Visiting professor discusses different coping mechanisms for living in violent areas

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In a lecture Tuesday, visiting Israeli professor Julia Chaitin presented her findings on how elderly Israelis near the Gaza Strip cope with violence. Chaitlin, who lives in the area, conducted research in the Eshkol region of Israel after the First Gaza War in 2009. 

Despite the violence they faced, many Israelis did not talk about their experiences during the war, Chaitin said.

“We assumed that people were going to talk about their experiences and how hard it was and what they did to cope,” Chaitin said. “They were just saying that there were so many other adversities in their life that they had faced over the years, that [those memories] didn’t seem to be so strong.”

Chaitin said she was also surprised that the people she interviewed said they felt more fear in their early days in the country than they do today. Although relationships between Israelis and Palestinians have been tense for several decades, especially in the last few years, most interviewees did not refer to Palestinians in a derogatory or adversarial way, Chaitin said.

“They don’t present them as the enemy,” Chaitin said. “When they talk about them, they talk about them more as when they first came to settle this area in Israel.”

Chaitin said before the modern state of Israel was established, Israelis and Palestinians would build shared communities. Many Israelis still recognize themselves as pioneers, Chaitin said.

“They really presented themselves as people, as these pioneers, and that’s who they still are today, that’s how they see themselves,” Chaitin said.

History freshman Rachel Sasiene said she attended the lecture to get a more personal view of Israeli history.

“I wanted to get a first-hand perspective on what’s going on,” Sasiene said. “I’ve been to Israel a couple of times. It’s been a really big part of my Jewish identity.“

The Israel Trauma Coalition, an organization focused on providing clinical and emergency care in the Gaza region, funded Chaitin’s study in the hopes of helping those who have struggled to cope with the ongoing conflict. According to Chaitin, these fresh insights from people living in a war-torn zone can help achieve peace.

“We know people’s stories, and then that’s good when you want to make peace so you have better understanding of how people see things,” Chaitin said.