Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Days of Darkness

Published March 19, New York Times:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory will keep an extreme right-wing government in power in Israel. Having crushed the hopes for an open-minded, enlightened, peace-inclined alternative to his government, days of darkness lie ahead, as promised by his rejectionist and fear-inducing expressions during the campaign.

The small, fanatical settlements beyond the security fence not only prevent the Palestinians from building a viab...le national home (well, their leadership is not exactly angelic itself), but they also prevent the creative and industrious young Israelis from building their homes as well (unless they join the bandwagon to the settlements, or leave the country).

Labor (now the Zionist Union) has never been successful as an opposition party, seemingly not having reconciled with the fact that for nearly 40 years it has not dominated Israeli politics.

To kindle a light in the darkness, it needs to present an alternative of sanity and enlightenment, an alternative to the swamps of occupation, as a forceful and persistent opposition.


An excerpt from Requiem: A Tale of Exile and RETURN (pp. 2-4)

He came to think of that abandoned town he once had visited, driving down there into the desert, driven primarily by an obsession to see and sense an external manifestation of his own feelings of abandonment, of being left behind. He had always believed that the barren land of the desert was better suited for expelling the scapegoat and abandoning the unfortunate than for the dreamers of divine prophecies and the growth of oases. The fata morganas were, indeed, fairy mirages, inverted illusions, unrelated to desert reality.

The young had left the desert town as soon as they could, leaving their unemployed and worn-out parents behind. Once the little kiosk at the small piazza at the center of town, with coffee, chairs and a lottery machine, had been like a Persian Palace of Hope, a real kūšk.

But the feathers of hope no longer circled the air, as if impatiently waiting to be followed by the lucky and daring ones, departing for the dream of a new life, a better future. No, the feathers had all fallen to the ground, the shaft had lost its barbs. Even the feathers had lost their hope. No longer projected into the future, hope had merely become a relic of Professor Shimeoni’s favorite tense, which he cynically ascribed the negligible value of a threepenny, the PPP, past perfect progressive – “they had had hope – had they not had?”

No one in town could any longer define that thing called hope. Unemployment pay had run out with the rusty water in the taps, wasted, dripping into the sand. On the pavement outside the kiosk, the formerly white, now turned gray chairs of aging plastic, had become orphaned. As the weed sprouted up between the cracks, it became clear that the sidewalks were no longer made for walking. Days of decay no longer took turns with nights of despair, because in despair, there is still some voice trying to call out, however futile. No, even despair had now become orphaned, replaced by an empty void of apathy. Among those who managed to escape, the void was often filled to the brink with restless guilt.

Yes, it was sad, he had thought at the time, as he felt the relief of getting out of the godforsaken town, hastily escaping north. Yet, it was part of global depopulation trends. But now, his sense that everybody had left was different. It felt total, and like desertification, it had crawled in from the periphery to consume the very center of life, people like him, the pillars of society, the salt of the land – those that may not be immune to tragedy, but who conquer the desert rather than surrender to nature.
(pp. 2-4)

The road is long and thorny, and much hard work will be necessary to clean the thorns, to lay the ground for the future.

By Elizabeth Clark-Stern

Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote in The Red Book of the distinction between “The Spirit of the Times” and “The Spirit of the Depths”. We see this vividly demonstrated when we put Ari Shavit’s acclaimed new book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel alongside Erel Shalit’s classic work, The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel. The former takes us through the history of the heroic creation of Israel, including the darkest “shadow” behaviors of the Jewish state in the 1948 massacre of the Arabs of Lydda.

In the latter work, Erel Shalit tells us why.

This is no simplistic psychological analysis. The brilliance of this Israeli Jungian analyst is that he offers no easy solutions, plumbing the paradox of the necessary heroic identity of the Jewish state, and yet, around every corner is the shadow of every hero: the beggar, the frightened one, the part of all of us that is dependent on forces outside of our control.

It is also very important to note that Erel Shalit’s book is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the inner workings of the soul. On one level Israel is the backdrop for the author to explore how shadow, myth, and projection work in all of us, regardless of our life circumstance, nationality, environment, or history. It even includes a comprehensive glossary of Jungian terms that has some of the best definitions I have ever encountered, and hence a find for readers new to Jung.

And, of course, for people who are fascinated by the scope and depth of the story of Israel, this is a simply great read. It stands alone, but read as a companion to Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, Erel Shalit’s Hero and His Shadow gives us The Spirit of the Depths in all its dimension. We may not be able to resolve the Arab/Israeli conflict, but we can learn many things from this brave, complex Israeli author, that we can apply to healing the inner and outer wars in our own lives.

No comments: