways to identify PTSD, based on reports by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom:
1. Re-experiencing. When a person involuntarily and vividly re-experiences the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares. Sometimes the person will experience physical symptoms, ranging from pain to trembling.
2. Avoidance. Sometimes referred to as emotional numbness, this is when a person avoids places, people and activities that remind him/her of the trauma. Sometimes, the individual may also give up pursuing activities they used to enjoy.
3. Increased arousal or hyper-arousal. When a person finds it difficult to relax and instead is jumpy, irritable and angry. The person may also have trouble sleeping or concentrating.
4. Self-harm. When an individual misuses drugs or alcohol or causes other forms of self-inflicted pain after a trauma.
5. Physical illness. When a person is plagued by headaches, dizziness, chest pains or stomachaches.
The ADAA explains that while most people who develop PTSD experience symptoms for at least one month, sometimes it takes several months or even years for PTSD to appear.
Rubin said children are just as likely as adults to experience PTSD, but while the symptoms are quite similar, the challenge is greater.
“Children, despite their seeming openness, when confronted with trauma, they bury it inside, and if not treated, it comes out in all the wrong ways – sleepless nights, sudden bursts of anger and panic attacks,” Rubin explained to Breaking Israel News, noting that bedwetting can also be an issue.
Rubin’s 23-year-old daughter, Avital, who was in third grade at the time of the attack and was only much later treated for trauma, said the effects of trauma are long-lasting.
“Trauma affects you and is expressed also years later,” Avital Rubin said. “It is not a battle that is over. We must contend with it all the time. My thoughts and fears didn’t disappear, they just matured together with me, and are a part of who I am.”
SICF is currently running a fundraising campaign to heal the terrorized souls of thousands of children with its innovative therapies. Every donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar