Jets Are Circling: War Trauma

Here I sit in my safe little corner of America.

But jets are circling overhead.


If I were back in Israel it would mean only one thing:  war.

Israel is a very tiny country, surrounded by hostile nations on all sides.

Our greatest love, as the Jewish People, is our Holy City, Jerusalem. 

Three times a day, in our regular prayers, and after eating bread, we pray:

“U’vanay Yerushalayim, ir ha’kodesh, bi’m-hayrah u’vyameynu, ahmein.”

And (please, God,) rebuild Jerusalem (and the Holy Temple that is the definition of Jerusalem,) the Holy City, quickly and in our days, amen.”

In times of threat, the Israel Air Force jets circle Jerusalem endlessly, protecting her from harm.  Jews, Christians, Muslims, all protected by the IAF.

No other air traffic flies over Jerusalem airspace.  If it does, it gets promptly escorted out by IAF jets.  Sometimes it’s an innocent mistake, but even a private plane owner (of whom there are very few) will find himself in big trouble for inadvertently flying over the Holy City.

The jets have left now but I’m still shaking.

I think of those unfortunate people who live in countries where jets overhead mean bombs and death.

During the 2009 war with Gaza, which is such a complicated situation that I can’t begin explaining it here, my windows were in just the right position to hear the mortars and missiles coming out of Gaza, and the bombs dropped on the tunnels and munitions dumps roaring, columns of smoke belching into the air as the cached explosives went up.

And I knew, each time, that innocent lives were being torn apart, killed, burned, limbs lost….And the jets circling, always circling, and the mortars going “whump…whump…”

One day I was sitting learning Torah in my yeshiva (house of Jewish learning, study hall), when the air raid siren went off.  We students did what we were trained to do: head for the nearest miklat, bomb shelter.

But when we got to the door of our yeshiva, we ran into a group of IDF soldiers.

“Where are you going?” They asked us.

“To the miklat!  What are you doing here?”

“We came to sit and learn.  That’s the best bomb shelter!”

So we all sat down to learn together.

But still, when the jets circle over overhead, my heart pounds, my mouth gets dry…

Rape in the Military: ‘Invisible War,’ New Documentary, Exposes Assaults – ABC News Is anyone here surprised that rape is a routine happening to females in the military? It certainly isn’t to me. The conditions are perfect: an ironclad hierarchy where hazing of underlings is routine and even institutionalized, where “only the strong survive,” where women have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to advance(or even be considered as viable prospects for advancement, and where “telling” might land you in a heap of trouble if the assailant is of superior rank. There have been notorious scandals like the “Tailhook” party referred to in the article. But for the most part, rape in the military rarely bubbles to the surface. I shudder to think what might go on in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where aggressive tension runs high, and for women on base there is no way out. This ain’t your mother’s episode of “Mash.” When I was in medical school, the psychology department ran an interesting experiment. They recruited a group of college men, to whom they administered a “propensity to rape” scale. In short, this was a series of questions that measured whether it was OK to force sex on a woman who said NO. It presented various scenarios in which the men were asked to rate on a five point scale whether they felt she “deserved” to be raped, or whether they felt justified in forcing her to have sex with them. After establishing a baseline, the researchers split the men into three groups. Group “a” watched a romantic and very explicitly erotic movie. Group “b” watched a movie in which there was explicit violence and also explicit sex. Group “c” watched a movie where there was explicit sexual violence. Then the men took the same “propensity to rape scale” test over again, and compared them with their first test outcomes. What do you think the results were? 1. Group “a” who watched romantic sex’s propensity to rape went down. They felt more connected with and protective of women. 2. Group “c” who watched films of sexual violence thought it was more OK to “take what they wanted” regardless of consent. 3. But it was group “b” WHO WATCHED FILMS THAT HAD BOTH EXPLICIT VIOLENCE AND EXPLICIT SEX WHO HAD THE HIGHEST PROPENSITY TO RAPE. That is to say: men who witness wholesale violence are more likely to transpose that violence onto sex, because rape is about violence, not sexual desire. This study makes it simple to understand why rape is so easily used as a weapon of war. We might ask, how can a man get aroused to penetrate some hapless woman, as is done all over the world in the course of warfare? Violence transposed on sex, is how. Likewise on US military bases, where there is often such an imbalance of power, it is easy to see where the studied aggression of trained warriors might overflow onto women of lesser rank or position, especially when the price of “telling” often spells loss of career for the woman. The article tells of mysteriously “lost” rape kits and any number of ruses for “exonerating” the assailant. I hope to see many more articles like this one shedding light on a topic that has kept military women in a type of slavery. Yes, they are free to quit or just not sign up. But that is like saying “well, she shouldn’t have been wearing that skimpy dress, she was just asking for it.” Oh, right: “she shouldn’t have signed up for that four-year hitch if she didn’t want to take what comes with it.” NOT. NO WAY. We must not accept this.

Copyright 2012 Laura P. Schulman all rights reserved