Since last Saturday, I have been experiencing a nagging sense of unease, a feeling that I’m not myself, that everything is different, everything has changed. I’ve read and seen things that have felt like being punched in the stomach. And the pain is not going away. I have come to realise that the horror that took place in Israel last Shabbat, while we were dancing and singing on Simchat Torah, is a traumatic experience that has seismic consequences.
The epi-centre of this profound trauma is with the people of Israel, with those mourning loved ones or fearing for the lives of those taken hostage, and those now living with the ongoing aftershocks. But as one of my US rabbinical colleagues observed, we are all Israel, and this trauma is also our trauma. How do we deal with this trauma? How do we deal with the fear that Hamas has scattered across the world when it calls for Muslim rage against Jews? How do we deal with the sickening feeling of fear in our stomachs about what will happen next, to the hostages, to the bereaved families, to the innocent oppressed people of Gaza?
Rabbi Jordie Gerson shared the following on the CCAR feed:
1. Update yourself sparingly and only when necessary. Obsessive updating on networks and news provides us with a sense of control, but it’s an illusion of control. As though if we are constantly updated, we do something about it. In fact, not only does it not do or help anyone, but the opposite. We weaken and tire ourselves and leave no strength for ourselves and our loved ones who need us now. The right thing is to update sparingly.
2. If we are not connected to the news 24/7, we may feel guilty.
Similar to ‘survivor’s guilt’ for losing loved ones/ facing the inferno and we are ‘privileged’: Therefore, we express support by connecting to the news. Again, in practice, we only weaken ourselves.
3. The videos and testimonies we are exposed to are more than our souls can contain.
It is important that we remember that our soul is precious and how important it is to protect it and not to destroy it with harrowing information assuming that it will be alright. It is suggested to treat our soul as an ‘external entity’ that we need to protect and take
care of. Just as we prefer to avoid eating extreme junk food and the like for our bodies, this is the junk food of the soul and we should pay attention to what we put into it and in what dosage.
4. Try to create a routine within this lack of routine.
Give ourselves small daily tasks. Not to be angry with ourselves and that it is difficult for us to function optimally at the moment.
5. Take breaks and do things that are distracting.
Play, listen to music, do some physical activity, watch a movie. Pray. This is how we actually ventilate the soul.
6. Be together.
To be and talk with people who do us good.
7. Think how I can help.
Even in the smallest thing. What do I have to give to others? The feeling that I helped someone is very important and helpful.
8. Avoid creating post-trauma – even exposure to difficult content such as a video or photo can cause post-trauma.
It is important to talk about everything. To share again and again what we saw and what we experienced. The very repetition and sharing helps to process.
9. Remember that everyone need others to be with them and have someone who can listen.
It’s not necessary to say ‘it will be fine’. Even if it’s not okay, what’s important to remember is that we will get through it, Israel will get through it… Be’ezrat Hashem.
(Source: Israeli public figure Lori Palatnik, with some minor adaptations)
Rabbi Brian Doyle-Du Breuil