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Israeli existential anxiety: cultural trauma and the constitution of national character



The present paper extends recent studies of national character - suggesting that the Israeli case revolves around a set of deep cultural codes which constitute various empirical manifestations. Broadening on this re-emerging paradigm, the study provides a specific case study of a major trait of Israeli national character, namely existential anxiety and fear of annihilation. It does so while advancing the idea that cultural trauma sets a context for Israeli national character. The analysis shows that Israelis constantly reference persistent and endemic existential fears of annihilation. They do so while tying together four levels: the mythological predicament, historical evidence, contemporary threats and future risks.
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Social Identities: Journal for the Study
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Israeli existential anxiety: cultural
trauma and the constitution of national
Gad Yaira
a Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Published online: 30 Jan 2015.
To cite this article: Gad Yair (2015): Israeli existential anxiety: cultural trauma and the
constitution of national character, Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and
Culture, DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2014.1002390
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Israeli existential anxiety: cultural trauma and the constitution
of national character
Gad Yair*
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
(Received 25 September 2012; accepted 21 December 2014)
The present paper extends recent studies of national character suggesting that the
Israeli case revolves around a set of deep cultural codes which constitute various
empirical manifestations. Broadening on this re-emerging paradigm, the study provides
a specific case study of a major trait of Israeli national character, namely existential
anxiety and fear of annihilation. It does so while advancing the idea that cultural
trauma sets a context for Israeli national character. The analysis shows that Israelis
constantly reference persistent and endemic existential fears of annihilation. They do
so while tying together four levels: the mythological predicament, historical evidence,
contemporary threats and future risks.
Keywords: cultural trauma; national identity; Israel; national habitus; memory
I will not allow Israelis live under the shadow of annihilation, declared Prime Minister
Netanyahu at an AIPAC meeting on March 2012; in his address to the UN General
Assembly later that year, held on a sacred Jewish holiday, he added that Every year, for
over three millennia, we have come together on this day of reflection and atonement. We
take stock of our past. We pray for our future. We remember the sorrows of our
persecution; we remember the great travails of our dispersion; we mourn the
extermination of a third of our people, six million, in the Holocaust. Netanyahu is not
the only Israeli leader who repeatedly speaks about the Israeli existential predicament.
President Shimon Peres, for example, has recently referred to contemporary existential
threats in saying that the Iranian danger has grown and it threatens our existence’–a
phrase often repeated by many other Israeli officials. The references of contemporary
Israeli leaders to the Holocaust and its lessons echo with twists of meaning the father
of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, who tied the Israeli predicament with the lessons
learnt through exile, the Holocaust and the 1948 War of Independence. As Aronson
suggested, the Holocaust looms over his followers(Aronson, 2009, p. 89) spanning
beyond Israeli political elites and the IDFs generals into the very culture which
constitutes the perception of the Israeli public.
The chronic statements that Israeli leaders make about existential threats reflect and
fuel fears of annihilation in the general Israeli public. For example, a recent national
survey exposed that 77% of Jewish Israelis believe that the Iranian threat constitutes an
existential threat to Israel(Affairs, 2012). A survey by the ADL in 2008 found that
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young Israelis see that destruction is imminent, reporting that A growing number of
Israeli youth 30% believe that Israel is under a serious threat of destruction
compared to 24% in 2007, while 52% said they believe Israel is under a certain threat of
destruction,a slight decline from 59% in 2007. A recent review of fear amongst Israelis
exposed the persistence of this feeling across time and its very high levels (Bar-Tal,
Halperin, & Oren, 2010). In his recent definitive book on intractable conflicts, Daniel
Bar-Tal stated that Already in the early 1960s, fear was one of the dominant emotions
expressed by Jews in Israel(Bar-Tal, 2013, p. 230). Overall, fear of annihilation and a
constant sense of probable doom loom large in Israeli private and public spheres alike.
Why? What are the precedents which constitute this heightened sense of anxiety? Are
Israelis dupes of political manipulation or are there deeper cultural processes that animate
their fears? If so, what are the cultural narratives that motivate the Israeli fear of
The present paper sets out to go beyond previous social-psychological interpretations
of Israeli existential anxiety while providing answers for those questions. It does so by
exposing the multilayered cultural worldview that Israelis employ while explicating their
existential anxiety. It shows that the popular references to possible annihilation spring
from a deeply ingrained and traumatic cultural worldview that ties four distinct levels: the
mythological predicament of exile and persecution, historical evidence about attempts to
attack Jews and Israelis, contemporary threats against Israeli security and a sense of future
illegitimacy. This multilayered cultural worldview constitutes a major facet of Israeli
national character, namely its chronic existential anxiety.
In order to expose the various layers which constitute Israeli existential anxiety, the
paper extends recent insights provided by a growing body of scholarship on trauma,
culture and national character (Alexander, 2004). New studies of the German, American,
Dutch, Danish, Austrian and the British national character (Elias, 1996; Fersch, 2012;
Huntington, 2004; Kuipers, 2013; Kumar, 2006a,2006b; Kuzmics & Axtmann, 2007)
rekindle a formerly censored comparative sociological orientation while providing new
insights on this nexus. In broadening on this re-emerging paradigm (Pickel, 2004), I focus
on the Israeli national character while highlighting the benefits of a multilayered cultural
analysis of trauma, which is the root cause for the constant references that Israelis make
about their existential fears of annihilation.
The attempt to describe existential anxiety as a major facet of Israeli national
character would have been rejected out of hand until recently as politically incorrect and
scientifically defunct. As Kuipers admitted in analyzing the Dutch case, the notion of
national characteris not entirely pleasant(Kuipers, 2011). Norbert Elias had a similar
observation in the context of studying the German national character, namely that The
hypersensitivity towards anything that recalls National Socialist doctrine results in the
problem of national characterbeing largely shrouded in silence(Elias, 1996, p. 2).
This stance reflects a post-WWII reaction against the psychological characterization of
populations. The authors of a major study of national character, appearing in Science in
2005, argue that National character also has a much darker side. When stereotypes of
national or ethnic groups are unfavorable, they can lead to prejudice, discrimination, or
persecution, of which history and the world today are full of tragic examples(Terracciano
et al., 2005). Another article reminded readers that Claims that perceived differences in
national character reflect genetic differences between ethnic or cultural groupsare false
and that that mistaken belief has served as the basis for discrimination, intergroup
conflict, and, in some tragic cases, genocide(Robins, 2005). Fearing discrimination and
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bias, as of the 1960s, the social sciences abolished the study of national character
The present paper seeks to reinvigorate this approach by using recent analyses of
cultural trauma while avoiding the pitfall of genetic, racial or psychoanalytic
approaches to the study of national character (Alexander, 2003; Eyerman, Alexander, &
Breese, 2011; Giesen, 2004; Luckhurst, 2008; Schwab, 2010; Sztompka, 2000). The
proposed approach provides an original rendition of the interplay between culture, trauma
and national character and will be the springboard for the analysis of the Israeli case. The
paper reports on an empirical study of Israeli national character, which used a large
sample of interviews, observations and questionnaires with foreign observers and Israelis
alike. Using a synthetic approach, the analyses expose a central cultural code of Israeli
national character, namely existential anxiety. It goes beyond prior analyses in proposing
four analytic levels which respondents employ in understanding their predicament:
mythological stories of persecution, historical evidence about pogroms and the Holocaust,
contemporary fears from terror attacks and from expected Arab or Iranian attacks. These
layers fuse with an anxiety-ridden view of the future.
Lest it be misunderstood, this paper is not proposing that Israeli society is a sick and
traumatized nation that is behaving abnormally and irrationally, nor is it intimating that its
political leaders are psychologically aberrant. When reference is made to existential
anxiety, it points to a cultural experience rather than to a psychological disorder that
psychiatrists would use in diagnosing individuals. Our aim here is to expose a cultural
code that Israeli respondents like Israeli leaders and Israeli popular culture use very
often in explaining their personal life and their national predicament and the preparations
they make in attempts to respond to this predicament. Readers should also appreciate that
the centrality of existential anxiety is accompanied by a reactionary cultural code of
upright defiance. This complementary code refers to Israeli strength and boldness and is
beyond the present context (interested readers can see an elaborated treatment of this
topic in Odom & Yair, 2014). Our aim here is rather modest, namely to build on
individual-level data in order to explain more macro-level cultural bearings that constitute
a common national character.
Cultural trauma and national character
The idea of national character is on the rise again. As Kuipers suggested recently (2011,
p. 6), sociologists should ask through which processes do people in a country become
alike? Under what conditions does such a national ground-tone in behaviour, institutions
and standards emerge?. Several prominent scholars have begun providing answers for
this important question by studying the role of national trauma in creating national
character (Alexander, 2003; Eyerman, 2001; Giesen, 2000; Paterson, 2000; Robben &
Suarez-Orozco, 2000; Sztompka, 2000). The evolving comparative study of cultural
trauma in different settings might indeed constitute a breakthrough in the study of
national character (Giesen, 2000,2004). Trauma, suggest those studies, is a critical
historical event that was culturally worked on identified, developed and communicated
and made into a societal cornerstone (Alexander, 2012). In defining the concept, Jeffery
Alexander stated that Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they
have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group
consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in
fundamental and irrevocable ways(Alexander, 2004, p. 1).
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Cultural trauma springs from a mythical past or from a fabricated past that creates
fictional histories with objectively similar effects but those long-gone pasts find
expressions through peoples actions even centuries after the historical (or fabricated)
event (Anderson, 1983). Scholars suggest that traumatic events like defeats and massacres
create a fertile ground for theodicy and for the production of cultural narratives and
political constitutions (Vinitzky-Seroussi, 2002; Vinitzky-Seroussi & Teeger, 2007;
Weber, 1946). Indeed, culturally-adapted traumas create national narratives that people
adopt through socialization and participation in memorials and ceremonies (Demerath,
2002). National memorials, ceremonies and holidays that memorize such catastrophes
stand at the basis of a common national character while creating social solidarity and
cultural homogenization (Durkheim, 1961; Kidron, 2010).
New studies have mapped the role of cultural trauma in different countries (Eyerman
et al., 2011; Kleber, Figley, & Gersons, 1995) and minority groups (Paterson, 2000).
They show that contemporary actions emanate from or are referenced vis-à-vis critical
historical events that continue directing thoughts and actions even generations after the
traumatic event (e.g., For 400 years we were under the rule of the Islamic Ottoman
empire, yet maintained our Christian heritage; we remained Greek’–a Greek post-doc at
The Weitzmann Institute in personal conversation). Norbert Elias the leader in the study
of trauma and national character suggested that in order to understand the German
national character one has to understand the catastrophe of the Thirty Years War (1618
1648) and the experience of repeated German defeats to foreign powers all through the
First World War (Elias, 1996). He suggested that the cultural and political attempts made
by the Nazis to redeem a positive identity were conscious reactions to Germanys
troubled or victimized past.
The present study seeks to broaden our understanding of the relationship between
cultural trauma and national character. It uses the Israeli case in order to show how
mythical narratives and stories about historical massacres coalesce with contemporary
threats and future insecurity in creating Israeli existential anxiety. It advances the idea that
national traumas may be of extraordinary significance in the formation of national
character. That cultural trauma is unlikely to form the sole and in certain contexts the
main foundation of national character goes without saying. But as the following study
suggests, cultural trauma is the causal driver of Israeli chronic existential anxiety.
Prior studies have indeed suggested that Israeli culture is constituted by trauma,
whether ancient or recent, historical or mythical (Abulof, 2009; Ben-Yehuda, 1995;
Zerubavel, 2002). Some scholars directed attention to the role that the Holocaust plays in
constituting Israeli culture and identity (Cohen, 2011; Feldman, 2008; Kidron, 2010;
Lazar, Litvak-Hirsch, & Chaitin, 2008; Resnik, 2003). Others exposed the ways in which
values and ideals in contemporary Israel are constituted by Biblical roots (Ben-Yehuda,
1995; Schwartz, Zerubavel, & Barnett, 1986; Zerubavel, 1995). Yet other scholars
pointed to the centrality of post-trauma (Bar-On, 2000), to the role of perpetrator trauma
(Bar-On, 2008) on the Israeli national psyche, or to the politics of treating trauma in Israel
(Friedman-Peleg, 2014). Some scholars have even identified specific national rites that
lay underneath and structure the sense of Israeli victimhood (Lomsky-Feder, 2004;
Vinitzky-Seroussi, 2002). And a recent study pointed toward the work of security in
responding to anxiety and trauma (Ochs, 2011).
The present endeavor surpasses those prior renditions of the Israeli case by exposing
the multilayered cultural precedents which underlie Israeli existential anxiety. It thereby
also extends Norbert Eliastheoretical juxtaposition between national character and
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cultural trauma. The study provides a general theoretical approach for studying cultural
trauma and national character and presents results under four analytic levels for
describing the depth, complexity and persistence of trauma in the Israeli national
The study
The present study seeks to focus on overarching syndromes, worldviews or values that
underlie various empirical manifestations in daily life. Data collection followed an
analytical framework that builds on the ideas of key symbols (Ortner, 1973) and deep
cultural codes (Bernstein, 1973). Deep codes are defined as overarching symbols or
values that have as many as eight empirical manifestations on different levels: modes of
thought, bodily hexis, behavior or practices, language use and idioms, feelings and
emotional manifestations, interaction patterns, institutional arrangements and physical
design and layouts. This observation strategy allows the tying together of various
empirical manifestations which spring from a common deep code. In the present context,
we focus on the manners by which narratives of annihilation constitute personal and
public manifestation.
Using the typology above, we sent students to conduct observations in different
locales: malls and government offices, banks and open markets, in buses and while taking
taxi rides. Overall, 90 foreign and Israeli students provided ten weekly observations, each
about varied facets of Israeliness. This strategy produced a rich database of 800
observations. Furthermore, each student conducted three in-depth interviews with Israeli
and foreign adults about their experience in Israel covering major areas like the military,
bureaucracy, service, dating and relationships, family life and behavior in public spaces.
This resulted in more than 200 interviews with foreign and Israeli respondents. Finally, 30
graduates of the Rothberg International School many of whom spent a year or two in
Israel and were back in their home countries responded to an online questionnaire that
covered these same topics.
Methodologically, the study extends prior work in utilizing the advantage achieved
when applying a foreign point of view to study local cultural values and practices (Assa-
Inbar, Rapoport, & Yair, 2008; Yair, 2011). It broadens this approach into a dialectical
process involving the conjunction between foreign and local perspectives. Specifically,
the study complemented the perspective of international students with that offered by
local Israeli students. The dialectical move between emic and etic perspectives provided
insights that neither approach alone could have provided.
A cautionary note: given the paucity of data from Israeli Palestinians and ultra-
Orthodox Jewish respondents, one can only generalize the findings below to those Israelis
who share in the Zionist worldview. Israeli Arabs and Jewish ultra-Orthodox citizens of
Israel are formally the same as the Israelis we report about here, but they have unique
traumas and unique cultural predispositions. Nevertheless, those Israelis we report upon
constitute about 70% of the Israeli citizenry, and are also the core or the center of Israeli
The results describe the recurrent references that observers and interviewees make
vis-à-vis the experience of existential anxiety. I report the results under five headings.
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The first section provides a general overview of the centrality of existential anxiety in the
Israeli national character. The following sections reflect systematic coding of the data
under four analytic levels: (1) the mythological basis of anxiety; (2) the historical level
(3) the contemporary sense of threat; (4) a sense of illegitimacy which creates with all
prior levels in full force a chronic sense of existential anxiety. There are other possible
dimensions for this analytic typology (e.g. relations with Israeli and Jewish diasporas),
but the evidence suggested that these four temporal layers provide a conceptually
consistent and empirically valid classification of the results.
Israeli existential anxiety
The Israelis are constantly living under pressure, as if time runs out. We all grew up on this
predicament, with the stories, with the situation. This is what defines us and unifies us. We
constantly live with fear that someone might annihilate us, that we will have nothing to eat
and we therefore accumulate food. Theres this sense that its us against the whole world.
As the above quote suggests, Israelis explicitly identify their existential anxiety as a core
cultural element. Respondents have repeatedly referred to past attempts to exterminate the
Jews as well as to contemporary threats to annihilate Israel. As one interviewee said, We
always feel like we have to defend ourselves, even if we dont. We always feel like
somebody is after us. Another continued this line in stating: The Israelis think that the
entire world is against them and I agree with that. With all the terror attacks here people
are afraid though they do not show that, but it is there. The entire Jewish tradition is filled
with traumas and the State of Israel continues this. This typical experience is latently
present on a daily basis, indeed. However, in times of crisis manufactured or real
anxiety climbs to uneasy heights. Either way, this existential anxiety colors the worldview
of our interviewees, who seem to be living in a constant state of emergency (Agamben,
2004). Actually, this latent existential anxiety is apparent in small daily events. One
student, for example, reported a casual conversation over the dinner table:
We were sitting with a couple of Israeli friends now living in the USA. Both couples are
professionals and well off. As the evening wound down, a delusional conversation ensued:
When anti-Semitism strikes you in the USA, we will send you airborne evacuation
missions, we said. No, they retorted, when atomic missiles are launched against Israel, we
will open the gates for you in America. Although we all seem to have a great future, we all
entertain the thought that a total apocalypse is about to take place.
Such conversations are the tip of an iceberg. Our respondents reported that they casually
ask themselves how long Israel will survive in the Middle East. They often reply to
themselves: Less than a generation,orIn 40 years we are out. As a 35 year-old
interviewee suggested, indeed, It feels uncertain not safe, not sure whats going to
happen. Its like a movie that you dont know the ending. Its exciting, but I keep my
mind open all the time, especially about where to live. Im open to leave, Im open to
stay. You dont know if its for a long time, if its going to finish soon. So its definitely
not certain. I dont feel that its certain for Israel to exist, to continue, so its definitely
challenging. This sense of imminent danger of annihilation is indeed common (see also
Jacobson & Bar-Tal, 1995). An American student who took a job in an Israeli political
organization provided another example for this recurrent Israeli table talk:
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One day after work, a few of my co-workers came to my house and we (once again) started
talking politics. The topic of debate was whether or not Israel is in existential danger.
A heated debate ensued. We went around the room asking each person whether or not he/she
believed that Israel will exist in 100 years. The surprising result was an even split.
Respondents are fully aware of their existential anxiety. However, they are also aware of
its consequences. As one interviewee said, I think a victim can turn into an aggressor.
And its part of many Israelis; this is what happened to them in their collective historical
experience. If we shall not be strong, if we shall not be aggressive, we will be killed.
They will want us out of here; we have nowhere to go; this is why we have to be strong.
The experience is that you either devour or you will be devoured. The evidence clearly
showed, indeed, that respondents use their existential fear to interpret their personal and
national predicament. Another respondent explained how Israeli existential anxiety breeds
voluntaristic behaviors:
The feeling here is that our existence is contingent, that theres a possibility that we shall not
survive the next attack and that we will be wiped off the map; that nothing here is safe or
stable. This is why we need an army, this is why we have to keep it strong, so it can protect
us in times of need. Because the anxiety is so strong, theres a sense that each one of us has
to take care of the army. We are not sure that the Israeli state is strong enough without our
helping hand, so we voluntarily help as much as we can.
There are many faces to this existential anxiety. In the following analysis, I separate the
narratives that respondents used into four distinct levels: the mythological, the historical,
the contemporary or realistic, and the level of future political illegitimacy. I detail below
the various ways they use each level to reproduce and bolster the cultural code that
constitutes one of the major elements of the Israeli national character.
The presence of mythology
The Zionist revolution envisioned Israel as a final solution for the long history of
attempted annihilation of the Jews by dispersion or murder. The Israeli calendar is in fact
strewn with holidays and memorials that remind us of this apocalyptic history. Such
constant and repetitive reminders reconstitute the mythological basis for Israeli existential
anxiety. Every Passover, for example, ceremony participants recount the Biblical story of
exile and the attempted annihilation of the Israelites in Egypt. This cultural event was
reconstituted by the Israeli civil religion (Liebman & Don-Yehiya, 1983), providing a
mythological rationale for the existence of the state of Israel as the antidote against anti-
Semitism and contemporary programs of annihilation. This yearly event is complemented
by stories about the destruction of Jerusalem and exile to Babylon and Rome. School
books narrate this mythological strip of exile through stories about expulsion from Britain
and Spain and about pogroms in Eastern Europe. Consequently, the mythological past is
ever present in the Israeli habitus.
Israeli respondents consistently associate their character with the long mythological or
historical chain of the Jewish predicament. They have this chain in mind when they draw
existential conclusions about their own personal circumstances or about Israels geo-
political standing. They often refer to Biblical stories and moral lessons (e.g., they
always chased us) and bring up mythical events (e.g., Masada) to explain contemporary
circumstances. As a 28-year-old interviewee said, for example:
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Because of the history, because of the Holocaust and the Inquisition and everything
Israelis, and Jewish people, really see themselves as outsiders, people who are different from
the Nations. We always feel like we have to defend ourselves, even if we dont. We always
feel like somebody is after us.
Respondents often referenced Biblical times and the millennia of Jewish exile. Some
were even reflexive about the role of myths in their lives. One respondent explained this
mythological traumatic position, suggesting that It all relates to the psychoanalysis of the
Jewish people and its leaders. The Holocaust syndrome, the existential anxiety This
existential anxiety drives the whole thing. It feeds values that we will take care of our
ownor that we shall not be dependent on othersand no one will tell us what to do
and we shall attack and destroyand things like that. Another respondent said in an
The Israeli is a victim. He is a victim of the circumstances that made him an Israeli. Israel
was created following the Holocaust, following the history that preceded it. The Israelis are
educated on those visions and they are taught that they can never escape this, can never
ignore, and can never live without being aware of the constant threat against their existence.
You are constantly walking with the thought that someone might hurt you, that Israel can be
wiped out with an atom bomb.
Respondents often mention a series of associations that tie together different stations in
the traumatic mythology of the Jews. As an interviewee suggested, You are constantly
told beware of this, beware of that …” You always know that the ancient Egyptians and
the Holocaust, true, they chased us and they still chase us the world over, and somewhere
you feel that now you have a state that you can feel relaxed in, and say I feel good, but
I dont know its like we always want to suffer. Interviewees reported that they often
associate Ahmadinejad with Hitler, Haman and Pharaoh, reflecting a cultural division
between a victimized Israeli identity and the perpetrators against the Jewish people. But
in using these cultural categories, respondents also adopt the moral of the Biblical story,
namely that the gentiles were always against the Jews, and hence that they are now
against the Israelis. This mythology stands at the basis of the Israeli reactive stance: be
strong, oppositional, strategic and creative.
Indeed, the Zionist narrative about the mythological Jewish predicament and the
necessity of a strong Jewish state and the standing of the strong Sabrais ever-present in
respondentsconsciousness (Almog, 2000). As one interviewee said, The Holocaust
unites people in that people realize that there are people out there who dont like Jews
this was after the Inquisition, the pogroms in Russia, going back to Egypt. I think Jews
have always known that they are foreigners. This consciousness of a living and relevant
mythology repeats often in respondentsexplanations, embodying a unified vision of the
past, the present and the future necessary ingredients in forming national character
(Fulbrook, 1999). Another reflexive student was accurate in describing this mythological
chain of persecution as the reason for Israeli existential anxiety:
This is holidaysseason. We had Purim and then Passover; during the coming week we will
weep in the Holocaust Memorial Day, then we shall stand upright remembering the dead in
war and then we shall rejoice on Independence Day. There is always risk in those holidays.
There is no dull moment in the Jewish state we live under the decree of emergency hour,
and this is a long, a very long hour. It began in the origins of time; it would end at its end. In
Purim the Persians attempted to kill us Jews; on Passover, many years before, those were the
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Egyptians; The Holocaust our friends the Germans; Day of Remembrance mostly the
Arabs. And on Independence Day we celebrate the existence of Israel against all odds and in
defiance of many countries in the world. Thousands of years of persecution are compressed
into six weeks, like a hammer that bangs our heads every year, joining our blood to the
mythological streams of Jewish blood.
When confronting obstacles or threats, Israelis often use a mythical narrative: We
overcame Pharaoh; we shall overcome this challenge too. In some holidays, like
Passover, they say a short version for the historical predicament: They tried to kill us,
they failed, lets eat. In using those statements our respondents connect with the mythic
past. Not our mythological forefathers overcame Pharaoh, they imply, rather we did.
We are part of the myth; we shall now extend its relevance. However, this cultural sense
of assuredness of being able to rise to historical or personal challenges covers up a
deeper anxiety, namely that in the upcoming trial they might actually not rise to the
challenge; that a pogrom, exile or annihilation is actually in store; that next time they
might not survive.
The historical consciousness: the centrality of the holocaust
Israelis often use historical evidence to buttress the mythological foundation of their
identity. Central, in this historical layer, is the Holocaust. Respondents often tie the
Holocaust to, or mention it in conjunction with, the mythical catastrophic past of the
Jewish people as a proof that there was never a paradigm shift for the Jewish people;
that no one is safe from persecution or from anti-Semitism. Respondents often present the
Holocaust as the major piece in the long chain of anti-Semitism and pogroms perpetrated
against the Jews in exile. The centrality of the Holocaust in their narratives reflects its
centrality in the identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish nation (Kidron, 2010; Lazar
et al., 2008) and in the national character of Israelis as individuals. Prior studies have in
fact suggested that Israelis see the Holocaust as a trauma that explains their personal lives
(e.g., being gay as a result of having no father). They often think of themselves as post-
traumatic victims, even though most do not have direct family connections with
Holocaust survivors (Lazar et al., 2008).
Interviewees often suggested that the Holocaust is a core of their identity. They use
the Holocaust as an interpretive schema for understanding their personal lives or the state
of their nation (Lazar, Chaitin, Gross, & Bar-On, 2006). The Holocaust looms large as a
warning sign for future risks, proof for the eternal hate of the nations. Respondents also
use the Holocaust to justify the strong Israeli standing against the world. One adult
interviewee suggested, for example, that The Holocaust exists in the psyche of every
Israeli; it constitutes the genes of the Israelis. An Irish immigrant to Israel concurred,
saying Yes, the Holocaust has definite consequences here. The Israeli stress on family
life, the longing for continuation, which is quite rare in the first world, seems to me to be
the result of trauma It also creates this tendency to blame non-Jews who criticize Israel
as anti-Semites. As another interviewee added:
The Holocaust certainly affects things here. It affects the second and the third generation and
most of the Israelis share in the annual Memorial Day for the Holocaust, but its also in
school. Many kids in high school travel to visit and commemorate Holocaust sites in Poland.
Yes, the Holocaust definitely affects us.
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The respondents read contemporary events through the lens of the Holocaust; and they
also see the Holocaust as a decisive link in the long historical chain of anti-Semitism.
This makes the Holocaust a primary cultural factor in driving their fear of annihilation
and their assessment that such an event might actually happen once more. As one
interviewee suggested, I think the long shadow of the Holocaust hovers above the
Israelis. On average, the Israelis think that all the worlds countries are against them
everything here is affected by experience of exile. Another interviewee suggested that
the central core of the Israeli character is The Holocaust syndrome, or you can translate
that to existential anxiety. Its the symptom of the former. The Holocaust syndrome is the
deep thing here. That it shall not happen to us again, and the anxiety is its form of
expression. Another interviewee affirmed that: Definitely, the traumas are part of what
defines us. Many live here in fear that soon we will not exist. It creates aggression,
exclusiveness, hostility. But sometimes it unifies especially around justifiable wars.He
added that a visit to Poland made him realize that he will always be a stranger and that
Israel is, indeed, the only place for him. Another respondent suggested that the Israeli
character is constituted around a sense of Shared fate, that if we shall not have a state we
shall not survive either. You can always see the Holocaust in that and things like that
lets win all together, because if we are not in it together then nobody here will survive.
The realistic level: terror and Iran
The third level that respondents refer to in explicating Israeli existential anxiety concerns
the ever-mounting threats to Israels security. Israel is often reminded of calls to annihilate
it whether in Iranian or Neo-Nazi circles. Indeed, the Israeli chief of staff said in 2011
that Israel is the only country in the world that somebody threatens to annihilate and
works to achieve that aim. In doing so he reflected a broader cultural agreement. In fact,
periods of suicide terror leave their mark on Israelis for years, so does shelling from Gaza
and rocket campaigns from Lebanon. These risks are accompanied by sub-conscious
messages that preparation for war sends. The presence of gas masks at home, construction
of bullet-proof rooms, security checks in central bus stations, restaurants and cafés, and
yearly war drills for the civil population, all send a latent message that terror and possible
annihilation are imminent. An Israeli student provided an original interpretation for the
realistic level of Israeli existential anxiety. He made the following comment after the
citizens of Israel received a war-preparation flier:
This is how I read this flier. We live here in clear, immediate and permanent danger. Every
moment is emergency time. The siren never stops here. This is why we have to be prepared.
Prepare for missiles, prepare to die. The time to prepare is between a millisecond and three
minutes. This is the time frame for life in emergency, which is now, our present time live
the moment and take four liters of water, food (best are cans or snacks), emergency lighting,
radio (with batteries), emergency kit, list of telephone numbers (to call and say goodbye) and
a few games for passing the time.
Interviewees often talked about Iran and the seemingly imminent threat it poses. One
respondent admitted that Yes, Iran is scary. I dont think theyll have a nuclear bomb
tomorrow, and I dont think about it all the time, but when I do yes, of course its
scary. Another interviewee had a slightly different response, saying that Yes, Im a little
worried, but mostly not. Theres a theoretical threat, not too much, but it could happen.
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Im not really afraid for myself, but I am worried for the state of Israel and its existence.
Another respondent provided a cataclysmic portrayal for the coming years:
Three years from now theres going to be a big war, everyones going to participate: I think
Turkey, Lebanon, yes, Lebanon for sure Hezbollah Syria, Egypt, Iran, its going to raise
some resistance from the inside of Israel too. Israels going to have a lot of causalities, but
were going to win this war.
Visitors, indeed, sense that Israelis are preoccupied with security. Israel is obsessed with
security, said one interviewee. Sometimes I thought I could understand why, and
sometimes I tried hard to understand, she added. Her colleague admitted that I think the
Israeli obsessionwith security is justified, because you never know what is going to
happen with terrorism. Other respondents argued, however, that the Israelis exaggerate
their concerns with security. The Israelis, wrote a French student, are schizophrenic.
They know that Israel might not be here in the future, but they behave as though
everything is fine. Some observers pointed to concrete concerns with terror, while others
thought that this obsession is overblown by past traumas. As one interviewee suggested:
Israelis are obsessed in some ways with security the roads are very secure and the
checkpoints, but it seems ridiculous to have security going into every bus station and
university and mall when the guards dont even check your bag on the one hand they are
justifiably militaristic and paranoid about Islamic terror attacks, and racist towards Arabs, but
on the other hand they seem much more open-minded than Americans or Australians for
example, probably because they are right in the middle of everything and they just have to
live with it.
Respondents would often admit to being afraid of being blown up in buses, developing
expertise in choosing seats that minimize the effects of an impending blast. Visible
memorial places and commemoration sites provide reminders of past terror attacks. Such
reminders accompany visible security measures culminating in a sense that one is
always in a state of exception, in a regime of risk (Agamben, 2004). As an American
student observed, There also seem to be a lot of civilians carrying weapons for whatever
reason. I cant count the number of times Ive seen someone walking across campus or
kicking a soccer ball in the park with a pistol sticking out of the back of his shirt.
Another American student provided the following testimony about the existential fear of
a young Israeli girl she tutors:
I was hanging out with a fifth grade Israeli girl who I mentor. Some students walked by
collecting money for charity. The girl I was with was excited to tell me that when she is in
the seventh grade she will get to collect money for charity too. She said that she will go door
to door asking people to donate money. But then she commented that she would never go
door to door in an Arab neighborhood. She said she would be too scared. I asked her why
she would be so scared. She looked at me like I was stupid and said in a very matter of fact
manner: Because the Arabs want to kill us.
This suspicion of an ever-cloudy and dangerous world is accompanied by unwillingness
to listen to others or heed to their suggestions. This cultural tendency is seen in private
arenas just as in political ones. For example, a student suggested that The [Israeli]
perception of goyim(non-Jews) especially in discussions about things like the
Holocaust and the Palestinian conflict [is odd]. If you do not clearly identify yourself as
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a Jew or as an Israeli, your Israeli counterpart will often not want to listen to your
arguments at all. This egocentric posture reflects a deep cultural suspicion vis-à-vis non-
Israelis; it is another sign of the ubiquity of Israeli existential anxiety.
Fear of the future and strategic non-legitimacy
The fourth level of Israeli existential anxiety reflects chronic sentiments of Israels
illegitimacy. The Moslem world is unwilling to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East
(Litvak, 2006; Menashri, 2006), and most countries criticize its policies. Such was the
case when the UN equated Zionism with racism, and those are the feelings when British
academics call for the ban of Israelis or to forbid them from entering the UK. Repeated
calls to ban Israeli products or artistic performances (the BDS movement, namely
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign) remind Israelis that their future is
threatened. UN-led resolutions like the one adopted in Durban or fact-finding missions
like Goldstones committee strengthen the sense of siege and the fear that, politically and
diplomatically, Israel is on its own.
Respondents admitted that they think that the Zionist state will not survive in the
Middle East for the long haul. They were also confident that anti-Semitism will
eventually challenge their very existence. They were preoccupied with gaining legitimacy
or with being accepted by the world. As one respondent suggested, This syndrome
reflects the weakness of exile. We are waiting for the approval of others A Jewish state
that came into being for protecting Jews always needs the consent of the rest of the world,
cause otherwise it has no legitimacy. We want them to acknowledge that this is a Jewish
state, otherwise theres no point for how we look. The sense of repeated withdrawal of
sympathy exacerbates this feeling of being rejected and illegitimate. This unquenched
aspiration for legitimacy was recounted by a Canadian student, who reported that her
husband, an Israeli now living in Canada, made friends with a Palestinian student:
He had befriended a Palestinian guy early in the semester, but when the guy found out (after
about three months of sitting and working together) that Josh was from Israel, he
disappeared. He never sat next to him again; he never spoke to him again. It is the
reinforcement of this idea; you as an Israeli person arent legitimate. But also how Josh kind
of seeks to befriend Arabs in Canada and say, Hey, I am a person, I am real, we Israelis are
ok, accept me, be my friend but then if you dontwho cares, I am not surprised …’
The strategic source of anxiety springs from Israels failure to obtain international
legitimacy (Diner & Templer, 1995). Repeated calls to boycott Israel and recurrent
attempts to arrest Israeli generals join a more diffuse sense that in the absence of
legitimacy, Israels time is running out. Some respondents also reckoned that their
country fails to meet its own moral standards and hence that Israels legitimacy is truly in
jeopardy. Aware of this conundrum, some poked fun at themselves in pointing out that the
only supporter of Israel in the UN is Micronesia.
Norbert Eliasseminal work on trauma and the German national character suggested that
events in past history have like iceberg sunk in deep water surface appearances in
contemporary society and politics (Elias, 1996). He proposed that people obey norms and
standards of behavior that seek compensation for past national humiliation and defeat.
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Other scholars in the Eliasian tradition extended his approach in confirming that old
traumas affect contemporary national character. Mennell, for example, has shown that the
American national character is deeply tied to the traumatic experiences of the early
puritans who fled the old European continent (Mennell, 2007).
The present study follows on the heels of those new attempts to re-open after
decades of suppression academic studies of national character (Dundes, 1989; Inkeles
& Levinson, 1997; Mandler, 2006; Robins, 2005). It has done so by tying together the
theory of cultural trauma (Alexander, 2012) and national character. This theoretical
juxtaposition provides new insights about one of the worlds most puzzling nations,
namely Israel. The opening reference to PM Netanyahus address suggests that he and
other Israeli leaders capitalize on this common cultural substratum while utilizing all four
facets described above. But Netanyahu and state officials are neither peculiar in drawing
on these cultural resources nor can we assume that there is an easy way to transform those
culturally-embedded narratives.
The empirical findings have shown that our respondents Israelis and foreign
observers alike reference the same four analytic levels that underlie Israeli existential
anxiety: the mythological past; the history of exile, pogroms and the Holocaust; Israels
contemporary geo-political situation and its non-secure borders; and, finally, its future
strategic illegitimacy. Though the evidence from this cultural analysis is current, prior
surveys and studies show that Israeli existential anxiety is a recurring syndrome that goes
back at least to the 1960s (Bar-Tal, 2013; Shalit, 1994).
The four levels that constitute this syndrome arranged as a temporal continuum
penetrate and feed each other. Israelis interpret contemporary risks notably the Iranian
promise to annihilate Israel while employing the three other levels: The mythic (they
were always against us), the historical (prepare for Holocaust 2) and the future (they
want us out of here). The cultural narratives that they use provide them with a ready-
made explanation for their personal and national predicament. Those narratives also
justify their own and their governments political stances by tying the past, the present
and the future through those traumatic constituting narratives. Crucially, all levels work as
a syndrome. Though myth and history precede contemporary risks and future challenges
all levels work in concert and respondents pick on various elements in explicating their
stance. Even hypothetical situations e.g. Israel being bombed by Iran is read through
past traumas. Consequently, such hypothetical and elusive risks might be charged by the
past so as to create real effects: fear on the one hand, and aggressiveness on the other. The
root cause is the same: a cultural interpretation of the Israeli national predicament as a
symptom of an eternal, biblical predicament.
Foreign observers suggest that Israel often reacts in aggressive and paranoid ways
(e.g., The Economist portrayed it in 2010 as a country suffering from a siege mentality).
They argue that Israelis are aggressive, bold, and even paranoid. To the extent that this
description is apt, the alleged behaviors cover the inner driver of the Israeli national
character, namely its deeper existential anxiety (Odom & Yair, 2014). Though Israelis
often repress their anxiety or laugh at it, their fear of annihilation constitutes many social
and political manifestations often exacerbating rather than mitigating conflict and,
hence, fear (Bar-Tal, 2013; Gordon & Arian, 2001). Some respondents were aware of
Israeli over-reaction. One of them stated that
I think that some aspect of our trauma affects our modern life. We often see ourselves as the
victim rather than seeing the power we have to affect change. I also know that part of the
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modern Israeli mentality comes from the concept of never againas soldiers often were
sworn into the service at Masada. I think that more than anything, it is difficult to escape the
desire to point out how badly people treated us when things go poorly rather than saying
what can we do now to make things better for us in the future.
The present study exposes the extent to which respondents persistently refer to
underlying existential anxieties that seem to dominate their daily perceptions and stances.
We have shown that those persistent and consistent references are driven by culturally-
constituted narratives that create one of the core elements of the Israeli national character,
namely existential anxiety. Unique glimpses into this pervasive character are offered by
the Israeli cultural scene. A group of students created a commercialfilm, depicting
Ahmadinejad on the beach of Tel Aviv, inviting tourists to come to Israel as it may not
be here tomorrow. Ronen Barani, an Israeli film maker, created a short movie depicting
the very last moment of Israel as it is blown up by an Iranian atom bomb. Roni Edry, an
Israeli graphic designer, created a highly effective Facebook campaign to stop the
impending annihilation in calling –‘Iranians we love you!
These clear expressions of existential fear join more institutional cultural expressions
which play on the four levels of Israeli trauma. During the past decade, indeed, major
theaters have celebrated Israels deepest anxieties. For example, a leading Israeli theater
played Ghetto,Holocaust and Fiddler on the Roof all explicitly referring to the
Holocaust and deeper mythological and historical roots of Israeli existential anxiety.
Israeli cinema had no lesser box office and global successes with movies like Waltz with
Bashir,Beaufort, and Lebanon. All three provide renditions of the Israeli trauma incurred
by contemporary war in Lebanon. Their box office success in Israel testifies to their
intimate dialogue with the Israeli cultural psyche. Furthermore, every year a national
radio station has a major broadcast titled soon we will be a poem’–songs written by
soldiers who died in battle suggesting to young people that it is acceptable to write
farewell poems, just in case. Furthermore, television talk shows and comedies continually
speak to Israeli existential anxiety and future doom. A recent satirical presentation of
The State of the Nationshow ended its fourth season in 2012 with a fitting message to
end this paper too:
In the bomb we will all die together
Lying down peaceful and smiling
Even if we hated each other tremendously
In the bomb we will all die together
All Israel a common grave
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... Beside existential threats, a small population, and the challenges of a small country with no natural resources, and with the absence of any defense alliance or superpower protection, Israel was embedded in a hostile sphere that enjoys resources and military might far more extensive than its own. Under these circumstances, Israel faced, at least during its first two decades, an ongoing existential threat (Barak & Sheffer, 2010;Bar-Tal & Antebi, 1992;Yair, 2014;Del Sarto, 2017). ...
... In many research studies relating to the Israeli context there is an emphasis on the uniqueness of the Israeli case (Siniver, 2012) and the ongoing feeling of existential threat and siege (Del Sarto, 2017;Yair, 2014, Bar-Tal, & Antebi, 1992. In addition, there is a broad consensus among leading Israeli scholars like Baruch Kimmerling (1993), Yagil Levy (2003), Uri Ram (2008), Lev Grinberg (2008, and others that Israeli society is militaristic, marked by decided Israeli militarism, which in turn accounts at least largely for Israel's security reality. ...
Full-text available
Security threats play an essential and influential role in Israeli discourse, and some claim that this encourages and strengthens the militaristic approach of Israeli society and its political and military echelons. In practice, however, Israel has demonstrated military restraint over the last decade. This ostensible contradiction is the focus of this article, which examines political, military, and civilian realms, as well as the political civil control over the IDF. Israeli society can certainly be defined as culturally militaristic, with military symbols embedded in the public sphere in ceremonies, language, and icons. Yet when it comes to political militarism vis-à-vis supporting, prioritizing, and legitimizing the use of military force in order to resolve political problems, the political echelon is cautious, accountable, and responsible with regard to use of military force; the military echelon serves as a restraining actor; and the Israeli public is sober and realistic as to the possibility of resolving political problems by using military force. Therefore, that political militarism is a pervasive policy or strategy in Israel today is at the very least questionable.
... Israel is a small country, compared to Germany (9 million people vs. 80 million), and while there are more than 250 local authorities, administration is relatively centralized, with de facto decentralization to the stronger local authorities (Dery, 1998). The policy style and administrative culture tend to be reactive to social problems (not anticipatory), centralistic, and suspicious of engaging with other actors (Lahat et al., 2021), but the reactive and more informal features of the Israeli culture have led to a more entrepreneurial culture (Davidovitz et al., 2022;Yair, 2014). Because the lines between the central and the local level governments in Israel are blurred, de facto decentralization, accompanied by a lower level of central regulation in social services and the room for innovative and entrepreneurial ways of operation, at least in some authorities, is wider (Frisch-Aviram et al., 2018) Against the literature background, our initial assumptions were: (1) SLBs as policy entrepreneurs will tend to use collaboration to influence policy change. ...
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This comparative paper adds to the literature by exploring the connection between policy entrepreneurship and collaboration among street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) in two countries. We asked if SLBs, as policy entrepreneurs, promote collaborative efforts in their work. If so, in what ways? The study was based on qualitative research and in-depth semi-structured interviews with 20 SLBs in social services in Israel and Germany. Our findings suggest that as policy entrepreneurs, SLBs use diverse ways of working together, and a higher level of policy change demands a higher level of collaboration. We offer three generic types of SLB policy entrepreneurs: collaborative policy entrepreneurs, collaborative-coordinator policy entrepreneurs, and coordinator-cooperative entrepreneurs. We suggest administrative cultures and policy styles may shed light on the presence of types of SLB policy entrepreneurs.
... Of course, it's not like that, and that's why it's so important to make this evening, to remember, to commemorate, and especially that it happens within the framework of this Zionist religious activity who still fight to place itself". This response affirms how emotions play a significant place in establishing a sense of national belonging, particularly in the Jewish-Israeli context that is characterized by trauma and loss (Yair 2014). In addition, it reflects the recognition in the socio-political positionality of the Reform movement in Israel, as a community that itself struggles for equality-and therefore it is even more important to voice the silenced story of Ethiopian Aliyah in this space. ...
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The socialization of the Ethiopian Jewish community, known as Beta Israel in Israeli society, is marked by performing cultural customs and rituals to establish its unique tradition and collective ethnic narrative. The Sigd is a holiday that is celebrated on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Heshvan, when the community marks its devotion to Zion by renewing the covenant between the Jewish people, God, and the Torah. This narrative of return to the homeland is also expressed and framed in a tragic context by observing a Memorial Day for the members of the Ethiopian Jewish community who perished during their journey to Israel from Sudan. These two commemorative dates support the narrative of Beta Israel and advance its public recognition. This ethnographic study examines why and how these practices were mentioned and performed in an Israeli Reform Jewish congregation, a community that does not include Ethiopians members, and has a religious and cultural character that is different from the traditions of Beta Israel. Both the Reform community and the Ethiopian community deal with stereotypes and institutional and public inequality in Israel. I argue that their solidarity is constructed and based on social perceptions and experiences of social alienation and immigration traumas. This political motivation to mark the narrative of the ‘other’, particularly as an excluded religious group that fights against the Orthodox Jewish monopoly in Israel, marks the Reform community as an egalitarian agent that gives voice to the marginalized. The fact that most Reform congregants are ‘sabras’ (native) Israelis sheds light on how their perception as a majority, and not only as a minority, produces a critical statement about Zionist immigration and acclimatization.
... The concept of psychic EAA developed initially in the psychoanalytic literature (e.g. Allen, Hurvich, & Mcguire, 2017;Hurvich, 2003), was found to (Kashima, Halloran, Yuki, & Kashima, 2004;Kira, 2002Kira, , 2006Yair, 2014), is another variable that was found to mediate the effects of CST on psychopathology. The constellations of different EAA interact and ultimately reinforce the status's EAA. ...
... Alexander 2004b; Alexander and Dromi, 2011;Ball, 2000;Zerubavel, 2002). Arguably, trauma has also been woven into Israel's political identity since 1948, due to a perceived lack of support from the international community, "Arab terror," and constant existential threat (Handelman and Katz, 1995;Yair, 2014). One interpretation of this observation is that trauma is a long-standing and durable background symbol for collective representations about terrorism in Israel. ...
... 32 Çatışma içindeki bu ideolojilerin uyuşmazlığı göz önünde bulundurulduğunda bu maladaptif çifte bilinç hâli, farklı koşullar altında ve farklı şekillerde tezahür etmesi mümkün olan bölünmüş bir kolektif kimliğe dönüşmektedir. 113 Bu bağlamda yazdığı makalesinde Afrikalı bir avukat şu cümleleri kurmaktadır: 32 "Sabah uyandığımda her ne kadar avukat olarak çalışsam da yüz yıllardır ülkemdeki kadınların ortak kimliği olarak ev işlerini yapan, boyun eğen ve çocukların okula gitme koşuşturmacasını üstlenen maskem hep yüzümde! İşe gittiğim anlarda ise beyaz müvekkillerime "siyahi bir kadın" olarak daha düşük bir seviyede bulunmadığımı, aksine dişli ve iyi bir avukat olduğumu ifade eden bir maske takmam gerekiyor." ...
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ÖZET Bilinç; gerçek zamanlı ve spontan ya da tasarlanmış zihinsel eylemlerin, normatif ve yapılandırılmış entegratif içsel ve dışsal değerlendirmeler yoluyla hem geçmiş hem de gelecekteki olası durumlara göre içinde yaşanan an odaklı optimize edilmesiyle deneyimlenerek kontrol edilebilen çok bileşenli psikojen bir fenomendir. Öznel ve nesnel harmonisiyle kişiye özgü bir deneyim olan bilincin tekilliği, deneysel açıdan doğrulanabilecek bir fenomen değildir. Bilincin bir “tekillik yaşantısı” sayılmasına ilişkin bütün kısıtlamalar ve eleştiriler karşısında “çoklu bilinç sistemi” merkezli “Psikotoplumsal Bilinç Alyansı Kuramı”nın inşası bir zorundalık haline gelerek bu konuda yakınsak ve bütünsel bir metodoloji ile birlikte “derin bilinç” kavramını da içeren alternatif bir yaklaşım olarak Öztürk tarafından önerilmiştir. Aynı zamanda bu çalışmada Öztürk, “Dissosiyatif Yansıtımlı Kimlik Geçişi Kuramı” ile “İnkar Travması” ve “Travma Dikotimisi” fenomenlerini yapılandırmıştır. Dissosiyatif yansıtımlı kimlik geçişi, kişinin kendi kimliğinin özvarlanışındaki reddettiği parçalarının bir başkasının kimliğine zorla empoze edilmesi arzusunu bir “gerçeklik içbilişsel çarpıtması” ekseninde eyleme dönüşmesidir. Travmatik yaşam deneyimlerinin yok farz edilmesinin yarattığı dissosiyatif kuşatmanın bireyi mutlak gerçekliğin idrakinden uzaklaştırarak farklı ve çoklu gerçekliklere hapsetmesi, inkar travmasının ta kendisidir! İnkar kadar bireyleri ve toplumları hem gerçeklikten, hem bilinçlerinden hem de kendilerinden uzaklaştıran bir şey daha yoktur ki hatta inkar bir gerçeklik katliamıdır. Gerçeklik fenomenine hissizleşmek ise, düşünce ve davranışlardaki psikovital duygu varlanışından vazgeçmek demektir. Travma dikotomisi, karşılaşılan en sarsıcı olumsuz örselenme ihtimalinin varlanışı esnasında ya da hemen sonrasında bireylerin tekil olduğu varsayılan bilinçlerinin “dual bilinç sistemi”ne geçiş yapması süreci ve dissosiyojen bir yaşam deneyimidir. “Psikotoplumsal Bilinç Alyansı Kuramı” ya da diğer ismiyle “Travmatik Anılardan Uzaklaştırıcı Olağan Yaşam Deneyimleri Kuramı” ülkemizin ilk dissoanalisti olan ve beş binin üzerinde dissosiyatif bozukluk vakalarının psikoterapilerini yüksek bir başarı ortalaması ve kesinleşmiş pozitif tedavi sonuçlarıyla tamamlayan Öztürk tarafından 2017-2022 yılları arasında geliştirilmiştir. Bilinç kavramına ve travmatik yaşantılarla eşlenik çoklu bilinç sistemi fenomenine dair bireysel ve toplumsal her ögeyle en yakın etkileşimsel dinamiğe sahip bir eksende yapılandırılan “Dissoanaliz Kuramı”, bir travma terapisti, bir psikotarihçi ve bir dissoanalist olan Öztürk’ün uzun dönemli dissoanalitik yönelimli klinik ve teorik çalışmalarından bilimsel köken almıştır. Bu kuramdaki ana kavramlar Öztürk tarafından yine kendi geliştirdiği “Dissoanaliz Kuramı” yönelimindeki paradigma ve modaliteler ışığında yaratıcı, yansıtıcı ve hem ıraksak hem de yakınsak bir düşünme stili odağında tanımlanmış olup bu kuramla ilişkili ikincil kavramlar ise, hermenötik ve entegratif bir yaklaşımla yeniden analiz edilmiştir. Anahtar Kelimeler: Dissoanaliz kuramı; psiktoplumsal bilinç alyansı; dissosiyatif yansıtımlı kimlik geçişi; dissosiyasyon; psikotravmatoloji; inkar travması; psikokomünal dissosiyasyon; sosyal dissosiyasyon; toplumsal dissosiyasyon; çoklu bilinç sistemi; travma dikotomisi; hipotetik inkar; kitlesel dissosiyasyon; psikotoplumsal terapi ABSTRACT Consciousness is a multi-component psychological phenomenon that can be experienced and controlled by optimizing real-time and spontaneous or designed mental actions through normative and structured integrative internal and external evaluations, focusing on the present, according to both past and future possible situations. The singularity of consciousness, which is a personal experience with its subjective and objective harmony, is not a phenomenon that can be verified experimentally. In the face of all the restrictions and criticisms regarding consciousness as a "singularity experience", the construction of the "Theory of Psychosocial Consciousness Alliance" based on "multiple consciousness system" has become a necessity; and an alternative approach, which includes the concept of "deep consciousness" along with a convergent and holistic methodology, has been proposed by Öztürk. The “Theory of Dissociative Projective Identity Transition”, “denial trauma” and “trauma dichotomy” were also structured by Öztürk. Dissociative projective identity transition refers to the transformation of the desire of one person to impose the parts that they reject in their own identity to another's by force into action, on the axis of an "internal cognitive distortion of reality". The dissociative siege created by the ignoring the traumatic life experiences, keeping the individual away from the realization of absolute reality and imprisoning them in different and multiple realities, is the denial trauma itself. There is nothing that distances individuals and societies from reality, their consciousness and themselves as much as denial. Denial is a massacre of reality. To become numb to the phenomenon of reality, on the other hand, means to give up the psychovital emotional presence in thoughts and behaviors. Trauma dichotomy is a dissociative life experience and the process of transition of individuals' supposedly singular consciousness to the "dual consciousness system" during or immediately after the most shocking possibility of trauma encountered. The “Theory of Psychosocial Consciousness Alliance” or the “Theory of Traumatic Memory Repellent Ordinary Life Experiences” was developed by Öztürk between 2017-2022, the first dissoanalyst of our country, who completed the psychotherapy of over five thousand dissociative disorder cases with a high success average and definite positive treatment results. The "Theory of Dissoanalysis", structured on the axis that has the closest interactional dynamic with every individual and social element regarding the concept of consciousness and the phenomenon of the multiple consciousness system conjugated with traumatic experiences, has a scientific origin from the long-term dissoanalytically oriented clinical and theoretical studies of Öztürk, a trauma therapist, psychohistorian, and dissoanalyst. The main concepts in this theory were defined by Öztürk in a creative, reflective and both divergent and convergent thinking style in the light of the paradigms and modalities in his "Theory of Dissoanalysis", and the secondary concepts related to this theory were theorized and reanalyzed with a hermeneutic and integrative approach. Keywords: Theory of dissoanalysis; psychosocial consciousness alliance; dissociative projective identity transition; dissociation; psychotraumatology; denial trauma; psychocommunal dissociation; social dissociation; societal dissociation; multiple consciousness system; trauma dichotomy; hypothetical denial; mass dissociation; psychosocial therapy
... The concept of psychic EAA developed initially in the psychoanalytic literature (e.g. Allen, Hurvich, & Mcguire, 2017;Hurvich, 2003), was found to (Kashima, Halloran, Yuki, & Kashima, 2004;Kira, 2002Kira, , 2006Yair, 2014), is another variable that was found to mediate the effects of CST on psychopathology. The constellations of different EAA interact and ultimately reinforce the status's EAA. ...
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Objective The study aimed to clarify and refine the concepts of cumulative stressors and trauma (CST), the centrality of an event to an identity (COE), the existential annihilation anxieties (EAA), and psychopathology. The study aimed to propose and test a model in which CST affects psychopathology directly but mostly indirectly through COE and the four different types of identity-based EAA (personal/ psychic identity, collective identity, physical identity, and status identity EAA's). Further, the study aimed to replicate the previous finding that the non-linear model of CST's effects on internalizing, externalizing, and thought disorders (the psychopathology three major components) explains more variance than the linear model. Method Using path analysis, PROCESS mediation analysis, curve estimation regression, on a combined sample (N = 1566) from Egypt (N = 490), Turkey (N = 420), Kuwait (N = 300), Syria (N = 179), and the UK (N = 177), we tested the study assumptions. Results Status identity EAA and the other types of EAA related to different identities and COE mediated the major part of CST impact on psychopathology; with "status identity, EAA" had the strongest effect size. The non-linear model of the impact of CST's cumulative dynamics on psychopathology, internalizing, externalizing, thought disorders, and physical health accounted for much more variance than the linear model. Conclusions Results supported the proposed assumptions. The implications of these results for a paradigm shift in understanding stress and traumatization dynamics that go beyond the current linear approach with the sole focus on a single past stressor or traumatic stressor were discussed.
... A long series of wars and terror attacks, a result of the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict, have shaped the Israeli mentality and created a society with a strong sense of unity and solidarity, particularly in times of lifethreatening crises. [116][117][118] It is possible that in times like this, political and civic perceptions, including those about trust in the government, are put aside, or at least play a smaller part in shaping the average Israeli's behavior. Nevertheless, in accordance with our hypothesis, the relationship between trust in government and compliance in the Arab minority was weak but apparent. ...
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Background: The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated the crucial effect of the public's compliance with the government's health instructions on the population's health. However, evidence shows that some communities are less likely to comply with such instructions than others. This study highlights the factors related to intentions to comply with newly issued health directives during an ongoing extreme crisis, such as the current pandemic. In addition, it compares the impact of these factors on different minority groups and the general population in Israel. Methods: Using an online survey (N=1005), we examined the impact of compliance-related factors on compliance intentions with newly issued health directives in two minority groups in Israel: the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community (N=323) and the Arab community (N=361), as well as in the general population (N=321), during the first outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Participants were presented with a new made-up COVID-19-related instruction simulated to be issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health. Compliance intentions and compliance-related factors were measured. Results: The Arab minority expressed greater intentions of complying with the instructions than the other groups. Perceptions on risk and the effectiveness of the instruction were the only two significantly associated factors with compliance intentions in all of the social groups. Additional factors affected different groups to different extents. Trust in government was related to compliance intentions only in the Arab minority. Conclusion: Intentions to comply with health instructions during a crisis differ in various minority groups and in comparison to the general population, both in their levels and in the factors related to them. Policy-makers and health authorities should consider providing information about the risks and negative outcomes of the crisis as well as the expected effectiveness of the recommended behaviors. Future research should examine other minority groups and other types of instructions in different stages of a crisis.
The proliferation of voluntary and grassroots relief initiatives during the recent ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe brought renewed attention to the feelings, desires, and motivations that prompt aid workers and volunteers to engage in humanitarian actions. The article expands on this interest in ‘the need to help’ and in the care of the self that humanitarian engagements involve by looking at another layer of humanitarian affectivity – the need to hope – that bears on the helpers and on their aid activities in an intimate and yet impersonal way. I demonstrate how the helpers’ experience of living in an impasse and their tentative coping with political stuckness and paralysis find expression in their humanitarian subjectivities and relief programs, and how their humanitarian encounters and the affects they trigger are entangled with the crisis of the future that their own political communities face. The analysis focuses on two refugee relief projects that were carried out by civil society organizations from Israel in Europe since 2015, in which the resonance between the refugees’ predicament and the crisis of hope that the Jewish helpers from Israel confronted was mobilized as an affective and an operational resource. I show that the normalization of the Israeli occupation and its view as an intractable condition had contrasting effects upon the helpers’ political and humanitarian expectations, fostering both a minor humanitarianism that reaffirmed resilience as a prime political virtue, and a visionary humanitarianism that sought to leverage the humanitarian exception as a platform for practical utopianism.
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The editors of Beyond Trauma: Cultural and Societal Dynamics have created a volume that goes beyond the individual's psychological dynamics of trauma, exploring its social, cultural, politica!, and ethical dimensions from an international as well as a global perspective. In the opening address as International Chair of the First World Conference of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies on Trauma and Tragedy: The Origins, Management, and Prevention of Traumatic Stress in Today's World, June 22-26, 1992, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the conference that formed the foundation for the col­ lected chapters in this volume, 1 commented: This meeting is a landmark in accomplishing the Society's universal mission. Our distinguished International Scientific Advisory Committee and Honor­ ary Committee, whose membership was drawn from over 60 countries, the cooperation of six United Nations bodies, and the participation anei endorse­ ment of numerous nongovernmental organizations and institutions attest to the Society's emerging presence as a major international forum for profes­ sionals of ali disciplines working with victims and trauma survivors.
The Sabras were the first Israelis—the first generation, born in the 1930s and 1940s, to grow up in the Zionist settlement in Palestine. Socialized and educated in the ethos of the Zionist labor movement and the communal ideals of the kibbutz and moshav, they turned the dream of their pioneer forebears into the reality of the new State of Israel. While the Sabras made up a small minority of the new society's population, their cultural influence was enormous. Their ideals, their love of the land, their recreational culture of bonfires and sing-alongs, their adoption of Arab accessories, their slang, and their gruff, straightforward manner, together with a reserved, almost puritanical attitude toward individual relationships, came to signify the cultural fulfillment of the utopian ideal of a new Jew. This book addresses their lives, thought, and role in Jewish history, providing a complex and unflinching analysis of accepted norms and an impressive appraisal of the Sabra, one that any examination of new Israeli reality must take into consideration. The Sabras became Palmach commanders, soldiers in the British Brigade, and, later, officers in the Israel Defense Forces. They served as a source of inspiration and an object of emulation for an entire society. This volume includes poems, letters, youth movement and army newsletters, and much more to portray the Sabras' attitudes toward the Arabs, war, nature, work, agriculture, cooperation, and education. The Sabra remained central to the founding myth of the nation, the real Israeli, against whom later generations will be judged.
In this book, Ron Eyerman explores the formation of the African-American identity through the theory of cultural trauma. The trauma in question is slavery, not as an institution or as personal experience, but as collective memory: a pervasive remembrance that grounded a people's sense of itself. Combining a broad narrative sweep with more detailed studies of important events and individuals, Eyerman reaches from Emancipation through the Harlem Renaissance, the Depression, the New Deal and the Second World War to the Civil Rights movement and beyond. He offers insights into the intellectual and generational conflicts of identity-formation which have a truly universal significance, as well as providing a compelling account of the birth of African-American identity. Anyone interested in questions of assimilation, multiculturalism and postcolonialism will find this book indispensable.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, has long been defined as a mental trauma that solely affects the individual. However, against the backdrop of contemporary Israel, what role do families, health experts, donors, and the national community at large play in interpreting and responding to this individualized trauma? In PTSD and the Politics of Trauma in Israel, Keren Friedman-Peleg sheds light on a new way of speaking about mental vulnerability and national belonging in contemporary Israel. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted at The Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War and The Israel Trauma Coalition between 2004 and 2009, Friedman-Peleg's rich ethnographic study challenges the traditional and limited definitions of trauma. In doing so, she exposes how these clinical definitions have been transformed into new categories of identity, thereby raising new dynamics of power, as well as new forms of dialogue.
There is a current effort to borrow the concept of trauma from medicine and psychiatry and to introduce it into sociological theory. The author explicates the notion of cultural trauma as applicable to the theory of social change. He defines cultural trauma as the culturally defined and interpreted shock to the cultural tissue of a society, and presents a model of the traumatic sequence, describing typical conditions under which cultural trauma emerges and evolves. Drawing on the work of Robert K. Merton on anomie, and of Anthony Giddens on risk, he suggests a number of typical strategies by which societies cope with cultural traumas. Cultural trauma is treated as a link in the ongoing chain of social changes; depending on the number of concrete circumstances, cultural trauma may be a phase in the constructive morphogenesis of culture or in the destructive cycle of cultural decay.