The PTSD Problem

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a major problem facing the brave men and women who return from serving in the U.S. military, even as it is more closely studied and better understood by doctors and researchers. In this gripping study of the problem of PTSD, Sebastian Junger takes a look at how and why IDF soldiers have been less likely to suffer its effects:

Israel is arguably the only modern country that retains a sufficient sense of community to mitigate the effects of combat on a mass scale. Despite decades of intermittent war, the Israel Defense Forces have a PTSD rate as low as 1 percent. Two of the foremost reasons have to do with national military service and the proximity of the combat—the war is virtually on their doorstep. “Being in the military is something that most people have done,” I was told by Dr. Arieh Shalev, who has devoted the last 20 years to studying PTSD. “Those who come back from combat are re-integrated into a society where those experiences are very well understood. We did a study of 17-year-olds who had lost their father in the military, compared to those who had lost their fathers to accidents. The ones whose fathers died in combat did much better than those whose fathers hadn’t.”

According to Shalev, the closer the public is to the actual combat, the better the war will be understood and the less difficulty soldiers will have when they come home. The Israelis are benefiting from what could be called the shared public meaning of a war. Such public meaning—which would often occur in more communal, tribal societies—seems to help soldiers even in a fully modern society such as Israel. It is probably not generated by empty, reflexive phrases—such as “Thank you for your service”—that many Americans feel compelled to offer soldiers and vets. If anything, those comments only serve to underline the enormous chasm between military and civilian society in this country.

Another Israeli researcher, Reuven Gal, found that the…

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 at 11:54 AM  | Stand for Israel

Worrying Signals from Europe

(Photo: flickr/johnshonours)

(Photo: flickr/johnshonours)

Now that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new coalition government is in place, much of the world has returned to its anti-Israel bias and pressure on the Jewish state. Writing at Israel Hayom, Zalman Shoval looks at this European pressure and hopes that Israel’s greatest ally, the United States, will once again come to its defense:

Once the new Israeli government was formed, European dignitaries began visiting at an increased rate, arriving with warnings that Israel must soon launch a “diplomatic initiative” to renew negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, or expect growing pressure in the form of various concrete measures.

According to their declarations, the Europeans intend to “play a leading role in re-launching the peace process based on the two-state solution,” largely predicated on the French proposal to immediately resume talks with a timetable of a year and a half to draft a final status agreement, after which, if a deal is not reached, “France will recognize Palestine as a state…”

It is difficult not to notice the European Union’s undertone that it has decided to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, even without any real negotiations and regardless of Israel’s positions on the matter…

This is not the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) that Europe has tried making its mark on the Palestinian issue while outflanking the United States, but we can hope that, as in the past, Washington will take the wind out of its sails. Indeed, we received an encouraging sign over the weekend that despite the differences of opinion over the Iranian nuclear program, the Obama administration is sticking to traditional U.S. policies when it comes to Israel’s vital interests, not only on security assistance, but, perhaps even more importantly, by defeating the Egyptian initiative to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone.

We must hope this positive approach will be applied to the French proposal as well, when it is presented in the coming weeks to the U.N….

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 at 8:23 AM  | Stand for Israel

Shavuot and US-Israel Relations

(Photo: wikicommons/ James Emery)

(Photo: wikicommons/ James Emery)

Beginning this Saturday at sundown and continuing until sundown on Monday, the Jewish people will observe Shavuot, also known as Pentecost. Shavuot celebrates God’s gift of His Word on Mt. Sinai, while also being a festival of the firstfruits, a biblical concept well-known to Jews and Christians alike. Writing at Israel Hayom, Yoram Ettinger finds some interesting connections between this biblical observance and the historical relationship between the United States and Israel:

The foundations of U.S.-Israel relations were forged by the Bible-admiring Pilgrims of the 17th century and the Judeo-Christian values-driven Founding Fathers of the 18th century, preceding the evolution of the organized Jewish community, the Holocaust, the establishment of Israel and the appearance of AIPAC on the American scene. These foundations have nurtured a covenant between the American people — and their state and federal representatives — and the Jewish state, which has accorded Israel a unique standing as a foreign, but also a value-driven domestic issue.

The holiday of Shavuot — which commemorates the receipt of the Torah and the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai some 3,500 years ago — sheds light on the key values of the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers…

Shavuot is celebrated 50 days after Passover (likewise, Pentecost — a derivative of the Greek word for 50 — is celebrated 50 days after Easter). Passover celebrates the Exodus, which has played a key role in shaping the American story, including the Revolutionary War and the struggle against slavery. The Liberty Bell bears an inscription: “Proclaim liberty upon the earth and unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10),” which refers to the Jubilee — the cornerstone of the biblical concept of liberty — commemorated every 50 years. According to Judaism, there are 50 gates to wisdom, studied during the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot, challenged by the 50 gates of impurity. The 50th gate of wisdom is the gate of liberty — a cardinal value in…

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Friday, May 22nd, 2015 at 8:37 AM  | Stand for Israel

Why I Tour the US as an IDF Soldier

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

We always love hearing from the brave men and women who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Yesterday we shared a letter from an IDF reservist who lives in the United States. And today, we share this letter by two IDF soldiers who tour the U.S., giving a face to the Israeli military, sharing their experiences, and standing for the Holy Land they’ve sworn to serve and protect:

We go because we want to correct the many lies and misrepresentations about the IDF. There is no comparison to actually meeting a soldier and learning from their first-hand experiences. We love Israel and we know best the moral dilemmas we faced.

Lital works for a news site in Israel. Born in Ashdod, she holds a BA in Social Sciences from the Open University and is working towards her Masters in American Jewry at Haifa University.  Proud of her service in the IDF, she considers it an honor to contribute whatever she can to her country, which led Lital to choose service in the border police unit. She served in checkpoints, stations aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks — a position usually held by men.

Lital tells a harrowing tale of a woman in labor, screaming in pain, who arrived in an ambulance at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.  She is 18-years old. What would you do?  In that split second, Lital made the executive decision to check the ambulance to ensure that nothing harmful was being transported into Israel. She found an explosive device hidden under one of the seats…

I served in Hebron, ensuring that Muslims and Jews could safely pray in its holy sites. My other position was in Gaza. We received reports of tunnels being built. One day, mortar shells shot by Hamas terrorists hit the base. All activity stopped, and the Erez border crossing with Egypt was closed. Just then, a Palestinian boy arrived at the checkpoint, heading for his appointment at the children’s hospital in Tel Aviv. My task…

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Thursday, May 21st, 2015 at 7:38 AM  | Stand for Israel

An IDF Reservist Happy to Serve

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

In Israel, young people are required to serve in the IDF. For many, their service does not end there, though. Writing at The Times of Israel, an IDF reservist who lives in the U.S. tells why he looks forward to serving the Holy Land:

One moment I’m procrastinating – scrolling through my Facebook feed when I should be working, munching on a killer glazed donut – the next, I’m frantically searching the web for a reasonably priced gym. It all started with an unassuming red blot that lit up my inbox.

The note came from my close friend, Yaniv, who also happens to be the lieutenant to whom I report in the reserves. “Hey Izzy, what’s up with you over the next two weeks? Any chance you’re visiting DC? I’ll be there for work.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “Oh, and our unit’s been drafted for training up north the first week of June. You coming?”

Of course I’m coming, and he knows it. Since my return to the United States, I haven’t missed a day of reserve duty – not once since the IDF released me from active service at the tail end of 2011. But June? We weren’t scheduled to draft until November. Why call us up so early? And why are we training up North? ISIS? I purchase my airfare before nightfall—I’ve already found a gym that’ll whip me back into shape.

Throughout Israel’s relatively brief history, there have been many IDF veterans, women and men who live abroad but return to Israel; they’ve taken up arms when the Jewish State needed them most. But I’ve met only a couple others like me—young men who return to Israel each year at their own expense to train with their counterparts in the Special Forces. Our logic? If we’re inevitably going to head into the fog of war with our Israeli brothers, then we should know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We need to work out the chinks in our phalanx so that when the lead starts…

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Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 1:14 PM  | Stand for Israel

Mr. Oren Goes to Jerusalem

(Photo: wikicommons/Anne Mandlebaum)

(Photo: wikicommons/Anne Mandlebaum)

In the past, Stand for Israel has mentioned and featured Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, D.C. We were delighted, then, that Mr. Oren was selected to join the Knesset in this week’s elections – the only American-born member:

From writing history books on the U.S. role in the Middle East to serving as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren seems to have spent most of his life building bridges between the Jewish state and his country of birth.

Oren, No. 4 on the slate of Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu and the only member of the incoming Knesset who was born in the United States, has been a key figure in drafting his party’s foreign policy. If Kulanu joins the new coalition, Oren could be a valuable asset for the government’s foreign policy team at a time when Israel must mend its frayed ties with the United States.

Contacted by Haaretz on Thursday, Oren said he was “proud” of Kulanu’s election results and of having been elected to the Knesset. He would not comment on the coalition talks but said he would be happy to contribute his foreign policy experience and knowledge, particularly in “not just mending but improving our relationship with the United States.”

During his ambassadorship Oren had to manage the deteriorating relationship between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, particularly their disagreements over continued Israeli construction in West Bank settlements and how to address Iran’s nuclear program.

In an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg on the eve of Tuesday’s election, Oren said he worked to balance the deep polarization in U.S. politics and to retain bipartisan support for Israel…

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Friday, March 20th, 2015 at 11:10 AM  | Stand For Israel

The Real Iran

(Photo: wikicommons/ Alborzagros)

(Photo: wikicommons/ Alborzagros)

Long before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed Congress with his concerns of a nuclear Iran, those who stand for Israel and the free world have questioned making deals with the Islamic Republic. Writing at the Gatestone Institute, Dr. Denis MacEoin – an expert on Persian, Arabic, and Islamic studies – warns that the real Iran is an unstable state with an extremist belief system that may very well achieve nuclear capability sooner than we think:

When Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke from the podium of the U.S. Congress to warn of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran, the clock was already ticking towards March 31. That is the deadline for a final agreement between the P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and the Iranian regime on limits to Iran’s nuclear program, in return for the lifting of sanctions currently imposed on Iran.

By now, everyone has read page upon page of commentary on what the likely consequences of such a deal may be, with a preponderance of analysts agreeing that President Barack Obama’s drive to secure a resolution is likely to put Iran on a clear course to nuclear weapons capability after about ten years. Given Iran’s tendency to enrich uranium in secret, they may achieve nuclear breakout capability well before ten years from now.

Netanyahu’s mission was to warn Congress about the possible ramifications of these negotiations not only for Israel, but for the entire free world …

Over the years, Iran’s threats to destroy Israel, to “wipe it” from the pages of history or to flatten Tel Aviv and Haifa, have been direct and unambiguous …

What is worrying more than anything is that the U.S. president and his allies seem not to understand, even a little, the country now working to build nuclear weapons: its culture, its religion, and its apocalyptic obsessions.

Obama seems to think the Iranian leadership is made up of pragmatic politicians who favor an almost areligious approach to world affairs. This calculation seems…

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Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 at 8:30 AM  | Stand For Israel

Netanyahu’s Important New Proposal

(Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/ASHERNET)

(Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/ASHERNET)

Since Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday, much has been written about the address. One of the more insightful pieces we’ve read so far is Alan Dershowitz’s analysis at The Algemeiner, where he takes a close look at exactly what the Israeli prime minister proposed regarding the Iranian nuclear threat:

I was in the House gallery when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a logical and compelling critique of the deal now on the table regarding Iran’s ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. He laid out a new fact-based proposal that has shifted the burden of persuasion to the White House.

His new proposal is that “If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.”  His argument is that without such a precondition, the ten-year sunset provision paves, rather than blocks, the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal, even if Iran were to continue to export terrorism, to bully nations in the region and to call for the extermination of Israel.

With logic that seems unassailable, Netanyahu has said that the alternative to this bad deal is not war, but rather “a better deal that Israel and its neighbors might not like, but which we could live with, literally.” Netanyahu then outlined his condition for a better deal: namely that before the sun is allowed to set on prohibiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the mullahs must first meet three conditions: stop exporting terrorism, stop intruding in the affairs of other countries, and stop threatening the existence of Israel.

If the mullahs reject these three reasonable conditions, it will demonstrate that they have no real interest in joining the international community and abiding by its rules. If they accept these conditions, then the sunset provision will not kick in automatically but will require that Iran demonstrate a willingness to play by the rules, before the rules allow it…

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Thursday, March 5th, 2015 at 8:32 AM  | Stand for Israel

Netanyahu’s Bid to Thwart Bad Deal with Iran

(Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/ASHERNET)

(Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/ASHERNET)

In the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress yesterday, The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz writes that the prime minister gave the speech of his life in a bid to thwart “a very bad deal” with Iran:

It was widely suggested, ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacularly controversial address to Congress on Tuesday, that the prime minister would have to deliver the speech of his life in order to justify the damage he would inevitably be causing to relations between his government and the Obama Administration. In the event, Netanyahu did deliver the speech of his life …

He began, dutifully, with expressions of appreciation for the president, and for everything the president has done for Israel. But he continued, for the vast majority of his address, to explain the profound misjudgment of Iran — its ideology, its goals, and the immense danger it constitutes to Israel, the region, the United States, and the world — that lies at the heart of the “very bad deal” emerging from the US-led P5+1 negotiations …

But Netanyahu’s address had a clear practical goal as well. He was lobbying Congress, and lobbying the American public watching at home to pressure Congress, to assert its maximal capacity to thwart the progress of the deal that Obama has cooked up. While 50 or 60 legislators elected to absent themselves, the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats were there to nod sagely at Netanyahu’s elaboration of Iran’s rapacious, religiously driven ideology and territorial ambitions, to applaud, to jump to their feet, to be won over.

For all the cynicism and the political filtering over Netanyahu’s motivations, furthermore, the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that Iran is determined to advance its benighted ideology across the region and beyond. The prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the deal taking shape will immunize the ayatollahs from any prospect of revolution from within or effective challenge from without. The deal…

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Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 8:55 AM  | Stand For Israel

African-American Pastors: Don’t Skip Netanyahu Speech

(Photo: youtube)

(Photo: youtube)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before Congress tomorrow has caused dissension among U.S. legislators, with some planning to skip the event. The Washington Times reports that a group of African-American pastors has urged the members of Congress not to miss Netanyahu’s remarks:

The message from a dozen prominent black pastors this week … was loud and clear: Don’t skip out on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyuhu’s speech.

 “That is a slap in the face to the people of Israel, and not only that, it’s a slap in the face to God. And not only that, it’s also a slap in the face of all Bible-believing African-American people in this country…” said Pastor Dexter D. Sanders of the Rock Center for Transformation in Orlando, Florida …

Pastor Cecil Blye of More Grace Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky, dismissed suggestions that the House violated protocol by extending the invitation to weigh in on U.S. negotiations with Iran.

“Charges from some members of the United States Congress about the breaking of protocol are no more than a very red herring,” Mr. Blye said. “The American people need to hear Israel’s voice on this urgent matter now. If one side of the aisle can facilitate this, so be it.”

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Monday, March 2nd, 2015 at 1:07 PM  | Stand For Israel