“In Israel we have psychologists to teach killing and to recover afterwards” | Entertainment | The USA Print

"In Israel we have psychologists to teach killing and to recover afterwards"

Killing is not easy. Not even in a war. That is why there are units of psychologists whose mission is to help soldiers to shoot. There are also psychologists to help the troops again when they return from battle. Teaching to kill and teaching to recover from having killed. Yishai Sarid (Tel Aviv, 1965) explains that these services, which make up a profession, exist in the armies of all advanced countries, the United States, Western countries, probably Spain. Of course, from Israel. To explain what happens inside a person who suddenly has to face the most extreme violence, the act of annihilating another human being, the writer dedicates his last novel, victorious (Stealth / Publisher Club).

We speak with Sarida. During World War II, the US Army conducted an extensive study that showed how only twenty percent of soldiers on the front lines shot at the enemy with the intent to kill him; the rest fired into the air or did not fire at all. The Americans learned their lesson and were advised by psychologists for training. The result was that in Vietnam more than eighty percent of the infantry were already shooting to kill.

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The consequences

“It’s a disaster, we send some young people who until a few days ago have been with their friends, with their cell phones, living their lives, to the horror of the front. And no one leaves there unscathed”

Abigail, the protagonist of Victorious, is one of these psychologists, with the particularity that she treats the soldiers from both sides of the trenches, those who go to battle and those who return from it. The writer was an officer in the Israeli army in the 1980s: “It’s a disaster, we sent some young people who until a few days ago had been with their friends, with their cell phones, living their lives, to the horror of the front. And no one gets out of there unscathed. There are those who are incapable after all, mentally handicapped, others adjust better, return to normal, but you take it all with you, and sooner or later it comes out. We have seen it with the young people we sent to Gaza in 2014, they came back broken. There are always exceptions, natural killer that they have no problems, but 99.9% are not like that”.

There is a moment in the novel when it is stated that on the battlefield no one thinks about values, not even in their country. What happens in the mind? “First, you are surrounded by your peers, your friends, and you don’t want them to think you are a coward, you feel responsible for them. Then, you trust your superior command, which tells you don’t think, leave the responsibility to me, and you do it. And then you fight for your life, we are not talking about philosophy, I wish it were like that, but it is not.

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the social question

“The children of the most favored classes go to technological units and the children of the poor end up in combat units”

The psychologist Abigail teaches young people to shoot, but also to resist captivity without speaking through simulations. The chapters that deal with these trainings in the book are hard, very hard, as they were in reality. In recent decades they have softened: many could not resist it. And there we have Abigail, a middle-aged woman with a successful military career, now in the private sector, and single mother of a son, Sháuli, who, when she turns 18, enlists in one of the battalions destined for combat, that of paratroopers. Yes, you advise others to lose their fear, “because fear spreads from one to another at the front like a virus” (Abigail), but what about your only child?

Military service is compulsory in Israel, but in practice more and more people are avoiding it, starting with the ultra-Orthodox. In practice, only half of the women and two-thirds of the men go to the army anymore. In the end it is the children of the disadvantaged classes who end up in the combat units.


“Don’t mothers send their sons to the front? That’s not what I’ve seen, they are no more compassionate and can be as fanatical as fathers”

Is it true that so often repeated that if mothers were in charge there would be no wars? Sarid shakes her head in the opposite direction. That is not what she has seen, at least in Israel, nor in the Palestinian territories. Mothers can be just as fanatical as fathers, of course “they don’t want their children to die, but they are willing to take the risk, because they believe in a cause, just like the mothers of terrorists.”

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And he adds that the feminist wave in Israel is based on absolute equality, women demand careers in the army like those of men, in every way. “It’s a fascinating aspect of this feminism, that it contradicts other lines of thought,” adds Sarid.

Since the Holocaust, one war has followed another, one mentally wounded generation giving way to the next with no time or chance to recover. What happens in a society built like this? “We have fallen in love with violence, we see ourselves as that child who was weak before and everyone messed with him and he grows up and becomes strong, but in his psychology he is still that child. Some violence is necessary to survive, some is not. A society that lives with all these traumas becomes more extremist and violent, and that is what has happened in Israel, we see it in the triumph of the extreme right, but also in the Palestinian territories”.

The act of killing is easier with technologies, missiles… The pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima said that if he had to kill all the victims one by one, he would not have been able to do it. And it is what comes to us.

yishai sarid. victorious. Translation into Spanish by Ana Bejarano and into Catalan by Roser Lluch. Stealth / Publisher Club. 272 / 256 Pages. 20.85 euro