The psychological toll of the intifada: Symptoms of distress and coping in Israeli soldiers

Avi Bleich, Marc Gelkopf, Rony Berger, Zahava Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Detrimental effects of military service among the civilian Palestinian population have been reported in soldiers. Objectives: To examine the frequency and type of stressors encountered by soldiers in close contact with the CPP and its relationship with post-traumatic symptomatology. We also investigated coping methods and the preferred types of professional help. Methods: Using random digit dialing methodology we conducted a phone survey of veteran soldiers, men (n=167) and women (n=59) in close contact with the CPP; the comparison group comprised male veteran soldiers with no CPP exposure (n=74). We used focus groups to develop context-related measures to assess exposure to violent incidents, coping modes and preferred modes of professional assistance. We included measures of traumatic exposure, post-traumatic stress symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder. Results: Soldiers who served among the CPP had greater exposure to traumatic events and to civilian-related violent incidents (more than half as victims, and a third as perpetrators); and 17.4% perceived their behavior as degrading civilians. Primary traumatic exposure, perceived health problems and avoidance coping were found to be risk factors for PTS and PTSD. Involvement in incidents that may have degraded Palestinian civilians predicted PTS. Conclusions: Friction with the CPP in itself does not constitute a risk factor for psychopathology among soldiers. However, contact with this population entails more exposure to traumatic events, which may cause PTS and PTSD. Furthermore, a relative minority of soldiers may be involved in situations that may degrade civilians, which is a risk factor for PTS. To avoid violent and sometimes degrading behaviors, appropriate psycho-educational and behavioral preparation should be provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-879
Number of pages7
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Degradation
  • Post-traumatic Stress disorder
  • Terrorism
  • Trauma
  • War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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