By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 00:52 03/01/2007
A new study shows that one-third of the residents of communities that were bombarded in the second Lebanon war are suffering from moderate to severe post-traumatic stress.
"These are worrying statistics connected with the fact that the population in the north discovered they had no one to depend on: the government was not there, the local authorities were disintegrating and the army did not work according to the plans that were discussed," according to Professor Muli Lahad, a director of the study and head of the Mashabim Center for the treatment of trauma at Tel Hai Academic College.
The study also headed by Dr. Miri Shaham and Dr. Yehuda Shaham, was carried out by Dr. Mina Zemach's Dahaf Institute, together with the Israel Trauma Coalition. It found that of the Jewish residents of the north, 26 percent were suffering from post-traumatic symptoms 12 percent moderate to serious, 8 percent serious, and 6 percent very serious. Among the Arabs, 41 percent were suffering post-traumatic symptoms, 16 percent moderate to serious, 10 percent serious, and 15 percent very serious.
The researchers said they believed the severity of the reaction among Arab respondents was because the local authorities had not functioned properly during the war. Their misfunction was compounded by the high number of casualties, an inability and unwillingness to leave their homes, the element of surprise, lack of experience, and exposure to media from Arab countries.
Of those suffering the most severe symptoms, which were 19 percent of the whole sample, 14 percent were Jews and 25 percent were Arabs. Women reported such symptoms 2.2 times more frequently than men.
With regard to evacuation, 33 percent of the Jews reported staying in the bombarded areas compared to 85 percent of the Arabs.
The survey revealed that 58 percent of new immigrants prefered to stay with their families in the bombarded areas as opposed to 38 percent of veteran Israelis. Contrary to common wisdom, those questioned did not believe evacuation should have been the priority of the local authorities, but rather the preparation of shelters. Those questioned said the second priority should have been care for the elderly and disabled, and the third, health services.
Among Arab residents, 50 percent would remain in a bombarded area, as long as their entire family was with them, as opposed to 29 percent of Jewish residents. Only 8 percent of the Jews, and 4 percent of the Arabs, would prefer to have only their children evacuated. Both during the war in Lebanon and the rocket attacks on Sderot, children are frequently evacuated without their families.
The poll revealed that 94 percent of the Jews and 81 percent of the Arabs personally experienced Katyusha attacks a number of times. Of the Jews polled, 74 percent were personally acquainted with injured people, compared to 20 percent of the Arabs surveyed. The researchers said previous studies showed that direct exposure to a disaster increases one's chances of developing serious physical and psychological problems and called the Mashabim Center findings "a warning signal."
One intersting finding was how differently Jews and Arabs responded to the question: "Who should help you in a war in the future?" The Arabs saw the assistance of voluntary associations as more important than the Jews did. The difference 98 percent of the Arabs versus 48 percent of the Jew reveals a lack of faith in the authorities, the researchers said.
According to Lahad, the Mashabim Center now has 286 patients in Kiryat Shmonah and the Galilee alone, 12 times the number before the war.
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