Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Man Who Became Rich Through a Dream

Painting by Benjamin Shiff (by permission, see more at Erel Shalit and at Benjamin Shiff).

For those of you who celebrate the Jewish New Year, I wish you Shana Tova, a Year of Peace and Good Health, and possibly of finding your fortune, as told in the tale ‘The Man Who Became Rich through a Dream,’ which is found in many cultures. As told in One Thousand and One Nights, a man from Baghdad who has lost his fortune follows the guidance he receives in a dream and travels afar to find the fortune.

The same story is told about Rabbi Isaac from Krakow, who after years of poverty, dreamed that he should go to Prague, to search for a treasure under one of the bridges that lead to the palace. Since the dream appeared twice, he prepared for the long journey. When he arrived, he found the bridge guarded by day and by night, so he didn’t dare to start digging. Still, he went to the bridge every morning, walking around it until nightfall.

Finally, the captain of the guards, who had been watching him, kindly asked if he was looking for something or waiting for somebody. Isaac told him the dream that had brought him all the way to Prague.

The captain laughed and said, “You fool: A man has come to me three times in a dream, and has described a house in Krakow, telling me to dig for a treasure buried beneath a fountain in the garden. He told me to go there and take it, but I stayed here. You, however, have foolishly journeyed from place to place, having faith in a dream, trusting your meaningless imagination…”

Rabbi Isaac realized that the captain had described his own house. He returned home, where he discovered a great treasure, we don’t know of what, beneath the fountain in his garden.

Sometimes we need to travel far, whether in the world of matter or the world of mind and psyche, to realize the value of the treasure under the fountain in the garden of our soul, in order to sense soul, life and self.

…and sometimes we need to endure the doubts and the failures and the longings and the hardships… and even need to listen to the authorities of collective consciousness who by definition treat imagination of the soul and the hints from the unconscious as meaningless… and thus, the captain of the guards may turn out to be our unexpected soul-guide – the divine postman we would least have imagined to deliver our message.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 2011

In fundamentalism, the world is split into the conviction of Divine Totality and Absolute Truth versus the Evil Other, who is demonized, dehumanized and perpetually persecuted. Without the shadow as projected upon the other, the fundamentalist’s fantasy of paradise turns against himself in self-destruction.
The reason for this is that the fundamentalist merely projects, without having an image of the other. And it is in the image of the other – whether within or without – that the mirror of reflection resides. The fundamentalist’s split-off other does not serve him as a mirror of reflection. There is only a projection to be destroyed, but no image in the mirror. There are pre-conceived projections, but no reflective imagination.
Therefore, the totalitarian by necessity becomes the final victim of his own archetypal projections, though all too often only after spreading too much destruction.

When elected, political leaders supposedly bring an agenda, which they intend to implement during their term in office. But it happens that political, military and historical events impose upon a political leader an unanticipated role for which the person in power may not have been prepared. Thus, some emerge as leaders in crisis, able to gather the energy and turn catastrophe into survival (Churchill rather than Chamberlain), while others fail to for instance grasp an opportunity to change the course of history in a better direction.
September 11 has sometimes been referred to as a failure of imagination, and as spring turned into summer, and fall will fade into winter, the forces of construction and destruction waver back and forth. Summer’s blazing heat is reaching its boiling point, and we do not know yet whether September signifies the beginning of Fall or Rise.

As regards Israel, social protest is now in the search for new forms of democracy, such as “a thousand round tables” for discussing and exchanging views on every subject.
The leaders of the country are sailing in a shaky vessel in the midst of major challenges and crises, for instance:

The United Nations Palmer report on the Turkish Gaza flotilla a year ago gave Israel unprecedented backing: The report confirmed the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, and the right to enforce it, to prevent the smuggling of missiles and other. “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” the report says. Furthermore, when Israeli commandos boarded the main ship, they faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers,” and therefore had to use force for their own protection. The report stated, “There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly I.H.H.”
However, according to the report, Israel used excessive force, for which Israel has expressed regret and willingness to indirectly compensate the killed and wounded (without asking the Turkish government for a similar gesture). The Turkish PM demands Israel apologize.
Perhaps the Israeli leaders could take a lesson in creativity from good old Freud?

As a Jew and as the founder of psychoanalysis, Freud was regarded as an enemy of the new Germany. Shortly before he was allowed to leave the country in June, a photographic record was made of Freud's residence, Berggasse 19. In his final interview, the Gestapo officers insisted that Freud sign a statement saying he was not mistreated. The 82-year-old Freud is said to have sarcastically asked if he could add: “I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone.”

While it is the government in Turkey that seeks conflict with Israel, in Egypt it is the street (which does not always represent the people) that rules. The evacuation of the Israeli embassy staff by an Israeli air force plane reached its peak in a nightly mission, when the six remaining security officers were threatened being lynched and possibly killed by the masses. Only the intervention of President Obama made the Egyptian leadership wake up to its responsibility and ensure, at the very last moment, the safety of the embassy personnel.
Not everything is the fault of the present or previous Israeli government, but the houses in this neighborhood and the tenants that dwell here – in Israel, around the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East – are not always consistent and reliable. The climate and the character are far from Central Europe, for better and for worse. The image of six security officers threatened by lynch, rescued at the last moment, may, with due care and reservation, be a metaphor for Israel’s present isolation, not the least caused by Netanyahu’s great capability for saying a lot and doing little, and the Foreign Minister’s even greater capacity for saying too much and doing even more harm.

The really great challenge still lies ahead, though just around the corner. The Palestinians have skillfully avoided resuming negotiations, even during the asked-for settlement freeze that Netanyahu’s government implemented. They have simply understood that due to Israel’s isolation, they can achieve their desired goals without having to pay any price required in negotiations.
This poses a challenge and an opportunity for Israel’s all too passive and reluctant leadership. It requires of PM Netanyahu to make a decisive decision: to remain loyal to his right-wing electorate, or, to face reality and realize history’s decisive moment.
If he does the latter, he will receive the support of a majority of Israelis. He would then, in the coming few days, make something like the following statement:
Israel welcomes and will vote in favor of the Arab State of Palestine alongside the Jewish State of Israel and offers friendly relations on all levels;
Israel will immediately freeze all settlement construction beyond the security fence;
The dismantling of these settlements will be negotiated, as well as the withdrawal from this territory;
Settlements between the 1948 cease-fire lines (in effect until 1967) and the security fence, will be subject to negotiations;
Those blocs of settlement that Israel will retain in this area, will be exchanged for land within Israel proper;
While unilateral action, such as the Palestinian request for UN recognition contradicts the Oslo agreements, Israel suggests that all unresolved issues will be dealt with in negotiations to commence immediately following the recognition of Palestine, whereupon both partners take upon themselves to resolve all issues bilaterally (and not unilaterally);
While the ongoing incitement in Palestinian media, schools and mosques is abhorrent and also contradicts the Oslo accords, Israel’s recognition of Palestine is not contingent upon the cessation of incitement. However, Israel does expect a drastic change as regards incitement and non-recognition of Israel in Palestine state-institutions;
While Israel recognizes the State of Palestine, and urges all United Nations member states to do so, this should be on condition that the Palestine National Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, be revised.
Before the United Nations recognize the Arab State of Palestine, the declared aims of that state cannot be the destruction of another member-state of the United Nations (or any state, for that matter). At the UN website (, the page of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations ( details the Palestine National Charter (, which states the aim to be “the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.” Furthermore, Article 19 says that, “The partition of Palestine in 1947, and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal,” and in article 20, “Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history.”
In contradiction to the Oslo accords, the Palestine National Charter was never amended; it remains as it was, denying Jews their connection with the land, and striving for the elimination of Zionism, i.e., in practice, ethnic cleansing of Jews who did not reside in the country prior to “the Zionist invasion,” (the Balfour Declaration in 1917); those Jews will generously be “considered Palestinians” – not accounting for the fact that until the founding of Israel in 1948, it was the Jews who were called ‘Palestinians.”
I thus urge the Palestine National Charter be revised to include recognition of Israel rather than the call for its destruction, prior to voting on the recognition of Palestine and accepting it as a member state of the United Nations. Otherwise the United Nations will vote in favor of the replacement of Israel with an Arab State of Palestine, rather than in favor of the two-state solution –Arab Palestine alongside Israel.

This is what I would like to hear Binyamin Netanyahu courageously declare. I doubt he will, but would be happy to be proven wrong.

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