The Morale of a People

The recent war in Gaza has had a huge effect on Israel. The cost of war has been high – the human cost, the emotional cost and the cost on our own morale. The negative press has destroyed our image and we are doubting our future survival as a country and as a people. As anti-semitism and anti-zionism rises, so our morale drops. and sadly, the negativity right now is palpable. I have spoken to friends and family who sound unconvinced about the chance of peace, divided about their support for Netanyahu, and basically numbed into silence and disbelief about the loss of outside support. A stark contrast is evident when we see the people in Gaza yelling and firing gunshots of victory while Israel is dazed, exhausted and self- critical.

It seems that the continual fight for our survival and our persecution is wearing us down.This negativity is not a new manifestation, it has prevailed for generations – we still have not shaken off that victim complex. This complex has been evident over many generations… the words of the mothers of the past echoing still today when we hear Jewish mothers yell, “Be careful Yoni – you’ll fall! Or “Chani! You’ll catch the death of cold – take a jacket!” Or “tututu, (spittting) don’t say that… Oy! The ein horah!!!” (evil eye). I am sure you get my point! Even our interjection of “Oy Vey!” Exhibits a woefulness, a sigh or resignation so deep and and embedded into our psyche. This mindset passed along from mother to child over generations seems to have osmosed into our DNA. A pattern so ingrained, that we are no longer aware of it. Modern psychology or self- development has forged a new understanding of how our thinking affects our feelings and our behaviors. The approaches of Albert Ellis (REBT) and Aaron Beck (CBT), are meant to combat depression, anxiety and neuroses to bring about success, happiness and fulfillment. Ellis and Beck’s techniques, are based on the affect our thinking has on our behaviors and feelings, so that our thinking becomes who we are, how we react, and ultimately, how we feel. The more we ‘awfulize’ and ‘catastrophize’ (Ellis), the more depressed and anxious we become. The more we exaggerate the bad, the more irrational our thinking becomes. The first step to overcome these characteristics, is to acknowledge that they exist. Now as a people, it seems that the mothers of the past are prevailing upon us collectively as a nation. We are punctiliously protective to the point of neuroticism in order to protect Yoni and equally so, cautious and predictive to prevent of doom and gloom – lest Yoni falls and hurts himself again. But let us not forget, our mothers always believed in Yoni’s ultimate success – unwavering in their belief that Yoni will become a doctor or a lawyer one day.

Presently, as a people, after the many wars we have fought to protect our zionism and our country, we seem demoralized to the point of defeatism.  We are unable to see our long-term endurance and this is what is demoralizing us, we only see negatives for our future – more wars, more losses and little chance of sustainable peace. We have lost that ability to see ourselves as the victors of tomorrow. We are presently blind to our achievements in this war, because our fears about the future over-shadow them. Perhaps it is time for a shift in our collective psyche. To free ourselves from the chains of victimhood, negativity and predictive fears. Perhaps we should learn a thing or two from our neighbors on the Gaza border; Their collective consciousness is not showing defeat, a sense of loss, or low spirits – instead, they celebrate. Perhaps, if we too, lifted the veil of our negativity, and sense of futility, our collective psyches will shift into new domains.

It is the time to laugh in the face of adversity, to lift up our spirits, to discover our Jewish ruach (soulful spirit)! Let us remember how our festivals of Purim and Passover are holidays of joy – celebrations over our past victories. Our successes in this war are evident, we should not let the ‘buts’ and concerns cloud our relief about the present ceasefire. We should not doubt its sustainability, but march on positively in spite of our doubts. We need to do this to nurture our indelible spirit as a people. For the sake of our image and morale, we need to see ourselves as the victors.

Let us begin… let us inject a positive outlook to create a new Jewish DNA. Let us now act without the victim complex. If we celebrate our country’s victories rather than focus on our fears of future attacks, if we let go of our need to prove ourselves and be accepted, if we take a leap of faith, if we approach our adversaries with an unapologetic stance, then I believe our very survival will be within our reach! Let us lift our chins and our morale and apologize no more. Let us snap out of our collective depression and show the world that we too can celebrate. For by doing so, we are unequivocally forging our tomorrow bearing the torch of eternal survival and hope.

About the Author
Judith Wolder, originally from South Africa, worked as an elementary school teacher at a prominent Jewish Day School. Immigrated to the USA, where she studied psychology and works as a marriage and family therapist intern.