The current wave of terrorism, the most serious and devastating ever experienced by Israeli society, has affected everyone's daily routine. Recent statistics show there were 15,298 Palestinian terror attacks against Israel between September 2000 (the onset of the al-Aqsa Intifada) and November 2002 (Freund, 2002). However, politically motivated violence in this region is hardly new - full scale wars, sporadic clashes and terrorist attacks have been a constant companion of daily life in this troubled region for more than 100 years.
Although concern with security is not the only stress factor facing Israelis (see Landau, 2002), it is definitely the most salient one, both on the national and individual level, today more than ever. Public surveys clearly reveal a sharp increase in a personal sense of insecurity among all citizens (98 percent). Israel's current economic crisis is closely related to its security-related problems, adding its negative effect to the public's distress. An overwhelming majority of Israelis (91 percent) are very worried about the economic situation (Pulse of the Nation, 2001).

Security Related Stress and Violence: Some Conceptual Models

Two opposing hypotheses have been proposed regarding the effect of war and security-related stress on violent crime: the cohesion hypothesis and the legitimization-habituation hypothesis. The cohesion hypothesis (based on Coser, 1956 and Simmel, 1955) posits that outside pressures and threats serve to unify and strengthen the community and to reduce internal conflict, including in-group violence. The legitimization-habituation hypothesis (put forward by Archer and Gartner, 1984) claims the authorized and sanctioned killing that takes place during war has a depreciating effect on human life and provides legitimization to acts of aggression and the perception of violence as a habitual way of behavior. According to this hypothesis, one should expect an increase in homicide after war.
A third relevant model (Landau, 1988) postulates that the prevalence of violent crime in society will be related positively to the intensity of stress factors, and negatively to the intensity of social support systems. This model, which incorporates two important elements for the explanation of violence and aggression - social stressors and social support systems - predicts that social support systems will have either a direct effect on, or act as mediators between, the social stressors and the reactions to which they are presumed to lead. The basic assumption here is that the greater the strength and stability of the social support systems, the greater the ability of the individual and society to cope with stressful events and situations.

The Effects of Security-Related Stress: Some Empirical Evidence

Studies examining the relationship between wars and war-like situations and crime in Israeli society generally provide support for the legitimization-habituation hypothesis rather than the cohesion hypothesis. For example, in one of my studies (Landau & Pfeffermann, 1988), the number of security-related casualties had a marginal positive effect on "regular" homicide. It seems that, in the long run, violence resulting from conflicts with out-groups ("enemies") is generalized and directed toward in-group members of society.
At the time of the first Intifada (1987-1993), there was much public debate regarding its impact on Israeli society. During the space of five years, up to and including 1992, 2,631 people were killed in Israel (within the pre-1967 borders) and the territories under Israeli control (Gaza and the West Bank). Only 17.7 percent (458 cases) were defined as "regular" (i.e., non-politically motivated) criminal homicides (Landau, 1994). A strong similarity was found between the trends of politically motivated ("terrorist") homicides and "regular" criminal homicides. In addition, a sizable increase was found in homicides resulting from domestic conflict within Israel. These findings are not coincidental and can definitely be interpreted as being related to the increased exposure of Israelis to violence in the territories, thus lending additional support to the legitimization-habituation hypothesis.
I have studied extensively the relationship between the subjective perception of social stress and solidarity factors and crime and social deviance in Israeli society. The stress indicators in these studies related mainly to perceptions of the security, economic, and political situation, and the solidarity indicators related mainly to the relationship between various groups in Israeli society (Jews of Eastern and Western origin, religious and secular groups, new immigrants and veteran Israelis, etc.).
As predicted by the stress-support model, violent crime (homicide and robbery) and property crime were related positively to most of the subjective stress indicators and negatively to the subjective perception of national solidarity (Landau, 1988, 1997, 1998). For example, the higher the level of security worries or economic worries, the higher the monthly homicide, robbery, and property crime rates; conversely, the higher the level of solidarity (good relations) between Jews of Eastern and Western origin, the lower the rates of these violent crimes. Another study, using the same approach and research methods (Landau & Rahav, 1989), yielded similar results with regard to suicidal behavior, and a study focusing on mental health (Landau, 1990) revealed that psychiatric admissions were negatively related to security worries and dissatisfaction, as well as measures of social solidarity. It seems the increased social solidarity experienced during times of security-related stress have a delaying, rather than a healing, effect on mental help-seeking behavior.

The Brutalization of Interpersonal Relations

Not all possible effects of social stress on life in Israel can be quantified or scientifically studied and analyzed. Over the years, security-related stress has become such an integral part of the Israeli identity and daily routine that sometimes it takes outsiders to make us aware of this connection. I will focus here on what I consider to be the most salient aspects of the process of increased brutalization experienced by Israelis in recent years: everyday aggressive behavior in the street and behind the steering wheel, and the proliferation of firearms.
A recent cross-cultural survey on school violence, conducted in 28 industrialized countries, disclosed that half of Israeli students reported having been victims of verbal or physical violence at school. Similarly, a substantial proportion of Israeli junior high school students (about 25 percent of males and 6 percent of females) reported bringing weapons (knives, clubs, firearms) to school for self-protection (Sa'ar, 2002). On this measure, Israel ranked second. There is no doubt that violence in the education system and among adolescents, in general, reflects the general level of violence in society.
Nowhere in the public domain is the so-called "Israeli mentality" more salient than on the road. It seems that all the frustrations caused by the various stresses experienced by Israelis find their outlet in reckless driving. Indeed, the number of road accident casualties (killed and wounded) far exceeds the casualties of all the wars and terrorist activities in the country's history.
The increased security risks since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada have created an immense demand for personal firearms. When the next terrorist attack can take place any time, any place, the possession of a firearm may give many the feeling that, in case of such an attack, they will not be totally helpless and will succeed in defending themselves and those around them. Indeed, since the onset of the current Intifada, there has been a 300 percent increase in applications for firearm licenses and, in 2001, the number of firearm licenses granted was 80 percent higher than in 2000 - 4,588 and 2,550, respectively (Landau, 2002).
The proliferation of firearms, however, is a double-edged sword, since it may also exacerbate the brutalization of Israeli society. The official policy on this issue oscillates between the obvious need to minimize the number of licenses to avoid the misuse of firearms, and real security needs leading to a more liberal policy. This is a dilemma, with serious arguments on both sides. The commonly held belief that more firearms in civilian hands will prevent or decrease the number or severity of terrorist attacks is not always supported in reality. In some of these attacks, civilians have fired indiscriminately, endangering bystanders. An incident on Independence Day this year provides a good example of the possible misuse of licensed firearms. A trivial dispute between two impatient drivers stuck in a traffic jam turned bloody, with one dead and several more wounded, (Navon & Abu Tuama, 2002) all due to the licensed gun of a veteran security officer.

The Effects of the Current Intifada on Life in Israel

It is too soon to reach valid and final conclusions as to the long-term effects of the current Intifada on the various aspects of life in Israel. At this stage, we have more questions than answers. Nonetheless, the theoretical models and research findings briefly mentioned here enable us to raise a few hypotheses. First, it is worth mentioning the most salient changes that have taken place in Israel since September 2000.
Security Distress: The worsening of the state of security and the increase in terrorist attacks has brought the feeling of personal safety to an all-time low. One of the most salient consequences of this situation is a significant increase in the number of Israelis suffering mental distress. A recent survey indicates that, in 2001, almost every third Israeli (30 percent) reported experiencing mental distress. Among lower-income citizens, this rate was close to half (47 percent - Milner, 2002).
It is reasonable to assume the situation has only worsened. It seems this distress is a major reason for the ever-increasing demand for firearm licenses. A comparative study of 15-year-old adolescents found that, among those living in settlements in the occupied territories, about 30 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to 70 percent among Palestinian adolescents in refugee camps, and 50 percent among Israeli Arab adolescents (Rosenblum, 2002). These findings are indicative of the detrimental long-term effects of security-related stress on the young generation of both sides.
Economic Hardship: The personal distress experienced by wide segments of Israeli society is due not only to the security situation but also to one of its consequences, namely, the economic crisis and high rate of unemployment. Income inequality between the top and bottom percentiles in Israel, among the highest in the world (Dahan, 2002), undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on societal cohesion.
The relationship between economic hardship and crime, including violent crime and other social problems, is among the most consistent findings. The weaker segments of society, which suffer most in times of economic crisis, also contribute more than their share to the prevalence of violent crime, deviant behavior, and social problems in general. A recent poll (Pulse of the Nation, 2002) showed that, more than two years after the onset of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, virtually all Israelis are worried about the state of the economy and the security situation (95 percent and 90 percent, respectively).
Increase in Social Solidarity: The current situation has had a visible effect on the relationship between various segments in society. The danger and threat experienced on the personal, as well as the collective level, has led to increased solidarity and mutual support within the Jewish population. This is expressed in several ways:
* An increase in voluntary activities and social support: This increase relates to the creation of new voluntary frameworks and the expansion of activities within established ones, in order to help the security forces and individuals in distress. For example, members of the ultra-Orthodox community, a segment of society not usually identified with enrollment in the security forces, have played a prominent role among the volunteers to the civil guard (Tsezana, 2002). Due to the increased incidence of mental stress in large parts of the population, efforts have been made to expand the availability and accessibility of mental health services in the community, providing an address for support in times of distress. The high response rate by reservists called up for emergency service is another indicator of the increase in social solidarity resulting from the sense of external threat and the need to actively cope with it.
* Moderation of rifts within the Jewish population: The increase in solidarity has, almost by definition, an immediate moderating effect on the traditional rifts within the Jewish population, as well as a strengthening of the Jewish identity of this population. This solidarity is usually short-lived and when security tensions ease, we are likely to get back to "business as usual," with structural social divisions resurfacing on the public agenda. Security-related stress has a cohesive effect in the short run but an attrition effect in the long run, including the prevalence of violence.
Increase in the Jewish-Arab Conflict Within Israel: Parallel to increased solidarity in the Jewish community, the division between the Jewish and Arab community has widened dangerously. Members of the Arab population, who, for decades have perceived themselves (justifiably) as a deprived minority have struggled for their rights over the years (mostly) by non-violent means: by participating in the democratic processes (elections) on the local and national level and by exercising their legal rights in courts, both as individuals and as a collective. The delicate balance between the Arab and Jewish communities within Israel has become unsettled since the onset of the Intifada. The natural identification of many Israeli Arabs with the Palestinian struggle, and especially the violent events of October 2000, when 13 Arab citizens were killed by the Israeli police, made the rift potentially the most dangerous internal social conflict. The intensity of this conflict stems from its multi-faceted nature; there are national, religious, cultural and economic divisions. Each factor is enough to feed a conflict between population groups; their combination turns this conflict into a particularly acute one.
Criminal Statistics Data: Comparing the years 2000 and 2001 (i.e., the year before and the year after the onset of the Intifada). Police reports (Israeli Police, 2002) indicate that, with regard to violence, the most salient changes in 2001 in comparison to 2000 are as follows:
* An increase of 28 percent in criminal homicide (from 135 to 173).
* An increase of 11 percent in robbery (from 1,782 to 1,972).
* An increase of 16 percent in road accident fatalities (from 463 to 537), in spite of a decrease of 8.4 percent in the number of casualties in these accidents (from 40,278 to 36,877).
A cross-national comparison of road accident fatalities per 10,000 vehicles (for the year 2000) reveals that this rate in Israel (2.5) is considerably higher than that in many other industrialized countries, such as the UK (1.2), Switzerland and the Netherlands (1.4), Germany and Australia (1.5), and Finland (1.6). (Israeli Police, 2002). A much longer period is needed to ascertain whether the increase of the level of violence in 2001 represents the beginning of a consistent upward trend or whether it is just a sporadic phenomenon. The above increases in violence are in line with the theoretical models that postulate generalization from outward-directed to inward-directed violence in society.


It seems all of the elements characterizing the current period are likely to remain with us in the near future. This period will undoubtedly leave scars that will last long after the violence ends. I refer not only to the direct victims, but also to society as a whole, especially its more vulnerable segments, including children and adolescents. The most dangerous and potentially devastating societal cost of the current situation is the immense increase in animosity and demonization of the "enemy" - on both sides. Although the emphasis in this paper is on Israeli society, one cannot avoid mentioning the systematic, vitriolic anti-Israeli/anti-Jewish messages emanating from the Palestinian media and the educational system, which include the glorification of the "martyr" suicide bombing as a noble and sacred act. It is only natural that a similar (if not as sharp) process is identifiable on the Israeli side. For example, in a letter written by an Israeli schoolchild to reserve soldiers, the following statement was found: "Kill as many Arabs as you can, forget about the law, and just spray them (with bullets)," (Landau, 2002). As long as this violent conflict continues in its current form, both societies will continue to pay heavily in almost every aspect of their existence.


Archer, D. and Gartner, R. (1984). Violence and Crime in Cross-National
Perspective. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Central Bureau of Statistics, (1949-2001). Statistical Abstract of Israel. Jerusalem.
Coser, L.A. (1956). The Function of Social Conflict. New York: Free Press.
Dahan, M. (2002). Inequality - among the highest in the world. Haaretz, (Daily), January 15,
2002. (Hebrew)
Freund, M. (2002). Fifteen thousand and counting....The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition,
November 19, 2002.
Israeli Police (2002). Annual Report, Internet Edition.
Landau, S.F. (1988). Violent crime and its relation to subjective social stress indicators: The case of Israel. Aggressive Behavior, 14:337-362.
Landau, S.F. (1994). Violent crime in a society at war: Israel and the Intifada.
In: Ramirez, J.M. (Ed.) Violence - Some Alternatives. Madrid: Centreur, pp.63-84.
Landau, S.F. (1997). Crime patterns and their relation to subjective stress and
support indicators: The role of gender. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 13:29-56.
Landau, S.F. (1998). Crime, subjective stress and support indicators, and ethnic
origin: The Israeli experience. Justice Quarterly, 15:244-272.
Landau, S.F. (2002). Violence in a society under stress: The case of Israel, Opening Plenary Lecture at the 2nd International Seminar on Violence and Adolescence, Tel-Aviv, July, 2002.
Landau, S.F. and Pfeffermann, D. (1988). A time series analysis of violent crime and its
relation to prolonged states of warfare: The Israeli case. Criminology, 26:489-504.
Landau, S.F. and Rahav, G. (1989). Suicide and attempted suicide: Their relation to
subjective social stress indicators. Genetic, Social and General Psychology
Monographs, 115:273-294.
Milner, E. (2002). Every third citizen reports about mental distress. Yediot Ahronot
(Daily), March 18, 2002. (Hebrew).
Navon, E. and Abu Tuama, F. (2002). The argument about overtaking ended in a violent
death. Yediot Ahronot Internet Edition (Ynet), April 18, 2002. (Hebrew)
Pulse of the Nation (2001). National Public Survey, Kol Israel Radio Station, Internet
Edition, December 31, 2001. (Hebrew)
Pulse of the Nation (2002). National Public Survey, Kol Israel Radio Station, Internet
Edition, November 28, 2002. (Hebrew)
Rosenblum, S. (2002). The price of the Intifada: 30 percent of settlers' children are traumatized.
Yediot Ahronot Internet Edition (Ynet), July 1, 2002. (Hebrew)
Sa'ar, R. (2002). Israel is second in the West in carrying weapons in schools. Haaretz Daily Internet Edition, May 13, 2002. (Hebrew)
Simmel, G. (1955). Conflict and the Web of Group Affiliation. Glencoe, Ill.: The
Free Press.
Tsezana, S. (2002) Ultra-Orthodox, to arms! Maariv Internet Edition, November, 7, 2002.