This is a letter written by Israeli psychoanalyst Mira Erlich-Ginor to members of a Berlin psychoanalytic institutions during ‘Operation Protective Edge’, the 2014 attack on Gaza by the Israeli State. It was shared with all members of an Israeli psychoanalytic institution. We understand that there were letters written by Israeli and Palestinian colleagues protesting the content of the letter, and calls for an open debate about it within the German institute that were effectively silenced.
Mira Erlich-Ginor “Letter from Jerusalem” (2014)
I am writing to you to try to share with you our situation in Israel. I am writing out of several assumptions: I assume you are informed of what is going on through your media reports, I assume that it is very difficult to have a good picture of what is going on because of the complexity of the situation, I also assume you do not see anything you personally can do in this situation.
This is why I am writing.
We are in the midst of a war that we did not initiate or want, that was forced on us by Hamas who, in a nutshell, is a terrorist organization which dominates Gaza, whose declared aim is to destroy the state of Israel and later to create an Islamic Halifat.
This war goes on for the last 21 days; it takes its toll on each and every one of us, whether directly or indirectly affected. Many of us have to worry about spouses or children that are in the war. You can imagine what that means. Fortunately Shmuel and I do not have this worry since our children are too old to be mobilized and our grandchildren too young.
Our distress has to do with the deep worry for close people getting killed, with being scared of rockets, having to run to shelters (many times with our patients), it has to do with our minds being hijacked by the present, with seeing no real long term solution. On top of this distress there is the feeling of isolation and of not being on the mind of our friends.
Our hearts bleed for the innocent people in Gaza that lose their lives and homes, that get killed by the hundreds.
This is part of the strategy of Hamas: to use children and women as weapon, have the world see the terrible consequences of Israel’s retaliation. The pictures come across so poignantly in the media. Pictures of devastation, bombed houses, desperate people looking for the remains of their lives in the rabble.
Hamas uses people as human shields to protect their ammunition: they hide and fire rockets from schools and hospitals. To destroy the rockets you have to hit the population – what a dilemma!
The complex underground system of tunnels starts in living rooms and kitchens of civilians home. How is it possible to destroy the tunnels without hitting houses?
We are protected enough by the ingenious “Iron Dome” that intercepts the rockets. Hard to imagine what would have happened here without it. Yet we are not protected against the monstrous plan to have hundreds of terrorist coming all at once out of the innumerable tunnels into Kibbutzim and massacring innocent civilian (planned for next Rosh Hashanah).
Israel aims at terrorists and though it does its utmost to avoid it, unfortunately hits civilians: Hamas aims to kill civilians, women and children.
This asymmetry is part of the complexity.
Another asymmetry is between the terrible pictures from Gaza and the situation in Israel which is not conveyed by pictures. This asymmetry creates in us the feeling of being isolated and misunderstood. As one friend said: Hamas seems to be winning the “victimization” public relations campaign.
The new wave of Antisemitism, especially in Europe, is building on this public relations and is an added source of distress for us.
First of all I wanted to share with you, as my friends and colleagues, how it is felt and seen from here, second I wanted to encourage you to take a piece of action:
If you wonder- what can I do in all this? I think you can: Being in the mind of others at this time is very important for us, even without taking side or feeling any need to justify.
What I suggest to you is to reach out to your friends and colleagues in Israel to let them know that they are in your mind.
This may seem small and irrelevant, but let me assure you- it is not.
This mail is written with friendship and care, I hope it will be received as such.