Cloaked in Trauma | A Special Shomrim Report
Veterans of the Yom Kippur War: "We are the ’73 Screw-Ups"
For almost 50 years, veterans of the Yom Kippur War have suffered in silence with symptoms of post-trauma that they weren’t allowed to share. Now, in their later years, many are addressing their feelings for the first time - and discovering the true cost of decades of repression. The traumatized are no longer hiding.
Veteran Shaul Abir | Photo: Shlomi Yosef
September 27, 2020
I'm sitting on a hill in Baluza in the Sinai with my comrades who’ve survived the first day and night of fighting, and we’re looking out over the terrain below us."
This is the image that has been haunting Shaul Abir over and over again in a flashback from the Yom Kippur War, in which he served on the front lines and as a tank commander trainee.
"So I asked myself: Why that particular image? It doesn’t depict any harsh or traumatic incidents - and, after all, I did experience traumatic incidents during the war. When we got to the [Suez] Canal in the evening, the gates of hell opened: casualties, missiles, utter chaos, the worst kind of chaos imaginable, a sense of catastrophe. So why that particular image?"
Abir, 66, from the Galilee town of Timrat, embarked on a personal quest to decipher the flashback, a journey reminiscent of that same image that accompanies Ari Folman in his stirring film Waltz with Bashir, when he and his comrades emerge from the water, spent and naked, onto the shores of Beirut during the First Lebanon War.
Shaul Abir: "I guess what happened was that my brain inverted the image; instead of showing me the bodies that I could see from where I was sitting, it showed me the image of me and my comrades who had survived. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, it felt like a physical blow."
Abir says he came up with nothing, "up until four or five years ago when a conversation about the war started during a picnic with friends in the Carmel Forest. I met dozens of veterans there, some of them from tank battalions. They started talking, 40 years and more since the war, and some crazy things came up. The barriers came down. Suddenly I heard someone mention Hanoch, a guy who served with me in the same company and who I hadn’t heard from him since the war. I immediately called him and told him about the image I see in my flashback. I asked him if he knew anything about the hill and he said: ‘Yes, come see me and I’ll explain.’ The moment I heard him say that, I got into my car and drove to see him."
How was the meeting?
"It was very moving. When I walked into his home, I saw a picture on the wall of his son, who was killed in the battle in Shuja'iyya during Operation Protective Edge. It was awful to find out. Then he explained the image from the hill. Dozens of wounded and dead were brought there. We were sitting on the hill and the dead were below us, about 50 meters from us; bodies covered with blankets, with only the boots sticking out.
"I guess what happened was that my brain inverted the image; instead of showing me the bodies that I could see from where I was sitting, it showed me the image of me and my comrades who had survived. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, it felt like a physical blow."
NATAL, the Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center, says that in the five years following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, its helpline received 461 new calls from Yom Kippur War vets. One in 10 of the calls every year to the hotline come from former combatants in their later years.
Abir, who served in the past as an organizational psychologist in the Israel Navy, and held a similar role in the private sector, says he’s never been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD and hadn’t spoken at all of his part in the war until a few years ago. "As soon as the war ended, I enrolled in an officers’ training course and we didn’t talk about it there either, even though everyone on the course had fought in the war. I didn’t share anything with my wife and children either."
But, he says, something from that parallel world on the dunes of the Sinai Desert was always there with him. Over the past year, he continues, "I started having a new kind of flashback, of calls coming in over a two-way radio. I hear commanders, orders being given, and sometimes just the noise of the radio. I push it aside pretty quickly. Sometimes, you just can’t hold back the tears, and I know that it’s part and parcel of the whole thing. When you’re older, you’re more susceptible to tears - and crying doesn’t scare you as much."
Prof. Zahava Solomon: "It was impossible in 1973 to find a single article in Hebrew about shell shock, not a single shred of information. After enlisting in the Mental Health Department of the IDF’s Medical Corps, I understood why: At the end of each war, the army would sweep all the material it had on shell shock under the carpet, which largely reflected the spirit of the times".
How often does it happen?
"It can happen as much as once a day, or once every two or three days, and then I really freeze up. I switch myself off for two or three seconds and it passes."
Over the past few years, Abir says, he and his friends who fought together have been talking increasingly about the war. "It’s taken 45 years for me to hear their stories, their perspectives, even though we fought in the same place. We have a WhatsApp group called The ’73 Screw-Ups. We message one another there and meet up sometimes."
Your generation hasn’t spoken out or shared until now. What’s changed to make you willing to do so now?
"We never spoke about the war and didn’t think about it much, but it’s come back in a big way. Some of us are retired and have more time to think. The thoughts take you back there, and it’s hard to find answers. The fighters from then are caught up in a mad pursuit of the past, focusing on how to process and recount the events to anyone willing to listen, and perhaps be able to leave the past behind."
The aging trigger
It’s a growing phenomenon. In recent years, more and more Yom Kippur War vets have been exposing the scars they’ve been carrying since October 1973, recognizing them and seeking psychological help - most, for the first time in their lives. It’s happening 47 years after a war that is seen today as a national trauma, as war which ended in military victory alongside 2,673 dead, more than 11,000 wounded and an unknown, but ever-increasing, number of individuals with emotional scarring and PTSD.
NATAL, the Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center, says that in the five years following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, its helpline received 461 new calls from Yom Kippur War vets. Of those calls, 314 came from the vets themselves, and the remainder from family members. One in 10 of the calls every year to the hotline come from former combatants in their later years.
"We get a lot of calls from veteran fighters," says Dalia Yosef, director of the NATAL hotline. "Transitions in life often trigger a call. People built full lives for themselves, with their partners, their families, their jobs; they didn’t feel like they needed therapy. Then they retire, maybe aren’t as healthy as they once were and the triggers that go off in their later years require the investment of significantly more resources. In other words, something extreme that occurs in their lives serves as a trigger for a much higher level of awareness of the events that took place, and then there’s a real breakdown. It bursts forth and we see it."
What can you offer them?
"Some don’t want therapy and are happy simply with an ongoing talk on the hotline with the same volunteer. Others require clinical intervention and we work with them to lead them in that direction."
Israel Prize laureate Prof. Zahava Solomon, a world-renowned scholar in the field of traumatic stress from the School of Social Work at Tel Aviv University, confirms. "In recent years," she says, "we’re seeing requests for help coming in more than 40 years after the Yom Kippur War. Studies we’ve conducted show that for the most part, these are people who haven’t sought help in the past, or who, according to the records, had some kind of disorder and only sought help at a later stage.
"Post-trauma is not necessarily all or nothing; symptoms can build up in someone and the condition can worsen over the years. Before that, it supposedly ‘doesn’t meet’ the criteria to be considered post-trauma."
Why is this happening now, at the age of 65 or older?
"Studies we've done involving victims of shell shock and former POWs show that the aging process exacerbates and intensifies post-traumatic processes. As people get older, they are less preoccupied with planning ahead and more prone to looking back into the past. A natural self-examination of sorts - what have I done, what did I want to be, how far have I come, what will I never be? The aging process also comes with many losses - you stop working, you become less significant, you can lose your social position too sometimes, some of the people in your age group die, and sometimes you get a little lonelier, your body ages and you lose abilities you once had and physical strength. For people who have undergone severe trauma in their youth, these losses, together with the introspection, can lead to the resurfacing of some of the things that were repressed or denied. It can sometimes even lead to a process of reconstruction."
According to data provided by the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division, 5,192 of the Israel Defense Forces’ disabled veterans have been recognized as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their military service, with 588 of them added during the period between Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and through to the end of 2019.
Aside from the aging process, Solomon continues, the security situation in Israel provides endless reminders of traumatic experiences. "For victims of shell shock, just hearing others talk about their experiences in more recent wars is enough to cause a resurgence of the trauma. In the wake of Operation Protective Edge and the Gulf War, for example, many PTSD sufferers sought therapy. It’s a situation in which there’s a lot of external pressure and the wound cannot heal. A combination of stress from within and from the outside is deadly in terms of increasing the chances of an outbreak of post-trauma."
According to Solomon, "Post-trauma is a chronic disorder. Studies show that someone who has suffered from a post-traumatic disorder at one point in time has a very good chance of suffering from it again at various points in the future too, even if they’ve undergone therapy. Some therapies can help to lessen the symptoms, and even lead to an easing of sorts in some cases, but no therapy can eradicate the phenomenon. If people are exposed to stress again in the future, their risk of being hit with it a second time is much greater; and for those who are hit with it twice, the wound reaches even deeper and the recovery is all the more difficult."
Is post-trauma that erupts many years down the line also more acute?
"We were concerned about that, but it turns out that delayed disorders are usually less severe. If people managed to delay the onset of the disorder, it would probably be better for several reasons. First, they probably have internal resources or better coping mechanisms to begin with. Second, for many years they have accumulated and built up resources, not just lost them. They manage to get married, start families, establish a career, build a more complete and cohesive life and collect resources that also reflect and empower what they have."
How does the system handle post-trauma that erupts decades later?
"Delayed post-traumatic disorders are at the center of a very heated medicolegal debate because they’re like delayed bombs. Someone in that situation will be asked questions like: So now you remember? Why now all of a sudden? Where have you been until now?"
Immigrant weakness, native strength
According to data provided by the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division - in response to request submitted by the Movement for Freedom of Information on behalf of Shomrim - 5,192 of the Israel Defense Forces’ disabled veterans have been recognized as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their military service, with 588 of them added during the period between Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and through to the end of 2019.
The Defense Ministry, however, didn’t respond to Shomrim’s request for information on individuals whose applications for recognition as sufferers of PTSD were denied. In response to a freedom of information request, the ministry said that it "can’t provide such a figure, since applications of that kind are classified as general requests to recognize a psychological disability." The spokesman also failed to provide data on the number of veterans who’ve been recognized as suffering from post-trauma following their participation in the Yom Kippur War.
Dr. Dror Green: "At the age of around 50, a colleague reflected on my behavior and said: ‘You’re talking like someone with PTSD.’ And at that moment, I said to myself: That’s true. It’s obvious. It was a sudden awareness. I suddenly realized I’ve had the symptoms since the Yom Kippur War, and that I needed to deal with the problem".
Professionals in the field believe that the number of veterans suffering from post-trauma in Israel is much higher than the official figures: Some of the applicants aren’t recognized as PTSD sufferers by the Defense Ministry, and some have been involved in legal proceedings against the system for years on end; and over the years, too, the Rehabilitation Department has come in for harsh criticism concerning the lengthy process applicants are required to undergo before their disability is acknowledged, if at all. And there are those, the same professionals say, who are suffering from post-trauma symptoms but choose not to approach the Defense Ministry at all.
Moreover, for decades, stretching as far back as the War of Independence, shell shock has been a repressed and hushed-up issue among the Israeli public. The late Netiva Ben-Yehuda, former Palmach fighter, author and media personality, put it like this: "I had so many symptoms that I should have realized long before that something was wrong with me. But at that time in Israel, no one had heard of shell shock. They didn’t know what it was at all ... My instincts told me that I was suffering from something very bad and that all I had to do was to repress it very deeply, and lock and seal it in so that nothing could ooze out."
Reports and documents concerning trauma victims were kept under wraps by the IDF, including information pertaining to the Yom Kippur War. "It was impossible in 1973 to find a single article in Hebrew about shell shock, not a single shred of information," recalls Prof. Solomon, a student at the time with an interest in writing a paper on the subject. "After enlisting in the Mental Health Department of the IDF’s Medical Corps, I understood why: At the end of each war, the army would sweep all the material it had on shell shock under the carpet, which largely reflected the spirit of the times."
Thinking that it would disappear?
"Yes, that if we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist - and the spirit of the brave and handsome Israeli soldier wouldn’t be bowed by trauma. In a society that had very collectivist values and in which the common good was always the focus, there was no room to acknowledge trauma. Furthermore, there was an intense fear of heterogeneity, a fear that one bad apple could cause the entire sack to rot, a fear that acknowledging weakness could harm the fighters even more, out of a sense that we’re more or less with our backs to the wall and are fighting for our survival as a nation. They didn’t want to give such a weakness a place, certainly not if it was going to weaken us.
"After the War of Independence, there were those who wrote that the victims of shell shock were the Diaspora Jews from the Holocaust who were given weapons and sent to the front, while the ‘sturdy and excellent’ born-and-bred Israelis came out unscathed. The booklet about shell shock that was published after the Yom Kippur War was also tucked away somewhere. The picture today, in the Israel of 2020, is very different."
The turning point came in 1982, with the First Lebanon War, at the end of which around 1,000 soldiers asked the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division for psychological support - with many others believed to have been suffering from various post-trauma symptoms too. The IDF realized it could no longer ignore the increasing number of shell shock casualties and set up a unit to add momentum to research in the field.
"Our generation is ready today to deal with the issues; it wants to face up to them, and realizes that if it doesn’t do it now, it will never be done," says Rami Swet, chairman of the board of the Yom Kippur War Center, which was established in 2018 and which hopes to build a memorial center for the victims in time for the 50th anniversary in 2023.
The term post-traumatic stress disorder itself came into use in the 1970s in large part due to the diagnoses of U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam War. Its official recognition by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders contributed to the acknowledgment of the phenomenon and the ensuing discourse and research into the subject.
"What happened here was nothing short of a revolution, but we haven’t come to the end of the road and there’s still a long way to go," says Prof. Solomon. "The situation today is completely different in terms of the public’s perception of the issue too. Numerous organizations and associations are involved today with PTSD brought on by war, and people aren’t ashamed to reveal their personal stories and emotional breakdowns.
"There are undoubtedly people out there who don’t seek help, but the social stigmas aren’t as weighty as in the past; the element of profound shame, which used to be a very commonplace phenomenon, has diminished significantly. Those who came in to be diagnosed after the First Lebanon War were just the tip of the iceberg, and there were many who didn’t seek help. Today, a combination of awareness and social legitimacy is giving more and more people the opportunity to seek support. People today pour their hearts out in the media and on social networks, and something that was once deemed very private has become public."
How much has the system changed?
"It’s changed, but not enough. The army has come an amazingly long way. With the support of the Defense Ministry, it has successfully established a unit to treat PTSD sufferers that offers free treatment at any time, to reservists too, and even if a long time has passed since the onset of the disorder. And that’s a huge feather in the cap for the IDF. The Defense Ministry is facing even greater challenges. Over and above providing funding for this unit, it’s supposed to examine functional impairments and take care of financial compensation, and that’s a more complex issue. Soldiers carrying deep wounds define the system as impervious, with some even saying that it exacerbates their condition."
"A new war," many of them say. Like going into battle again.
"In this context, I can only quote Dr. David Szenes, a very gentle man, who was captured by the Egyptians in the Yom Kippur War: ‘I underwent three interrogations, each more difficult than the previous one. The first was the interrogation by the Egyptians when I was in captivity, the second was the IDF’s interrogation in Zichron Yaakov after my release. That was an interrogation by our forces and therefore harder for me than the interrogation by the Egyptian enemy. The third interrogation was the hardest and most painful of all. It was the interrogation I was put through by the panel of doctors at the Rehabilitation Department, which I approached for treatment.’"
"Suddenly I realized I had the symptoms"
The case of Dr. Dror Green, a 66-year-old author and psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of PTSD, proves the old proverb that the shoemaker’s children always go barefoot. Green has been treating victims of shell shock for several decades now, but only at the age of 50 did he realize that he, too, is a sufferer - because of his service in the Armored Corps in the Sinai during the Yom Kippur War.
Some 30 years after the war, Green asked the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division for help. At the end of a grueling process, during which he discovered, as he puts it, "just how cruel the system is," he was classified as having a 30 percent psychological disability. Together with the 7 percent physical disability determined for him after the war, Green receives a monthly stipend of 1,600 shekels.
As a professional who specializes in post-trauma, how come the penny dropped for you only 30 years later?
"I was sure I was strong and that I was fine. Overall, I lived a normal life - family, studies, work. I didn’t want to see myself as post-traumatic; it was difficult and painful. I remember simulating a conversation with a victim of PTSD for a group of general practitioners I was teaching. I got the feeling that I had inadvertently exposed something I’d been hiding even from myself."
What triggered your recognition?
"At the age of around 50, a colleague reflected on my behavior and said: ‘You’re talking like someone with PTSD.’ And at that moment, I said to myself: That’s true. It’s obvious. It was a sudden awareness. I suddenly realized I’ve had the symptoms since the Yom Kippur War, and that I needed to deal with the problem. I hadn’t slept properly for years; I could work three days straight without sleep. I had anxiety attacks and outbursts of anger, which also manifested themselves in my battles with institutions and my political involvement. I read an article at the time about a victim of PTSD who was a school principal and political activist, and was always at war with various organizations, and I said to myself: That’s me."
How did your family take it?
"Six months went by before I managed to share the realization that I’m suffering from PTSD with my wife. It was even harder with my parents. My father thought I was faking it and trying to con the Rehabilitation Department. Sharing with your family can sometimes constitute a trauma in and of itself, and you don’t always get understanding and support."
At the time, Green recounts, the realization that he’s post-traumatic "intensified my symptoms. I had terrible bouts of crying. I would lie on the floor and cry, kicking the furniture out of frustration. I remember a security guard at the supermarket asking me for my receipt and screaming at him. I’d get extremely angry if anyone showed any mistrust in me. It was very difficult to live with and to go through the process at the Rehabilitation Department at the same time."
Green appears very fired up when talking about the difficulties he encountered before being recognized as a victim of PTSD, including the sense he got that "the psychiatrists on the panels are instructed to treat everyone like a liar," and noting, too, that he doesn’t advise people who consult with him to contact the Rehabilitation Division. "Facing the medical panels only intensifies the trauma, and there are people who fall apart at that stage," he says.
"I’m an example of a victim of PTSD who’s rehabilitated himself," Green continues. "Not healed himself. Because post-trauma isn’t an illness that can be cured; it’s a severe injury, like the amputation of an arm. But you can live without an arm, you can be a world champion disabled swimmer, and it gives you a lot of strength. To deal with my trauma, and after going through the same things others are struggling with, I developed a treatment method called Emotional Training, which strengthens the skills that have been damaged."
Green and his family left Israel for Bulgaria about 11 years ago and he hasn’t been back since. He’s harshly critical of the country’s leaders and notes too that after moving to a new country, "I stopped using sedatives and life is much better for me. I can stroll into town, into the shopping malls. I still have anxiety attacks but I have very good coping tools. I can get very angry with someone and then calm down and get on with my life within just a few minutes. In Israel, on the other hand, I was living constantly in a war zone. Israel is a country that sanctifies war, sanctifies sacrifice and suffering."
What do you think the state should do for victims of PTSD?
"There’s a need for social change, tolerance, the right attitude towards the other. In Israel today, the only support available to PTSD victims comes from non-profits that work in the field. PTSD victims threaten the peace of mind of others and are sometimes labeled as traitors, malingerers or mentally ill. There are so many veteran fighters who aren’t willing to admit they suffer from post-trauma symptoms, and there are many more who don’t even know they have a problem. I have women who come to me and tell me that their partner still does reserve duty - and still screams in the night."
Increased risk of illness and death
Some of the most unique and significant studies in the field of military-related trauma have been conducted here in Israel, which is well-acquainted with wars. During the Yom Kippur War, 301 Israelis were taken captive by either Egyptian or Syrian forces. In 1991, Prof. Solomon began monitoring their mental and physical condition, initially at the IDF’s Mental Health Department and subsequently at Tel Aviv University. Her study, the longest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world, lasting three decades until now, has found that 43 percent of the released POWs have suffered from symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-trauma, and that one-third have been diagnosed with severe PTSD.
Solomon published one of her harshest findings of all in 2013: Post-trauma accelerates the aging process, speeds up the demise of its victims. Some 35 years on, the overall mortality rate of released POWs was four times that of similar combatants from the war who didn’t fall captive. In the last wave of research, 42 years after the war, with the respondents getting even older, the multiple was 1.6.
Studies from elsewhere in the world also support the finding that individuals with PTSD are at higher risk of undergoing biological processes that accelerate aging. Among other things, post-trauma has been found to affect the length of telomeres, regions of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome that shorten with age. Studies have found that people with post-trauma have significantly shorter telomeres.
According to an international study conducted in various countries, including Israel, and published in 2014, exposure to traumatic events increases the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, back and neck pain, ulcers, hypertension and more. A U.S. study from 2019 shows a link between PTSD (not just military-related) and an increased risk of suffering a stroke in young adults. Furthermore, various studies show that post-trauma sufferers sometimes tend to adopt behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, emotional eating, the avoidance of physical activity, and these increase the risk of contracting illnesses.
And back to the veterans of 1973. Dr. Yael Shoval-Zuckerman from Bar-Ilan University conducted a study (under the guidance of Prof. Rachel Dekel) on soldiers from the Yom Kippur War who applied years down the line for assistance from the IDF. The respondents included around 200 veterans who sought help between 2006 and 2012; some 60 percent hadn’t sought any assistance beforehand, and 26 percent had applied previously for medication only.
The findings paint a gloomy picture: 90 percent of the respondents were found to be suffering from post-trauma, with their mental distress escalating over the years to the point of becoming a full-blown disorder. Following examinations, they were found to be displaying a high incidence of post-traumatic symptoms such as a tendency for aggression (about 93 percent of the respondents), anxiety (about 89 percent), sleep problems (about 88 percent), interpersonal problems (about 82 percent), symptoms of depression (about 78 percent), avoidance (about 62 percent), dysfunction (about 46 percent), physical symptoms (about 34 percent), fears (33 percent) and violent behavior (32 percent). Respondents who had been exposed to the death of IDF soldiers showed increasing signs of violence too.
"Our generation is ready today to deal with the issues; it wants to face up to them, and realizes that if it doesn’t do it now, it will never be done," says Rami Swet, chairman of the board of the Yom Kippur War Center, which was established in2018 and which hopes to build a memorial center for the victims in time for the 50th anniversary in 2013. "We live the period of the war, we feel it, and we talk about it. Even if we don’t give it a label, it must be some kind of post-traumatic symptom of sorts."
Swet served as an Armored Corps fighter in the Yom Kippur War, as did his two brothers, Yair and Miki. Yair was killed in the Golan Heights, Miki was wounded during the fighting, and Rami sustained injuries to his leg and lost his sight in one eye. He remained in the army after the war and rose to the rank of battalion commander. Six years ago, he says, "we took a trip to the Golan Heights with family and friends in memory of my brother. While we were there, I spoke about things related to both him and me, things I’d never talked about before, not even with my immediate family. Things I had kept buried inside me. We’ve come of age in a way and it’s easier for us to face up to these things."
The war in the recesses of the mind
With people stuck today at home and isolated more than ever before due to the Coronavirus crisis, there’s even more time for thinking; and when this free and charged time encounters the technological possibilities on offer on social media, the dam walls are breached there too. "Stories from Lebanon - What happened at the outposts" is the name of a Facebook group that was opened a few months ago, 20 years after the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon. The group already has some 36,000 members who flood its timeline with stories of fighting, loss and longing. Some say it’s the first time that they’re opening up about their personal experiences and can face up to them.
A fascinating process is also taking place in another Facebook group that deals with the after-effects of the Yom Kippur War. Set up by director and screenwriter Idit Shechori in 2013 to mark the 40th anniversary of the war, the group numbers some 8,300 members and includes posts about various battles, stories about lost comrades, maps, letters, and old photographs with questions like: Does anyone know this man? Does anyone recognize this individual? Can anyone tell me about my father? PTSD, too, is a topic of conversation.
"I thought I’d open a Facebook group and maybe 200 people would join," Shechori recounts. "A lot of people in the group write that they haven’t been able to open up until now. It comes up a lot in the group - unlike in the past, when post-trauma wasn’t properly defined and there was a great deal of shame associated with it.
"Every Israeli child is an expert when it comes to the Battle of Waterloo because it’s part of the high school curriculum," says Shaul Abir, one of the founders of the center. "But they know nothing at all about the Yom Kippur War in which their grandfathers fought, and may have been killed."
"People hid behind their four walls. They started families, raised a second generation of trauma victims and no one spoke about it. After all, we’re talking about an entire generation that’s shell shocked to some extent or another. Some of them are still at war with the Defense Ministry. Fewer and fewer victims of PTSD are looking for an organization to help them; rather, they’re looking for someone who will understand them and what they’re going through. People help one another and that’s the beauty of the group. People look out for one another and offer a shoulder to lean on."
Shechori says that the group also includes many spouses and second-generation children. "A lot of the children write things like: ‘My father never wanted to talk about the war, but we know what unit he was in. Can anyone tell us about him?’ And sometimes the father is still alive," she adds.
"The Yom Kippur War is a watershed in the history of the country; there’s the Israel before the war - and the Israel after the war, in every sense, and this is what the generations that came after us have no clue about at all," says Swet. "To this day, unfortunately, the implications of this war have yet to find proper expression in the State of Israel. That’s why we at The Yom Kippur War Center want to make the information accessible to future generations."
"Every Israeli child is an expert when it comes to the Battle of Waterloo because it’s part of the high school curriculum," says Shaul Abir, one of the founders of the center. "But they know nothing at all about the Yom Kippur War in which their grandfathers fought, and may have been killed."