Lisa Fliegel
Trauma Specialist

Questions from Students in America About Trauma in Eilat

So I’m sitting in the lobby of the Red Sea hotel, with the hustle and bustle of this bubble of beautiful human beings from Nir Oz trying to move on with their lives. Trying to deal with their lives as they are. And I get a call from Brian, my friend running a Jewish Day School outside Boston. His junior high students want to know what’s going on over here.

The first question is, “What stage of grief do you think the people you are working with are in?” (A kid, 13-years old, what a question, right?)

The people from the Gaza envelope, I tell him, who lost loved ones to the massacre, can’t bury their dead in their own cemeteries, because their communities are now closed military zones. They’re not allowed in.  Judaism has a framework for grieving: we have the burial, we have the shiva, the thirty days, the year…but how do you have a framework of ritual when you can’t even bury a loved one?

Other kibbutzim have offered their cemeteries. And some of the murdered were cremated, and taken someplace beautiful. But families can’t sit shiva with a community that doesn’t exist anymore. They come back to the hotel and sit shiva. Not like when a relative dies in the U.S. where you are and you sit and that’s it. At the hotel with Nir Oz, during dinner, they might find out someone they thought was among the eighty who were kidnapped, was found dead. Here the loss is ongoing. So, “what stage?” They’re going through all the stages.

And it was not like one event. The events are ongoing. This community has 80 people kidnapped.  And in their hearts the hardest thing is wondering how they are. If they’re in pain, if they’re hurt. They don’t know! When a hostage is freed, they’re happy, we’re all happy, glad to perhaps learn something about how their loved ones are. But they’re also grieving because it’s not their loved ones who was freed.

With much of their community having been burnt to the ground, they’re also grieving for the loss of their home,  their sense of confidence that there is some stability in their life. Grieving for the many years they be been under rocket fire before any of this happened. Month after month, missile attacks from Gaza. Constantly running to bomb shelters. They’re grieving for life they’ve never been able to live: a life free of fear and disruption.

Next: A student in America asks, “What do you do there with all the anger?”

About the Author
Lisa Fliegel is a Boston-based trauma specialist and American-Israeli writer who has worked internationally, including in Ireland, Israel and Palestine. She is a special clinical consultant to The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a grassroots non-profit serving survivors of victims of homicide.