Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi has represented the Jewish tradition at Auschwitz Bearing witness retreats for many years. He studies Zen with Bernie Glassman and is a peace activist. He wrote the following article on recent events:
English tr., Yair Ohr
As a peace activist, I am hurt and frustrated to see supposed “peace activists” attacking other human beings with violent rage: that is NOT the way to bring peace. As an international peace activist, I want to say to those who were involved in the violence on board the Marmara flotilla: You are not peace activists. You came as confrontationists looking for a fight, and you are personally responsible for the bloodshed that took place. I would have expected other peace activists from around the world to come out loudly and say this unambiguously, but it seems that their voices have suddenly gone silent.
And as an Israeli, it frustrates me to see the Israeli Army so foolishly falling into this trap. Could the Israeli army with all its advanced intelligence gathering systems not have obtained more accurate information about what was planned for them on board the ship? Couldn’t they have just neutralized the ship’s engine by some simple commando action in order to stop the ship dead at sea, without direct confrontation, thus avoiding any bloodshed?
The State of Israel has become a very clumsy bully that strikes out heavily against anyone who irritates it, then justifies by crying, “But he started! He spit on me! He insulted me! He hit me with an iron rod!” The modern Israeli Army resembles the Golem of Prague, which was sent to protect the Jews, but was an inept and dangerous creature. But unlike the original Golem, it seems that the modern Israeli version lacks any sage guidance to control it, and no one knows to erase the Divine Name from its forehead and return it to dust at the right time, as did the Maharal of Prague in the famous story.
Many of us right now want only to hide our faces in the ground out of shame: ashamed of “our” state that conducts itself with such inane stupidity; ashamed of the “peace activists” who tried to murder soldiers with clubs and knives; ashamed of the hypocritical reaction of peace lovers around the world who are taking a lopsided and cursory stance, ignoring the complexity of the issue.
So what is the real problem? For years I have been saying that the State of Israel, as a society, is exhibiting the collective psychological symptoms of post-trauma. Our collective psychology resembles that of someone who was traumatized as a child, such as sexual or physical abuse, but never had the opportunity to work it through in any form of therapy. This person grows into adulthood full of relentless rage and fear. He is always “on guard,” responding disproportionately to anyone who spits in his direction.
And as known to experts in the symptoms of post-trauma: whoever suffered violent trauma in childhood will recreate for himself the very same reality that will only prove to him that the world is exactly as he fears it to be: aggressive, violent, and that everyone is against him, so to protect himself, he too must be aggressive and violent—even more so than all the others. It is very difficult to prove to such a person that he himself is an active contributor to the creation of this violent reality. He is not only defending himself against it—he is actually creating it, for only in that situation does he feel “at home.”
That is our situation here in Israel: only if the entire world is against us do we feel comfortable. It has that familiar sensation of massacres and pogroms. Only when “they” want to annihilate us are we relieved, feeling that at least this is how we always knew it to be. Not long ago on Pesach we sang, “In each and every generation they rise up to destroy us…,” so reality has once again slapped us in the face and proved that we are right, as always—and this time, they have tried to do it by hurling broken beer bottles at us with slingshots…
What am I saying? I am saying that the time has come for us to seek treatment. If we don’t get reparative therapy for the fear that controls and manipulates the Israeli society, we will not survive.
Nowadays, God does not need to save us from “them”—He needs to save us mainly from ourselves! We, the Israelis, as a society and as individuals, need therapy—urgently. Preferably it should be some type of alternative therapy, but any type of therapy requires the willingness of the suffering one to acknowledge his situation and seek help. Perhaps, as a society, we can agree to forgo for a while our hopeless clinging to the “righteousness of our path,” and to declare to ourselves and to the world that we are in trouble, and that we need help.