The death of Bar Kalef and Or Donio has brought the issue of combat veterans' treatment back into the headlines, but for the combat survivors who fight day in and day out to survive, the post-combat struggle is not new at all. We spoke with Omer Amsalem, a combat veteran, about the challenging process of coping with post-traumatic stress, the feelings he's experiencing these days, and the expectations he has from both the government and society.
Amsalem is married with a three-and-a-half-year-old child and another one on the way, residing in Kiryat Ata. He is 30 years old. However, Operation Protective Edge is something he hasn't recovered from. "I was discharged in 2016. Two months after Operation Protective Edge, I experienced seizures during routine guard duty. I was demoted to a soldier-standard job. That's where it all began in the military service."
"With the allowance I receive today I can not survive"
They recognized me quickly because there were all the opinions. They recognized me after eight months. I received the contracts 5 minutes after my mother died." As part of the recognition process, there were testimonies and confirmations, and committees that he had to go through. "Both commanders and friends testify, you have to go to a psychiatrist, disability committee, percentages." He was on the fast track, known as the "green track", The difficulty was mainly the uncertainty. While I'm waiting for recognition I have nowhere to live. With the allowance I receive today I do not survive. I am with a thousand shekels in my hand. I'm waiting for the first fay of the month. We have to pay back apartment owners."
How are your feelings in light of the unfortunate incidents in recent days?
"Feelings of emptiness, just emptiness, they're exhausting us endlessly. There's no way to describe it."
Being a combat veteran: "Not belonging to society. It's really like that, to be really marginalized. I started TikTok a year and a half ago and I have a lot of views. But when I go live to raise awareness about the topic, I find myself with five or ten viewers at most. Society really doesn't know how to accept us."
"I went to war"
"Neither the state wants us nor does the society, at least the majority of it. There are people who genuinely care, but there are those who are not with us when it truly matters. In my view, we went to war, powerless. I won't give up until there is a change. Every day, my brothers in arms are committing suicide. It's not logical. We're not to blame for being sent to battle and then abandoned. I fought in Gaza, and I feel like I'm still in Shuja'iyya. They keep trampling on us."
"Today, I find myself in a place where I don't see any future. It's always static. I'm thinking about how I'll survive tomorrow."
The expectation from the state:
"Embrace us. Recognize us. I'm recognized but everything is still difficult, wait for the committee here and there. I brought you proofs, I brought you everything" Amsalem talks about the difficulty of bringing proofs again "Why? And let's not talk about those who aren't recognized. How can you refuse a fighter? "
On Bar Kalef "They said he was screwed up before?, so how could he be a commander if he was screwed up before?" he asks painfully.
"They abandon us"
"They abandon us in every way. They sit in the Knesset, receive a salary, and are calm and comfortable. My home is walking on eggshells. My day is not a day; the night is not a night. My wife hasn't been working for a year because of me. My debts. I need to pay 45,000 to get rid of the debts. I can't afford the baby's needs. We'll soon have a newborn, and I can't manage. I don't have the order of a legitimate human being, a clean train of thought without flashbacks, without nightmares. We're living day by day survival."
What do you think the public can do?
"To go out to the streets. Unequivocally. We can't do it alone. There are many of us struggling, but not everyone can leave the house. Not everyone can be around a lot of people, go out on the streets. Our war is now starting. We lost two friends; now the battle is beginning. We can't let another one go."