It took 16 years of escaping his problems for Oren Or Bittoun, a former commander of the IDF's Border Police undercover counter-terrorism unit, to get a proper diagnosis of what he was suffering from. Bittoun was one of the first soldiers in the unit, taking part in dozens of classified operations in the West Bank during Israel’s First Intifada. During one operation, in 1992, he witnessed his unit’s commanding officer shot in the head by a Palestinian terrorist.
While Bittoun witnesses many harrowing events during his service, his commander’s death is the last straw. After a short debriefing by the army he goes home to commit suicide. He cocks his weapon, points it to his head and recites the Shema Yisrael prayer. The door opens and his mother grabs him screaming, the gun goes off, hitting the floor, and only then does he realize what has happened. He keeps his suicide attempt to himself.
After being released from the army Bittoun tries to escape the memories, living in the Congo, New York, Switzerland, London and Paris before finally returning to Israel with his wife and eldest son.
No matter where he goes, including the Swiss Alps, he carries a gun and a knife, sure that someone is out to kill him. He feels that his body is in Tel Aviv but his soul is in Jenin in the West Bank. He screams out his dead commander’s name in his sleep.
The turning point comes one night, 16 years after losing his commander, when Bittoun comes home from work and has a flashback to that tragic event.
He smells the same smells, the smoke and death, he feels someone grab his neck, he grabs the person back and when opening his eyes he sees that he is strangling his six-year-old daughter. She is turning blue. She screams in panic and asks him why he wants to kill her. Distraught, all he can say is that he loves her and will always protect her. That’s when his wife makes him seek professional help, otherwise she will leave him.
His novel, Powder Keg, is based on his true story which portrays a chilling mosaic of events that will leave readers with bated breath. The book opens a rare window, with a moving, intimate peek into his complex life and the inner workings of the mind and soul of someone suffering from combat related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as shell shock. Each night Oren fights a battle of survival against mortal fear, and each morning he chooses to live. From within this seemingly endless cycle of post-trauma, Oren paves the way and shows us a path forward. He stumbles and picks himself up, he fails and succeeds, he fights the powder keg within with everything he's got.