Societal Resilience in Israel

How Communities Succeed Despite Terrorism

Shimon Peres, then Israel's president, speaks with young people at a shopping mall in Ashdod, Israel, after cross-border clashes between Israel and Hamas, August 2011. AMIR COHEN / REUTERS

Between November 2014 and November 2016, some 400 people were killed or wounded in terrorist attacks across Western Europe, according to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database. In relative terms, this toll is small: more than 90 times smaller than that of the Middle East and North Africa over the same period. Yet in Europe and in the United States, as in many places worse affected by terrorism, terrorist attacks have moved to the center of political discourse, and some level of violence seems to be here to stay. Policymakers should determine not just how they can prevent attacks but how they can better manage their aftermaths, ensuring that their constituents can bounce back in the wake of violence.

Officials who are interested in doing so should look to Israel, where communities have worked to thrive despite terrorist attacks for decades. The patterns of terrorism in Israel are not identical to those elsewhere. Yet Israel’s efforts to streamline its counterterrorism bureaucracy and to mobilize its public to withstand repeated attacks nevertheless offer some important lessons—above all, that resilience to terrorist attacks must start at the community level.


Much of Israel’s success in dealing with terrorism comes from the choices made by the country’s security apparatus. Israel’s various intelligence agencies have learned to work together, diminishing the internal rivalries that plague the intelligence communities of some other countries. They have also mostly overcome the differences in professional culture that would otherwise divide them from law enforcement organizations, which has enabled intelligence officials to work more seamlessly with officials on the ground. And Israel has developed a large civil security presence: during the height of the second intifada, which lasted from 2000 to 2004, some 2.5 percent of the country’s civilians were contributing to some form of internal security, serving in such places as schools, public transportation hubs, and shopping malls.

Despite the technological advancements achieved in intelligence-gathering in recent decades, Israel has not skimped on traditional human intelligence, which is irreplaceable

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