Israel bans fireworks for veterans and veterans

Israel bans fireworks for veterans and veterans

For the first time, cities across Israel have scrapped fireworks displays that normally mark the country's Independence Day out of consideration for military veterans and others with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Parties and celebrations that begin on Wednesday evening in more than a dozen cities, including Tel Aviv, will not be accompanied by the cracks and bangs of fireworks. Israeli authorities in Jerusalem have decided to have a silent pyrotechnic show instead.

The move comes after more vocal concerns from former soldiers say that the noisy festivities bring back the horrors of war.

After much thought and consideration, I decided that there will be no fireworks at Independence Day ceremonies this year, the mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, said in a statement.

The decision was influenced by appeals from soldiers struggling with PTSD who tried to cancel the show, as well as full consideration for the people living with disabilities. I hope that we will find a suitable alternative next year. For most Israelis fireworks are maybe a nice image in the sky, but for veterans it is the sound of gunfire and battle, the Israeli culture minister Hili Tropper wrote in a Facebook post announcing that this year s national ceremony would proceed without fireworks.

They have fought enough. They have paid a lot of money. We are reaching out to them this year. Jewish men and women must complete at least two years of military service in Israel. Since its creation 74 years ago, the country has fought several wars and occupied the Palestinian territories since 1967. Around 5,000 former soldiers are recognised as having PTSD, but the actual number is believed to be much higher, according to Israeli defence ministry figures from 2020.

The country was shaken last year when a 26-year-old veteran of the 2014 Gaza war, suffering from PTSD, set himself on fire near Tel Aviv, resulting in severe injuries. There was a debate over the adequacy of support systems for wounded and psychologically ill soldiers.

There isn't a single family with PTSD, said Prof Yair Bar-Haim, acting director of the National Centre for Traumatic Stress and Resilience at Tel Aviv University.

More veterans are coming forward to talk about their difficulties than before. It is a gradual process but I think it is becoming very clear to Israelis that people who experienced war should be taken seriously. When you consider the price the people we sent to war paid, versus 15 minutes of joy seeing fireworks in the sky, it is an easy decision. About 5% to 8% of Israel's general population has been diagnosed with PTSD, comparable with rates in western countries, although the proportion with conflict-related psychological difficulties is higher, Bar-Haim said.

In the occupied Palestinian territories, where data is patchier, a survey found that 23.2% of Palestinian adolescents suffered from PTSD. Dr Samah Jabr, a leading psychiatrist in Ramallah, has argued that the diagnosis does not adequately describe the Palestinian experience of trauma, which she calls repetitive and ongoing.