Clinical Psychology in Medicine

Cultural Perspectives on the Aftereffects of Combat Trauma: Review of a Community Study of Bedouin IDF Servicemen and Their Families

Yael Caspi, Ortal Slobodin, and Ehud Klein


Combat trauma may affect servicemen from indigenous, traditional communities in ways that warrant special attention. The Bedouins, who enlist in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) voluntarily, represent a unique, closed, collectivist cultural minority, potentially in a predicament in light of ongoing sociopolitical events. This paper summarizes findings and lessons learned from a community study of Bedouin IDF servicemen and their families residing in Israel’s Western Galilee. This is the only research endeavor to have addressed trauma exposure and posttraumatic reactions in this community. The sampling strategies and interview schedule were designed in consideration of participation barriers typical of hard-to-reach populations. Data collection followed an extended phase of liaising with key informants and building trust. Study limitations are discussed in terms of the challenges presented by this type of research. Interviews conducted with 317 men, 129 wives, and 67 mothers revealed high levels of trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the men, and related distress in wives and mothers, but not in the children. The role of aggression in mediating the impact of PTSD and concepts such as shame, the loss of personal resources, and beliefs about retribution are highlighted as key issues for a culturally relevant understanding of traumatized indigenous communities.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2015;6(2):e0021