On the Ground After October 7

An interview with an Israeli-American in Tel Aviv working to make sense of events and remain positive and constructive.

Grant H Brenner

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The toll of human suffering from the recent outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East is untold and universally tragic, forcing us to accept, or at least acknowledge, the unacceptable. Politics notwithstanding, civilians have been caught up in violence and vengeance, and the line between combatants and non-combatants has blurred. Conflict activates past trauma on all sides, trauma that serves only to escalate violence and polarization on all sides.

I interviewed Ethan Einwohner about psychological and emotional perspectives related to the Israel-Hamas War. Einwohner is an American-Israeli with two young children in Israel. He has lived for years as an adult in both the U.S. and Israel and had been in Petah Tikva, Israel, since before the October 7 attacks. He was in New York on 9/11, drawing upon that experience now. Our call was delayed due to rocket attacks, personally a disorienting, sad, and frightening experience.

Grant Brenner: What does October 7 mean to you at this time?

Ethan Einwohner: More Jews were murdered on October 7 than any single day since the Holocaust. As I see it, the breadth and brutally of the killing, as well as the violent hostage-taking of that day:

  • Makes October 7 uniquely painful, as one empathizes for the thousands of families dealing with the death, capture, or injury of loved ones;
  • Places October 7 in a long string of massacres of Jews through the centuries;
  • Challenges several psychological defenses of Israelis, including physical safety within our own borders.

To me, these three aspects of October 7 make it uniquely traumatic for Israelis, and for Jews worldwide. Many have called this massacre Israel’s 9/11. I was in Manhattan on 9/11 and see the comparisons but think that the taking of hundreds of hostages and the subsequent war fought on our borders makes Oct 7 a slightly different trauma.

GB: What have you found most challenging and what have you noticed psychologically and emotionally?

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Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer