On August 19, 2003, an Arab terrorist blew himself up on a public bus in Israel, killing 23 people and injuring 130 more. Many of the people killed and injured were children while others were expectant mothers. All were commuters on their way home from praying at the Western Wall.
The horrific attack, like all other similar attacks during the Second Intifada, left its mark on Israeli society whose ramifications are still being felt today.
One woman who was on the street near where the bus exploded suffered only shock then, but has never been the same since. Rachel* suffers from continuous emotional trauma as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She is unable to work properly or even talk about the event ever since.
Rachel’s family, once happy, has been severely affected by this event and has never truly been able to recover. “They are a large family and have incurred huge expenses,” says Aryeh Weingarten founder and Director of Karmey Chessed, a non-profit organization that helps those in need across Israel, including terror victims.
“They have defaulted on a loan since the family cannot make ends meet, and the court is now trying to take away their house,” he added. “We are doing everything we can to help them. I’ve gotten an accountant friend who owes me a favor to help them out with the court case, and we are helping them financially as well.”
While the family tries to cope with a mother suffering from PTSD, they are also struggling to just stay afloat. “Since wife was not physically injured, people are not compassionate to her cause. But shock and PTSD can also be very debilitating problems,” Weingarten added.
Rachel’s husband spoke to Breaking Israel News about the toll that the explosion has taken on his family. “The explosion happened during a Bar Mitzvah that my wife and I were attending. We walked outside during a break and witnessed the bus explode. Pieces flew hundreds of feet up into the air. We raced back into the hall and hid, as there was a fear of another terrorist being in the hall. My wife went into shock, pretty much on the spot, but I had no idea what shock was. Later that night we saw a psychologist, who said it was shock.”
Following the events of the evening, the story didn’t get better for the family. “My wife has been suffering from PTSD ever since,” the husband said. “It comes and goes in waves.”
“She was a teacher before the explosion. She taught drama and was extremely talented, but she has not been able to work since then. Managing the household, being the father and mother, as well as the breadwinner has been very difficult, as I have to pretty much do all of it at the same time that I am taking care of her. I was in the middle of starting a business at the time, and due to the attention I needed to pay to my wife, my business collapsed and went bankrupt. We now find ourselves owing a lot of money.”
“We’ve been dealing with this story since then, for 11 years. We are trying our best to function normally, and Aryeh is helping out as much as possible, but sadly the amount that they can help us does not cover everything,” he continued. “He tries, but the daily challenges are overwhelming. We recently made a Bar Mitzvah for our son, and we didn’t have the bare essentials needed to cover the celebration. We soon need to hold a wedding for our daughter, and we have no idea how we are going to finance that at all.”
This situation is quite extreme for any family to go through, especially a family who was succeeding financially before the attack.However, the story is not an abnormal one.
Cases of long term shock caused by stress, trauma or shell-shock are more common than one might think. The most common symptoms of shock include fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one’s surroundings, and inability to prioritize. Other symptoms manifest themselves in a person’s behavior.
Shock and PTSD can be severely debilitating. They can completely alter a person’s life, as they have in this case. Even after receiving emotional help, some are not always be able to overcome the effects.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.