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Psalms and Coping with Uncertainty: Religious Israeli Women's Responses to the 2006 Lebanon War



ABSTRACT  Many scholars have argued that rituals serve to help individuals cope with challenges that arise under uncertain conditions. Ongoing research has been examining this claim with data collected on how Israeli women use psalm recitation to cope with the stress of war and terror. Here we compare the efficacy of psalm recitation among religious women who remained in northern Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War and women who relocated to central Israel, out of reach of Hizbollah Katyusha attacks. We show that psalm recitation is associated with lower rates of anxiety among women who remained in the north, but no such relationship was found among women who relocated outside of the warzone. We argue that psalm recitation reduces anxiety caused by the uncontrollable conditions of war but is ineffective at combating more mundane, controllable stressors. These findings will be discussed in light of Malinowski's theory of magic and related models.