It is a familiar phenomenon: Somewhere between 10 to 30 percent of women who give birth will experience post-partum depression. In addition to a woman's psychological background and hormonal disruption, there are other psychological factors involved, rooted in the mother's need to concede her autonomy and put the good of the helpless infant at the top of her priorities. There is her concern that she won't be able to rise to the challenge, her lack of sleep, and her feeling of emptiness after nine months of struggling toward one goal, one that culminates in the dramatic appearance of a person in the world.
The days that have passed since Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit was released from captivity teach us that there is also such a thing as post-deliverance depression. But this time the depression is communal, a sort of national post-partum depression. It is because of the fact that we believe our murmurs of solidarity with the suffering of Gilad and his family, and our visiting the supporters' tent and signing petitions, turned him into everyone's child. And look, after we gave birth to him as a free man, we're threatened with a feeling of emptiness.
The symptoms of this feeling are visible, beginning with the thousands of people traveling to Mitzpeh Hila by bus in order to see the newborn with their own eyes; continuing with President Shimon Peres, who could not bear the thought that he would not manage to get a picture with Shalit, and who visited Mitzpeh Hila to teach the child and his biological parents how important it is to insist on their privacy; and ending with Tzipi Livni, the head of the opposition to the government, who only now, after Shalit has finally been released from captivity, opposes the deal that led to his release. She is like a mother thinking about returning the baby to the hospital, regretting her decision to have one after discovering that being responsible for a child isn't such a good idea.
You can feel the depression in the media as well. The media is in search of a new topic to fill the void once taken up by the hysterical coverage that started the moment the release was made known, and which did not end until the last drop of blood had been squeezed from the pound of flesh the media was convinced the Shalit family owed it. Now it is conducting a competition for the first Israeli interview.
But even more worrisome than this post-partum depression are the possible solutions that the government - and mainly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known to be attentive to the people's hearts - will invent in their fevered brains to find us some new occupation that will unite us as a nation. It is of course possible to take steps to improve our lives and our relationships with the world: immediate peace negotiations with Hamas; cancelation of the retroactive permits granted for construction in Gilo and a freeze on all construction in the occupied territories; serious and urgent treatment of the collapse of public medicine and the lack of social justice; brave steps against the ever-increasing control by Jewish religious extremists and against religious coercion.
But none of these actions will be undertaken by a government headed by Netanyahu, since they won't place him in the heroic position he still enjoys as the one who ransomed a captive. The birth of a new child Sarkozy-Bruni-style or a divorce are apparently out of the question. The concern is that the prime minister will try to adjust for the drop in adrenaline at the end of a birth by declaring war. Assuming (optimistically) that there are enough people in the government who see the danger of such a solution, perhaps it is worthwhile to recommend that instead of goading the nation on, it should raise its spirits with a mild sedative, a mass distribution of opium - that is, medicinal marijuana. If not, and if we remain lucid, we are likely to return en masse to social protest.
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