Seven years of ecstasy and agony have been enjoyed and endured in Israel, and from the calm of my sabbatical back in the UK, I welcome this opportunity to look in on Israeli psychiatry. The setting is a dramatic one. Israel's recent history is characterised by a hard-won statehood in 1948, massive waves of immigration, a clash of oriental and occidental cultures, and repeated wars. In the face of this rapid and traumatic change, Israelis have exhibited an exaggerated faith in the powers of the state. By denial of emotional and mental problems, a somewhat brittle stability has been achieved, not enhanced by almost uniformly negative attitudes to mental disorder. Understandably Israeli psychiatry has also been characterised by the fight for survival. The professional scene is made up of fierce, creative, one could almost say “true grit” individualists and powerful professional cliques. Israeli psychiatry was literally forged on the battlefields of the Independence War and has retained an Old Testament character of war-like struggle up until the present day. It is to the credit of Israeli psychiatrists that they have succeeded at the highest level in dealing with routine psychiatric problems alongside the awesome consequences of this continuous stress and trauma.
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