TAU study finds steep decline in indicators of national Israeli resilience

Researchers warn the decline through the war may lead to a crisis in public confidence

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An ongoing study from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the Tel Hai Academic College is tracking the resilience of Israelis for six months, at four points in time following the outbreak of the war.

On the one hand, personal resilience and morale measurements indicate that the public is becoming “accustomed” to the situation, learning to live alongside the war. But on the other hand, researchers also found a sharp decline in resilience, hope, and social unity on the national level, 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 county’s advancement.

If the public’s needs and expectations remain unmet, the researchers warn, the “credit” given to leaders now navigating the struggle will diminish significantly.

The study was presented at TAU’s Annual Convention – Israel’s Future and conducted by a team of researchers: Professor Shaul Kimhi and Professor Bruria Adini from the Emergency and Disaster Management Department at TAU, and Professor 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.

The researchers give several possible reasons for the sharp decline in national resilience. First, they say, the public is weary and discouraged because this war is much longer than previous ones. Furthermore, some voices in the political and military leaderships expressly state that the war 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 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 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 researchers conclude. “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.”

"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."