Thursday, September 21, 2006

Freud in Israel - The Spiritual Infrastructure of A Culture

This is my holiday gift to all those curious, restless Jews who are interested in what makes our society tick or else just want to impress their relatives , or maybe need something to talk about after exhausting the usual ten-minute -"who is doing what with whom" gossip - for all of you- i give a very long post that answers all these needs and more.

Shana Tova,


This is the fifth part in a series of posts that constitute the main concern of this blog: What Is Wrong with Israeli Society and How to Repair it. The previous posts are filed under the category “ RepairingIsrael-TheSeries.” The original, somewhat different, Hebrew version of this post may be found here.

Advice: if you read long articles on the internet sometimes it is difficult to focus on where you are exactly, especially if you do a lot of things at once and take your eyes away from the screen. This is why I recommend installing the Paragrasp extension , which highlights the paragraph you are reading, and the highlight moves along as you scroll with your keyboard or mouse – it’s indispensable really. Of course it is intended only for Firefox users. If you are not yet using the firefox browser you can get it here.

Previously I explained the expression “Tikkun” (Repair), and why World Repair should be done in a scientific manner, with the use of the knowledge available in the field of Psychology. I started reviewing this knowledge with Freudian theory explained here from the perspective of a believer. In this post, the second and last one about Freud, I will try to show how Freudian thought has influenced Israeli society and culture.

Freud in Israel
According to the statistical yearbook of the Mental Health Unit in The Ministry of Health in 2004 (the latest yearbook available), there were 7000 certified psychologists in Israel. 55 percent of these were clinical psychologists, and almost 30 percent educational psychologists, with the remainder split between four other specialties (which we will ignore from now on).

Clinical Psychologists
Clinical psychologists work in hospitals, Primary Care Clinics (Kupat Holim), psychiatric hospitals, local government, and private practice, treating individuals couples and groups. A Ministry of Health license to practice clinical psychology is contingent upon receiving a graduate degree in the field, and several years of internship. Thanks to the internet, it is very easy to study the curriculum required of clinical psychology students in the Universities of Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem (the two major universities in Israel) and Bar-Ilan (the sole Zionist-Religious university in the country). Doing so clearly reveals that the training of clinical psychologists is based for the most part upon the teachings of Freud and his followers. Apparently the situation is the same in other institutes of higher education, a conclusion reached also by Proffesor Eli Zomer, senior clinical psychologist from Haifa University who recently talked about the unhealthy situation of psychological treatment in Israel (Hebrew transcript here). I am aware that Freud’s followers do not all completely agree with his theories, and some have suggested and implemented changes to his theory and practice. However, the assumptions behind the theory which we spelled out in the previous post, the philosophy of despair and materialism diametrically opposed to Tikkun, has not been challenged nor changed within the Neo-Freudian framework.
In addition to the teachings of Freud and his followers, students get acquainted with Cognitive Psychology and Behavioral Psychology. For those of you not familiar with these terms, I would like to take a brief recess and explain. The rest of you can just skip this part.

Schools of Thought in Psychology – Cognitive and Behaviorist
The cognitive approach is most concerned with what goes on in our brains – how we perceive the world, how we think about it, what are our feeling and emotions, how they arise, how we process information – everything that goes on within our skulls, unseen by human eyes, is of interest to the cognitive psychologist. This approach assumes that human behavior is a result of human cognitive processes. Therefore, in treatment, a cognitive approach would seek to discover the motives of the behavior, our opinions and positions in respect to the problem being treated. Once this is discovered, treatment will consist of shifting the patient’s point of view, which will presumably result in a corresponding change in the patient’s behavior. This is very similar to the Freudian approach except that usually, cognitive psychology deals with the conscious part of our minds, while psychotherapy focuses more on the unconscious part. Another important difference between the two is that cognitive psychology never developed a whole, conscious and articulate philosophy concerning human beings and the world. Historically speaking, the term cognitive was not applied until recently, but in terms of the research areas and interests, there have always been cognitive psychologists.
Behavioral psychology, generally speaking, stands at the opposite extreme, claiming that: “What we do not see, does not exist”, meaning that the only justifiable object of scientific research should be observable human behavior. Anything else – thoughts, emotions, motives and so on cannot be measured directly and therefore are not scientifically acceptable. By the same token, behaviorist treatment is intended to influence and affect behavior and nothing else. The Jewish practice of “doing and then hearing” is basically a behaviorist practice, assuming that the way we behave will shape the way we think, (an idea picked up millennia later by the young Karl Marx stating that “what we do is what we are “). This is a major difference between Judaism, which emphasizes action, and Christianity, which emphasizes thought. In Christendom it was most important to posses the correct thoughts, and countless wars were fought over heretic beliefs. In any case, Behaviorism reached it’s peak with the writings of B. Skinner, an American psychologist who elevated this theory into a wide-ranging practical philosophy which, he believed, could change the world for the better. His ideas, which dominated American psychology for decades merit discussion in a future post in this series.
Freud himself clearly belongs to the Cognitive division of psychology although he grew up and studied at a time in which the Behavioral approach was dominant (but not so called at the time). The idea that there is something important and worthwhile of research between our two ears, something that we are completely ignorant about, was for most psychologists at the time, quite a foreign notion. Freud started a new era in psychology, which stressed the Cognitive approach. His success gave rise to a counter-attack by behaviorists, especially in the United States and to this day, one of the main divides in psychology remains the division between Cognitive and Behavioral psychology.
In Israel the cognitive approach has a distinct advantage. This is clear when reviewing the curriculum in the various psychology departments, and also in the treatments made available to the public, which are for the most part based on a cognitive approach. Behavioral treatments, or even combined cognitive-behavioral treatments barely exist. This is a shame because the differing approaches have varying degrees of effectiveness, and limiting the available treatments on an ideological basis is a disservice to the public.

Clinical Psychology in Israel – Conclusion
If the training of the clinical psychologists is based largely upon the teachings of Freud and his followers, then it is reasonable to assume that belief and faith do not play a part in the treatment, except as a clear symptom of disease, and that such a treatment does not consist of a philosophy and practice geared towards Repairing the world. Likewise, clinical psychologists in public service, as expert witnesses in court, in the Knesset committees shaping future legislation, in the Health ministry – they are not, by force of their training, equipped with faith, and do not believe in the possibility of Tikkun Olam.

Psychology in the Israeli Education System
The training of Educational psychologist is similar to that of clinical psychologists, with the added stress placed upon the subject of child development and education. Educational psychologists are part of SHEFI (link is in Hebrew), the Educational Psychology Service, which is a division of the Ministry of Education. They participate in shaping the Ministry’s policy on issues such as violence, drugs, special education, sex education and more. Educational Psychologists working with and through the local municipalities, give guidance to teachers and principals, shape and implement interventions as necessary, and also give short-term treatment to students and their parents, if needed. The psychologist’s point of view is paramount when dealing with many educational issues. For instance the educational psychologist may be called upon to help with the problem of school violence. This means that he has to have some idea what is the source of violence, and it makes a big difference in treatment if violence is assumed to be inevitable, or else a symptom of another, deeper problem. Educational psychologists also create the framework and guidelines within which school councilors operate. School councilors are also a part of SHEFI but they do not receive the training of psychologists. Usually, in Israel, their ranks are made up of education students, who took the graduate program in counseling. This program is supposed to give practical methods of working with individuals and groups, and understanding of the school environment. Every school has a counselor, usually a woman, working part-time. Her job description includes many tasks, above and beyond what any mortal can accomplish within the allotted time. Foremost among them is counseling with individual pupils, diagnosing their problems and directing them to the appropriate treatment. Counselors also have a curriculum that they must teach in class. This includes the flagship program called “Life Skills” (Kishurei Haim) aimed at developing the social and emotional skills of the student body. This program touches upon various subjects including dealing with situations of stress and anxiety (a somewhat common affliction in Israeli society), conflict resolution, dealing with drugs, sex education, moral dilemmas, preparing for Army service, tolerance training and more. Unfortunately this program, does not include a lesson called “Faith” or “Believing in God”, and even if there was such a lesson, the counselor would have quite a problem in teaching it since her training most definitely did not include this part of the human soul.

Freud’s Influence on Child Education
The End of Childhood, Loosening the Reins, Canceling Parenthood

I think that we can point out three major Freudian influences upon the way we – parents and educators – think about child education.
The first is the idea that postponing gratification (reining in the instincts) causes suffering, and that this suffering is the cause of mental illness, and that therefore, it is better to loosen the reins and gratify our desires. This is not directly Freud’s idea but it is a very popular interpretation of his work (perhaps due to the efforts of Herbert Marcuses in Eros and Civilization). By no means did Freud advocate loosening the reins since he understood perfectly well that this would destroy our culture. He just wanted the socialization process to be open, transparent, and without the burden of religious sanctity. Freud thought that in this manner it would be possible to reason with people and convince them of the usefulness inherent in society and culture, thus making the price we pay for it somewhat more palatable. Be that as it may, the interpretation that the instincts must not be blocked has become the popular one. As a result, in order to avoid mental illnesses in the future, parents and educators have simply stopped educating, all in the name of psychological science. I remember reading about a Jerusalem school that installed an “Anger Room” where violent children were sent to act out their rage, thus curing them by way of catharsis (an extremely inefficient treatment, as we shall see later). Perhaps this kind of attitude is what lies behind the complacence of educators towards violence in school.
Another instinct that, if thwarted, can cause psychological harm is the sexual instinct. The alienated attitude towards sex in our culture (it’s just an instinct), the constant expedition of the age of sexual relations, the public, open, and technical discussion of sex, and school sex education – are a result, among other things - of the Freudian approach to sex.
The second Freudian idea that has deeply influenced education is the idea that children, even babies, have as much of a sex life as adults do. This approach has been widely accepted, although in it’s infancy, Freud’s colleagues greeted the notion with revulsion. The sex life of adults is one of the main aspects of human maturity that separate adults from children. Therefore, the gradual acceptance of this Freudian idea has, at the same time, eroded the separation between adults and children, and actually granted this process a scientific legitimacy. This explains, in part, the tendency of educators to treat children as if they were adults just like them, and it also causes children to adopt adult behaviors, interests and privileges, without, of course, the concomitant duties. (Which involve restraint, and therefore may thwart the healthy psychological development of our children)
The third idea to influence our educational practices is the idea that there is a known and scientifically proven, objective way to raise psychologically healthy children. Since this way is not known to parents who have not specialized in the field of psychology or educational psychology, than obviously, most parents simply do not know what they are doing. It seems to me that many parents share this feeling, and that they are only too glad to share the responsibility of raising their children with the various state-appointed experts, which include psychologists, educators and social workers. All these experts welcome the opportunity to tell us how to raise our children and in some circumstances actually force their views on the parents, views that are, as I have explained, inherently secular and devoid of faith.

Psychology in the Israeli Education System –Conclusion
Israel’s parent’s and children receive a wide array of psychological services administered by experts whose training precludes the possibility of faith, belief and Tikkun Olam. It is important to note that this conclusion is valid not only for the secular school system in which the majority of Israeli student reside, but also in the Religious-Zionist school system. This is so because the religious system uses the same psychological services and it’s counselors are trained in the same universities with the same curriculum as every secular counselor.

Freud in Social Work
The chief task of the social worker is to provide help to the segment of our society that is having trouble adjusting to modern life. Actually, the social worker is a socialization agent, stepping in if and where parents and the school have failed.
This role developed following the industrial revolution and the ensuing social upheaval. Industrialization tore apart communities, and broke the traditional framework of education by the family. As a result, a large segment of the population failed to adjust quickly enough to the swiftly changing times. While society as a whole made it’s way to modernity, large groups of people were left stranded behind destitute and forced into a life of unemployment, crime, and perpetual poverty. Many charities sprung up to meet this challenge, assisting at first mainly by giving money, food, clothes and other necessities but also by regular visits to the needy. These house calls are a staple of social work to this day, and one of the biggest differences between social workers and psychologists and educators. As time progressed the attempt at assistance became more sophisticated and well planned. Western society, through the agency of Social Security, took upon itself to ensure and provide the minimum of social rights and requirements of every member of society. Social work too, evolved and it’s rapidly growing practices came to be based more and more on scientific research. Today the social worker is expected help individuals, families and communities who have become unable to fend for themselves. This includes, at least in Israel, events such as car accidents, bereavement, caring for isolated elderly people, the poverty stricken, the homeless, juvenile delinquents, drug addicts, criminal rehabilitation, terminal cancer patients, domestic violence, children at risk, abandoned or orphaned children, rape victims and more. Social workers are employed in hospitals, Social Security, local municipalities, retirement homes, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, hostels, shelters, and dormitories for battered wives, children at risk, and pregnant teenagers, in the prison system and many more institutions, most of them publicly funded, and some – a growing part – in the private sector.
As I see it, the profession of social worker is set apart from all the others by one distinction: it is the only one that is committed to social justice. I view it as an academic endeavor dedicated to Tikkun Olam – World Repair. As far as I know this is the only academic profession that is openly committed to non-scientific values, and that conducts academically credited courses in subjects that train for political activism such as “Gaps and Equality: Using Coalitions to Reduce Them” , in Tel-Aviv University, or “Political Thinking” in Ben-Gurion University, both aimed at teaching student how to use the political system, including topics like initiating a law in order to help distressed citizens.
Probably you are wondering by now, like I am, what has all of this to do with Freud?
As I mentioned before, the social worker receives various tools which enable her to deal with individuals, families and other groups. These tools include the ability to identify the problem diagnose it properly and suggest the proper course of treatment. Therefore the curriculum for social work includes various courses in psychology and group dynamics, although the social worker is neither a psychologist nor a group facilitator. Many other parts of the curriculum lean heavily on psychological theory such as courses about domestic violence, structure and role of the family, what is a child, how he is supposed to grow up, what is crime, what causes it and how it can be treated, what is addiction, what causes it, how it should be treated and so on. This means that to the extent that the psychological knowledge being offered is based upon the Freudian and neo-Freudian theories, then to that extent the worldview and practical tools the social worker uses in her job, will be influenced by Freudian assumptions and values.
I find it difficult to estimate the degree of that influence, but I can point out some more obvious influences.
First of all, do the models that guide social workers in their daily routine assume the possibility and desirability of World Repair, of harmony between people, or is all they offer are solutions of conflict management and acceptance of the reality of conflict – a well-known Freudian idea?
Do the solutions offered by social workers further their clients independence from the government support system, or do they actually do the opposite, turning the client into a junkie, addicted to external forces? Do these solution include faith as a solution, and the lack of faith as the problem at the root of much distress?
From what I have seen and read so far in my life, the answer to these question would be no. The Freudian approach, which is dominant in the Psychology Department, is dominant also in Social Work. Perhaps this is the reason, that our social problems, in Israel and in the West, despite the well-intentioned, honest efforts of many good people for several decades are actually growing worse, instead of steadily declining.
There are other aspects of social work which are worthy to note, that have nothing to do with Freud such as: what is the norm that social workers aim to bring their clients up to? Is it a secular, material norm, which views the Israeli elites as ideal? Do the majority of taxpayers accept this norm? What can we do about this? Here’s another one: who is responsible for the distress of the individual – society or the individual himself? Both? To what extent? Where is God in this worldview? These, and other interesting questions will be discussed in a future essay, probably when I get around to discussing how we can Repair the Economy.

Freud in Israeli Culture
Freud’s main ideas may be summed up in a few statements like these:

1 – Reason is our God.
2 –The masses are childish, ignorant brutes that need the leadership of a rational elite.
3 – Faith and religion are a form of mental illness.
4 – God is an illusion. We are alone in the world.
5 - The purpose of life is to increase pleasure, and reduce pain.
6 – Pleasure can be bought with money, therefore the more money you have the more pleasure you get. People who don’t have money are miserable.
7 – The world cannot be Repaired. What was - shall be to the end of eternity (If we are lucky).
8 – Human life has no meaning
9 – There is no despair in this world, except for our own, endless, existential despair.
10 – Either you are with us or else you are against us.
11 – If you are against us, we will do anything in our power to destroy you, if not physically, then at least spiritually.

Well, I admit that the last two items on this list are not any inventions of Freud – the intolerant, dictatorial frame of mind is as old as mankind itself. However, it must be noted that Freud used these two principles with abandon, and they have become the hallmark of his successors, at least in Israel, both in psychology and in our culture.
This is evident, for instance, in the fact that both Adlerian and Jungian theory, are completely absent from the psychological curriculum. It is hard to believe that this is a coincidence, since both of them were Freud’s main competitors, and he did all he could, when he was alive, to discredit them. It is very disappointing for me to see that Freud’s ideas are being continually researched, funded over the years by millions, and yet competing ideas, fascinating ideas, with much more scientific merit, such as the idea of the archetype, will not be even discussed between psychologists.
In any case it is interesting to note that as a result of this policy, conscious or not, most of Freud’s works have been translated into Hebrew, and they are always in good supply at your local bookstore. On the other hand, nearly nothing by Jung has been translated to Hebrew, and the little that had been was of poor quality. (This has changed in the past two years when a new publishing house started to translate and publish Jung’s smaller works). Books about Adlerian theory and practice are available at the Adler Institute. In the university libraries there is, as expected, a very complete representation for Freud, a small one for Adlerian theory, and a surprisingly fair representation of Jungian books, especially in Tel-Aviv University, but much less so in Bar-Ilan and the Hebrew University.
In any case, ever since Freud invented the system of “if you are against me you are insane” it has been adopted successfully by the left in Israel and throughout the world, proving once again that where reason fails, coercion will rush to help.

If we go back a moment to the list above, I think it is fairly reasonable to say that such a set of values and principles creates a certain, easily recognizable type. I am talking about a secular type of person, a hopeless, depressed, greedy, value-free, power-abusing individual. A person that has no past and no future, who is completely absorbed in the task of satisfying his desires and ambitions in the here and now, a person who has no respect and empathy towards anyone who does not feel and think what he feels and thinks. In a word this is the Israeli secular elite, personified by no other than the Enlightened One himself, recently retired ( judicial dictator) Supreme Justice Aaron Barak.

Freud in Israeli Politics
So where can these people be found, the secular elite and their minions? Their presence is quite obvious in politics –they gave us the Peace Now Movement – because, like children, they cannot wait or work for it, the depressing, sour-faced Women in Black, the “We must eat Hummus in Damascus Now” Peace Movement, The Four Mothers who lacking the patience to end the first war properly, gave birth, eventually, to the second Lebanon War, and the Oslo Accords, where the Israeli secular, immoral, un-democratic elite met the Palestinian secular immoral, un-democratic elite, resulting, inevitably, in a disaster for both peoples who had no choice in the matter – there were not consulted of if they were, their choice was simply ignored. It is also evident in the oft-repeated phrase “we must switch the people”, uttered by Israeli leftists every time they fail to democratically convince the people to adopt their suicidal agenda. As a result of their failures they have simply created ways to circumvent Israeli democracy, mainly with the use of the Judiciary (again, thanks to Barak), the Media and the Police. In fact, if there is one common thread uniting the European Union, Israeli secular elites and Arab elites it is the complete disdain and utter disregard for the will of the people, those childish, ignorant brutes, who are only fit to serve.
But the real problem arises when the secular elite has to deal with a believing, God-fearing elite, as is the case with the Hamas. As you may recall, the Freudian approach views religion and God as some form of mental illness, so the elites cannot conceive of taking these people seriously. After all – they are sick, childish people, perhaps to be pitied, maybe somewhat uneasily indulged – because what harm can it do, really - but certainly not to be taken at their word, and never, ever to be treated as equals, as rational people with rational goals who say exactly what they mean.
The secular elites have a terrible blind spot when it comes to anything that has to do with God and religion, because they were taught that the two do not actually exist. Therefore admitting the force and vitality of this relic of primitive times endangers the spiritual well being of any Freudian, and as far as I can tell they would much prefer physical death to the alternative – facing the fact that Freud’s worldview is flawed to the extent that it is actually endangering our very existence, that there might be, after all, a God with whom we might have to reckon.
Needless to say this affliction is not limited to the Israeli elites and is shared by all secular elites in Europe and the United States who constantly align to the far Left, waging a desperate, futile war against a spiritual reality – God, Islam, Christianity, Believers, Judaism - that they cannot even begin to comprehend.
I do not begrudge these people their right to do so – after all I grew up that way, and the pain and suffering these people experience daily is not to be underestimated. That said, they should not be given any hold in our vital interests since they will do their best to take us down with them - like a drowning man holding on to his would be rescuer, they will drag all of us down to the abyss, whether we want to join them there or not.

Freud in the Academia, the Arts and the Media
This type can be identified in Academia too, in the Humanities and Social Sciences, especially in the departments of psychology, sociology, anthropology and literature, all fields that have embraced parts of Freud’s theories and agenda.
There is an obvious Freudian presence in Israeli art which is, on the whole, secular, alienated, gloomy, lacking identity or a sense of values, and worst of all for the public and the artists themselves - totally in the service of the prevailing political winds.

The mainstream media has an obvious Freudian streak; trying to prove that man is indeed a vile, corrupt creature, a slave to his drives, instincts, and senses. That is why the vast majority of news stories deal with various forms of corruption, criminality, and violence, that is why our media are actually celebrating every offense, every domestic violence case, every rape, bribery, and embezzlement case, in the happy knowledge that they are proving their own worldview, so that every editor and every journalist can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that everyone is as corrupt, immoral and debased as they are (and as I write this I see in the grocery store today’s Yediot headline: “President should be charged with sexual offenses”)
I can recall two incidences that shed light on this phenomenon. The first is a daily column in Israel’s leading (monopolistic) “news”paper, Yediot Ahronot titled “something good”, if I recall correctly. One may assume that if one item out of hundreds is dedicated to the good in Israel, then the rest is dedicated to the bad. But are we really that bad? Are all of us actually as corrupt, degenerate and shamelessly immoral as the people documenting our lives seem to be? I really doubt it. I am sure that I could establish a newspaper that would do the exact opposite – it would document all the daily acts of selflessness, kindness and virtue that are enacted daily in Israel, and it will dedicate one column to “something bad”. I think Israel needs that kind of antidote, and I wonder that Arutz 7, for instance, hasn’t picked up on this obvious need. After all, if most of the population is exposed to a parade of public and private decadence, how long will it take until they become convinced that there is no hope or virtue left in us and the best thing would be to join in this orgy of wickedness, and try to get away with whatever you can before it all falls apart?The second incidence is this: I remember when I worked at the Jewish Agency, I came upon this one guy working in a small room, dedicated to one job – sorting out applications for funding, sent in by various not-for profit organizations in Israel, all of them doing some kind of “good works”. If you read Israeli newspapers you would be surprised that such righteous people actually lived in this Sodom, and you would be even more surprised, as I was, to learn that the list he was checking on was 400 organizations long. As an avid reader of Israeli newspapers, at the time, I really had no idea that so many people were actually concerned about their fellow man.

Sexuality in Our Culture
Sexuality holds a central place in Freudian theory, and as a result many see Freud as the harbinger of the 20th century sexual revolution. This revolution brought with it a very open and free discourse about anything that relates to human sexuality. We have already mentioned sex education in schools, but this theme has also affected the arts, the media, fashion, the open spaces we live via the billboards, not to mention a burgeoning, multimillion pornography industry.
The sexual revolution has meant a much more tolerant and understanding attitude towards complaints about sexual abuse, causing the number of complaints about rape and sex abuse to skyrocket. Problems that in the past would have been silenced are now, finally, out in the open. At the same time, the age of consensual sex has dropped, together with a rise in the number of teen-age pregnancies (yeah- that’s a surprise!).
For better and for worse, Freud opened up a can of worms, a Pandora’s box. In my view it is our duty to select from this cornucopia anything that can help us as believers, and to try to minimize the ill effects of the rest. Actually, this can be accurately stated about the whole of Freud’s doctrine.
The question is, therefore, to what extent is the world of Israeli believers, the Religious-Zionist and the Haredi Societies dealing with this task of separating the wheat from the chaff?

Freud in the World of Religious-Zionist and Haredim
I did not grow up in a religious environment, and I cannot claim a firsthand knowledge of this society, therefore I will rely on second-hand sources and on my own recent contact with these societies. I would be very grateful if religious readers would enhance the following observations with their own personal experiences.

Freud in the Haredi World
The Haredi society, by definition, and more so in Israel than in other countries, does not want anything to do with secular culture, and contact with it is limited as much as possible to the bare necessities. Therefore it is very rare to see haredi students in Israeli academia. This has changed somewhat in recent years, as the haredim, for a variety of reasons, become more involved in Israeli public life. Haredim now have a variety of academic institutions, mostly in technological, value-free areas such as computer science and industrial occupations. However I have already seen oneHaredi academic institution that offers degrees in social work and educational counseling. I have not seen their curriculum, but since it has gained the approval of the Council For Higher Education, I find it hard to believe that it differs greatly from the course taught in every other university. I have not encountered a Haredi institute that trains psychologists. Of course there are Haredi psychologists but it seems that they are for the most part, repentant Jews ( baalie tshuva), or else they have received their training abroad and made aliya to Israel. That counts for the training, but what about treatment? What does a Haredi couple do if their marriage is on the rocks? How do Haredim deal with domestic violence, with rape victims, drug addicts, juvenile delinquents and all other manner of sin which is also part of Haredi society?
I have no answer for that question. As far as I can tell from afar, it seems to me if such cases actually receive recognition, than they are dealt with by the community rabbi, which, obviously, has not been professionally trained to deal with them.
Judging by this site of the International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals , it seems that there is a growing acceptance of the necessity and utility of psychological treatment in the Haredi society, as long as the therapist is an orthodox Jew. I cannot say to what extent the training of these therapists has been adapted to the needs and beliefs of the society they are treating, and has become, as a result, a believing therapy. From the aforementioned site I learned that the organization called “Nefesh Israel” is dedicated to coping with halachic problems arising during treatment of orthodox population. I am sure this is a positive step, from the viewpoint of the orthodox sector, but there is serious doubt in my mind if this, by itself, can bring about a therapy of belief.

Freud in the Religious-Zionist Sector
The sons and daughters of this sector receive their professional training in the Israeli Academia, which we have already reviewed. The curriculum of the flagship academic institution the Bar-Ilan University does not offer, as far as I can tell, any kind of alternative in the mental health department, and basically the curriculum in Bar-Ilan is about the same as the one taught in the universities of Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem.
As for treatment, the Religious-Zionist public uses the psychological services offered by the state, including educational counseling and the social services. I assume that the difference between the services that the general, traditional or secular public receives, and the service they receive is in the people doing the servicing, which in the latter case will be orthodox practitioners, however the training, the diagnoses and the treatment in both cases will be similar if not exactly the same. I have not been able to detect any signs that the Religious –Zionist public has developed any alternative, faith-based treatments for itself, and it seems quite content with using the tools developed by the secular society, tools which are based on a complete rejection of the Religious-Zionist world view.
To me, this is simply incredible. How is it possible that people that would not, in their darkest hours, even think about eating something that is not one hundred percent kosher, will not pause long enough to blink when they feed their very souls with an ideology concerning the nature of man and Tikkun Olam that is the complete opposite of their own worldview?
I am not nitpicking here – the assumptions underlying the way we understand ourselves have an immense influence in many areas of our lives, as I have tried to show.
Further - even if an orthodox Jew would by chance actually eat something that is not kosher – our bodies will easily remove the treif from our system within a day or two. Do the Religious-Zionists have a similar mechanism that identifies and removes abstract ideas from their souls? What tools do the young children of this sector have to identify the ideas that are inimical to their worldview despite their academic respectability, ideas that are, after all, aimed at suppressing and even destroying the Religious-Zionist society, and any other believing society or individual?
Judging by the events of the summer of 2005, when the valiant sons and daughters of this society forcibly (but valiantly) removed their own brethren from their own homes, I would say that they have none whatsoever – they are poisoned from their heads down to their shoes.

Freud in Orthodox Society – A Summary
Based upon an admittedly limited amount of information, the situation in this society can be stated, tentatively, as follows: the orthodox society, both the haredim and the Religious-Zionists, have not bothered to adopt or develop faith-based alternatives to the Freudian worldview which dominates Israeli society, and dictates to an enormous extent the type of mental treatment made available to the Israeli public in a variety of areas from the private sphere to public policy including topics such as dealing with crime, unemployment, poverty, and policies concerning rehabilitation, education, and the family. This means that in many areas of state policy the orthodox simply have nothing to offer, effectively abandoning the field to their rivals.
This is especially vexing since orthodox Jews, at least in Israel, have nothing but contempt and disdain for the secular culture whose social inventions, it turns out, they are only too glad to use blindly, unthinkingly, to their own detriment, and I believe, to the detriment of Israeli society as a whole.
In any case, criticizing the current situation although somewhat pleasurable is not completely satisfying – what we really long for is a faith based alternative and we want to know – does it exist, and what would it look like?

The Faith – Based Alternative
Previously, I had defined faith or belief as the existence of a direct connection with the Creator, or at least recognizing that such a connection is possible and desirable.
So, what would be “believing” in this context? What kind of psychological worldview would this entail?
After reading some of Freud’s writings and surveying the field, as it exists today, I think that a faith-based psychological attitude would simply be the exact opposite, as expressed in the following principles:

1 – Faith in a Creator
2 – A desire for World Repair (Tikkun Olam)
3 – A clear definition of what is wrong with this world and how it can be fixed
4 – A working assumption that man has free choice, that he is responsible for his situation, and that therefore he can Repair himself, and that therefore, there is hope.
5 – Since there is a Creator, a possibility for Repair, and free choice – then there also is a meaningful human existence.

In the following posts in this series I will present theories that answer, if only partially, these criteria.


Karma said...

I had a therapist in Israel who used orthodox judaism as therapy, and it was very unhealthy. I agree though that there are alternatives to Freudian psychology. Personally, I like feminist psychology, which acknowledges that not all problems are in the head, some exist outside ourselves and require changing our environments.

Jerusalem Joe said...

orthodox judaism as a therapy? sounds fascinating - how does that work?