A steep decline in measures of national resilience six months into the war

June 30, 2024 by J-Wire News Service
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A continuing study from Tel Aviv University and the Tel Hai Academic College tracked the resilience of Israelis for six months, at four points in time following the outbreak of the war.

Dr Bruria Adini

The results suggest mixed trends:  On the one hand, personal resilience and morale measures indicate that the public is becoming ‘accustomed’ to the situation, learning to live alongside the war. At the same time, on the national level, a sharp decline was identified in resilience, hope and social unity, indicating great disappointment with the way the war is progressing. This may ultimately lead to an unprecedented crisis in the attitude of the Israeli public toward the state.

The researchers warn that a continued decline in national resilience can lead to a decrease in the general spirit of volunteerism. People may no longer volunteer for reserve duty and military service and will become less involved in the country’s advancement. The researchers emphasize that this is a warning sign that should concern the authorities: if the public’s needs and expectations remain unmet, the ‘credit’ given to leaders now navigating the struggle will diminish significantly.

The study was presented at TAU’s Annual Convention – Israel’s Future.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers: Prof. Shaul Kimhi and Prof. Bruria Adini from the Emergency and Disaster Management Department at Tel Aviv University, and Prof. Yohanan Eshel and Dr. Hadas Marciano from the Tel Hai Academic College. The first survey was conducted soon after the war broke out, the second about a month and a half later, the third in January 2024, and the fourth in April 2024, right after Iran’s missile attack on Israel.

Findings indicate a sharp drop in Israel’s national resilience scores over six months: from 4.1 in the first survey to 4.05 in the second, 3.86 in the third, and 3.75 in the fourth (on a scale of 1-6). In contrast, personal resilience rose from 3.65 in the first survey to 3.69 in the fourth (on a scale of 1-5).

Statistically significant findings on positive parameters: Morale rose from 2.78 in the first survey to 3.46 in the fourth, but hope declined from 3.74 in the first survey to 3.65 in the fourth (on a scale of 1-5).

Statistically significant findings on negative parameters: The sense of danger declined from 2.77 in the first survey to 2.57 in the fourth, and stress symptoms declined from 2.68 in the first survey to 2.26 in the fourth (on a scale of 1-5).

The researchers also examined the level of social cohesion in Israel, and their findings corroborate what we all sense in the streets: a decline from 3.95 in the first survey to 2.93 in the fourth (on a scale of 1-5).

The researchers give several possible reasons for the sharp decline in national resilience: First, the public is weary and discouraged because this war is much longer than previous ones.  Furthermore, some voices in the political and military leadership expressly state that the war/fighting will go on for a long time, and no one can predict when it will end. Second, there is a very tangible threat that the war in northern Israel might turn into total war with Hizballah. Vast areas along the border with Lebanon have been abandoned, and no one knows when the evacuees will be able to go back, or how many will in fact choose to return. Thirdly, a deep and growing rift divides Israeli society on major issues: can the current political leadership be trusted, or should new elections be held as soon as possible? The study’s findings once again point to this rift, which also affects national resilience. The burning situation is further exacerbated by the fact that 120 hostages, including women of different ages, elderly men, and even a small child and an infant, are still in the hands of Hamas.

The researchers conclude: “The war and its costs, as well as disappointment with its achievements so far, can account for the significant decline in Israel’s national resilience, the sharp drop in the public’s sense of unity, and the moderate decrease in hope – so critical for generating and preserving resilience. The fact that people are getting somewhat used to the new situation, combined with a feeling that this is a ‘no choice war’ forced upon Israel, and requiring common efforts, can explain the rise in morale and decline in stress symptoms on the personal level.  However, a continued decline in resilience might damage the country’s social fabric and sense of unity and cohesion.  If Israeli society is to overcome the hardships and challenges that still lie ahead, both state institutions and civil society must act now, to strengthen solidarity, and enhance common denominators shared by all parts of the nation.”

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