Your Jewish Friends Are Not Alright

Mental Health Trauma is Volcanic in Light of the News from Israel

My Facebook page is a constant scroll of heartbreak.  Post after post of people I know and don’t share heart-crushing words about loved ones lost in Israel.  At first, it was the steady stream of civilians tortured and murdered from places I know well.  Then, it was the faces of young men and women who rushed to the defense of those border villages and died struggling to save others’ lives. Then, the inspiring posts of people – putting their lives on the line to rescue wounded and even abandoned animals from villages destroyed in the hateful rampage.  Finally, words of friends reporting the death of a 24-year-old from their community. All the while, I sit with a weight of unbelievable grief and try to digest the waves of shock and anger. As a person of action, it is totally unlike me to feel helpless.

The mental health trauma experienced by people with relatives and friends in war zones is known, documented, and mysterious. This is true for all people in the region: Jewish and Muslim, Arab and Israeli, Druze and Christian. This is true for all wars. The emotional burden of having loved ones, close friends, and colleagues in Israel living the nightmare first-hand is an undesired outcome of these devastating and horrific days.

But for the Jewish community as a whole – with diverse perspectives around culture and faith – there are unique hot buttons that are tipping points for mental health volcanic eruptions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and, for those like me with family who were murdered or survived the Holocaust or pogroms, a profound sense of helplessness. Watching events unfold in real time before our eyes on social media and the news – while the world watches, too – calls to mind the unspeakable terror and fear of generations, which, for many of us, was safely filed away as “history,” yet is happening again, today, right now.

The uncertainty and constant worry of having relatives and friends in Israel now may lead to acute and chronic anxiety. The relentless concern about their safety can consume thoughts, interfere with daily functioning, and cause physical symptoms. The obsessive need to check social media feeds – with videos from civilians only moments before the Hamas attacks playing with their children during the long Jewish holiday weekend or dancing at the desert Nova Festival Peace Festival – are now remembered in final digital images that will terrorize their families, survivors and viewers for decades.  

Jewish schools across the United States and worldwide have warned parents to disable their children’s social media accounts, if possible, to shield them from anticipated videos of hostages being tortured or murdered. It is difficult for anyone to find a respite from social media with its everlasting digital footprint that draws us back to relive these horrors. WebMD’s Chief Medical Officer John Whyte, MD, has gone on television to counsel all parents on protecting their children from the flood of online terror.

History Creates Communal PTSD

How can anyone with a heart not be depressed?  For Jews, the helplessness is compounded by our history of generations of helpless slaughter and the inability to protect or support family members.  We are a people that, before 1948, had no place to run, no haven, and no possibility of a protective force to rescue us anywhere in the world. 

Many of us who trace our family history using genealogy sites such as My Heritage or find our relatives were shot, gassed or burnt to ash during the Nazi-led Holocaust.  Many of us whose grandparents or great-grandparents came to America to escape pogroms in Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. Many families were forced from their homes in Spain, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, and Iraq.  We now see those same images of our people fleeing in real-time. It is both infuriating and terrifying. My apartment building’s available space in Israel is now used to house families evacuated from the Southern border.  We live in a “back to the future” daze.

Families evacuated from Israel’s Southern border are now housed in my apartment complex in Central Israel. The lobby is now used to entertain – distract – children from the horror of what has happened to too many others.

As an American Israeli who served as a paratrooper in the 1982 Lebanon War with homes in the States and Israel, the trauma experienced during the past days sparks well-suppressed PTSD. Witnessing graphic images of violence, hearing about near-death experiences, and constantly fearing for the safety of loved ones triggers flashbacks and numbness. It’s natural to become hypersensitive by continually thinking, “What would I do?” and feeling incredibly frustrated that we cannot respond to the call to protect and defend. I imagine being called upon to defend my home.  But that time has passed.  I sit, watch and wait like everyone else.

One of the most challenging aspects of this trauma is the lack of control. Helplessness can be overwhelming. It can lead to a deep sense of guilt. We want to do more than raise our voices or donate to charities for medical and emotional care – including sending “care packages” to Israeli Defense Force soldiers rallying in response to the massive attack against the civilians.

Half-Hearted Support Adds to the Pain

Right now, friends, family, and colleagues can play a significant role in helping the Jewish community cope. People ask: “How are you?”  It’s appreciated. Others say: “I’m here. I see you. I care about you.” These simple words often mean more than I can express. But in truth, our emotions are all over the place – from the news and absorbing the shock of events, from mourning the dead, from the collective trauma, from fear of the future and a repeated cycle of violence.

The vast majority take no joy in seeing the Palestinian people suffer.  Revenge is not a Jewish instinctive response to violence.  We are a people of hope and ideas – not anger.  Even Israel’s national anthem is titled:  HaTikvah – The Hope.”

We do, however, feel the acute pain of silence and “whataboutism” – or worse, activists who claim to pursue justice and equality refusing to condemn acts of terrorism, full stop. Like a half-hearted apology, political leaders hedge their bets by acknowledging the terror Israel and Jews have experienced while criticizing the response.  From members of Congress like AOC trying to cover all bases and constituents to professional organizations – even the American Psychology Association – the need to ensure no one is offended can be offensive. Sometimes, the truth isn’t in the middle. And two truths can be held at once. People in pain need to feel distinctly heard. That’s basic communication smarts.

As close followers of the region’s history, the Jewish people have seen Hamas digging up and destroying their people’s water supply system to use the pipes as containers for the thousands of rockets fired into Israel’s cities.  We read how billions of United Nations and Saudi contributions to the people of Gaza didn’t go to build medical centers but toward tunnels.  We feel dismissed by these comments from the Progressive wing we have long supported.  Their ill-timed response adds to our collective pain.

One of the most challenging aspects of this trauma is the lack of control. Helplessness can be overwhelming. It can lead to a deep sense of guilt. We want to do more than raise our voices or donate to charities for medical and emotional care – including sending “care packages” to Israeli Defense Force soldiers rallying in response to the massive attack against the civilians.

What Can You or We Do

What can we do to help ourselves?  Use proven self-care methods, such as meditation, exercise, prayer and maintaining a strong social support network to navigate expected emotional turbulence. Awareness of the signs of distress and seeking timely intervention is key to preventing a natural reaction from becoming chronic. Remember, as the Book of Isaiah states, we are a people, made to be “A light unto the nations.” Continue to contribute and create.

Right now, we are at war with a brutal terrorist regime – one that stands opposed to not only Jews but Americans, Western nations, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and the list goes on. People like to avoid confrontation.  But a response is essential when the Hamas action is so horrific and unbelievable.  We are not victims.  Our history of sadness does not leave us stranded in the past.  We must illuminate hope.

We are in pain collectively.  As I was raised in a home marked and influenced by death – from pogroms, the Holocaust, and wars- I still look to the “mountain from where my help comes,” a generational belief in faith.  But, as a former IDF soldier, I know that sometimes the message of brute force can lead to a next step – peace.  People like to avoid confrontation.  But a response is essential when the Hamas action is so horrific and unbelievable.  We will not be victims.  Our history of sadness has never left us stranded in the past.  It illuminates the hope.


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

Gil Bashe, Medika Life Editor
Gil Bashe, Medika Life Editor
Health advocate connecting the dots to transform biopharma, digital health and healthcare innovation | Managing Partner, Chair Global Health FINN Partners | MM&M Top 50 Health Influencer | Top 10 Innovation Catalyst. Gil is Medika Life editor-in-chief and an author for the platform’s EcoHealth and Health Opinion and Policy sections. Gil also hosts the HealthcareNOW Radio show Healthunabashed, writes for Health Tech World, and is a member of the BeingWell team on Medium.


Editor in Chief, Medika Life

Meet the Medika Life editor-in-chief, working closely with founding editors Robert Turner and Jeff Livingston, MD.

Not your usual health-industry executive, Gil Bashe has had a unique career shaped by more than three decades in health policy, pharma, life science, digital health, eco-health, environmental innovation and venture capital and informed his determination to ‘give back.’

A champion for health innovation that sustains people’s lives and improves their care, Gil honed his perspectives on both battlefield and boardroom. He started in health as a combat medic in an elite military unit. He went on to serve as a clergyman tending to the ill; as a health products industry lobbyist in environmental affairs; as CEO of one of the world’s largest integrated health marketing companies; as a principal in a private equity-backed venture; as a Medika Life author and Health Tech World correspondent; and as Chair Global Health and Purpose at FINN Partners, a community of purpose dedicated to making a difference.

In the forefront of change, Gil is ranked as a Top 10 Digital Health Influencer; Medical Marketing & Media Top 10 Innovation Catalyst; Medika Life named him a “Top 50 Global Healthcare Influencer,” and PM360 presented him with its “Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award.” He is a board member for digital health companies and is an advisor to the CNS Summit, Galien Foundation, Let’s Win for Pancreatic Cancer, Marfan Foundation and other health-centered organizations.





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