Reflections On “MADE IN
“Dybbuk,” & “The Holocaust”
We do unto others what was done unto us.
What we do to others reveals our personal
& collective history.
Primo Levi, who had been There, said,
“The Palestinians are the Jews to the
I was reminded of Primo Levi’s statement on
Sunday when I saw MADE IN PALESTINE, an exhibit of Palestinian
Art, at the SomArts Cultural Center in San Francisco.
The poster for the exhibit had an excerpt
from “I am From There”
by Mahmoud Darwish, the great Palestinian and
“I have learned the words of bloodstained
courts in order to break the rules.
I have learned and dismantled all the
words to construct a single one: Home.”
Reading this, I was reminded of an essay that
for years has haunted and troubled me, because of the parallel
universe inhabited by the Palestinians with the Israelis. It was
written in 1938 by Judah L. Magnes & entitled “Letter to Ghandi,
and published in Harijan, which refers to the Hindu caste
It is a rebuttal to Ghandi, as to the why(s) the Jews of Germany
could not offer Satyagraha to the “godless fury of their
dehumanized oppressors,” and the why(s) the Jewish people needed
and had a right of return to Palestine, their ancestral land --
“The Jewish National Home.”
The SoMa gallery is located in the
garment/furniture district of San Francisco. It was somewhat
hard to find. When I entered off the dirty street, it was dark
inside the small and dimly lit lobby. I was disoriented. This
was a good prelude to appreciating the show. After adjusting to
the light, I saw what appeared to be the gallery below, a floor
I go down a flight of steps with a split
landing, & enter the show. It is a metaphorical descent into
Hell; into the feeling tone of the daily life of the
Palestinians, who, as the show portrays, live & face, with great
dignity, unimaginable torrents & onslaughts of depravity &
bestiality directed towards them by the IDF & the settlers.
The presentation is museum quality. The works
of art are first rate. They are profound, inspired, and
relevant, not just to the Palestinian Community, but also to the
world community. The exhibit bears witness to the heroic
struggle of the Palestinians against forces of darkness that
threaten not just them, but us and all life.
My hope is that the exhibit will be put on
line where it can reach the large & world audience that it
The art work is by both schooled/professional
artists & also self-taught artists, some of whom began their art
journey as prisoners in Israelis jails where they were tortured.
One work is a medium sized brown metal
ammunition box that had been used by the IDF. It is filled with
stones that can be accurately aimed and thrown. This is
conceptual art at its best. The asymmetry of the war in
Palestine is immediately conveyed by this one image/idea. The
choice of subject matter and material is a reference to the
biblical tale of David & Goliath and enkindles hope in the
Palestinian people on the imaginal level of eventual victory
against Goliath: Israel. Yet, to be able to endure the
occupation all these years and not give up, is not defeat, but
already a major victory.
A kindred photograph is a monotone in a faded
desert brown ink. It is of a boy in shorts throwing a stone at
an object. His target isn’t the typical tree or wall a boy may
choose, but a nearby and massive tank that eclipses him. He
risks being killed by an IDF sniper or someone inside the tank,
but he does it anyway, and he looks so natural.
This photograph is part of a series. All are
the same color, have the same 5x7 or so image size, and have
been screened on clear glass 8.5 x11 inches, the standard size
of photographic printing paper. The choice of glass allows a
large see through border that is vital to the success of the
whole series. Glass is a material that an easily broken and
Though flat pieces, they are not hung on a
wall. Each is on string at a different height, close together &
sometimes close enough to appear to be brushing another. The net
effect is a mobile. As a group, because of the see through
borders, the mobile appears like a 3-dimensional map of
alleyways in an ancient city that could be blown away or
shattered by the wind/blast from a bomb or hand grenade.
When I “got” this combined image, bigger than
the sum of its parts, I realized how profound & conscious the
artist. I was being moved by a very subtle & delicate yet bold,
yet subterranean art piece to a feeling-function understanding
of the struggle of the Palestinians. The ground is unstable.
Everything can and does change in an instant, as easily as the
wind blows. Lives can be shattered in an instant as easily as
Kinesthetically, I began to feel and glimpse
both the fragility & heroism of the Palestinian people. These
heroic humans, as portrayed in this series and the exhibit, have
created some semblance of normalcy in their daily lives that are
riddled with bullets, bombs, assassins, poverty, malnutrition,
checkpoints, helicopter gunship, torture, & the blood of
Most of the other works had the same
intelligence, power, beauty, creativity & artistic virtuosity.
“MADE IN PALESTINE” is a magic mirror and
raises a question to the magic mirror: “Mirror, mirror on the
wall, in Palestine who is the most frightening & terrible
Revealed in the mirror is the face of
Yahweh, the ancient, yet living, wrathful God of the Jewish
Seeing His face in the mirror, I renamed the
exhibit “MAIDEN PALESTINE.”
The exhibit reveals that
the Shekinah, the female Presence of the godhead, rather
than wandering, now resides in Gaza. From Palestine, she returns
to observing Jews on Shabbat, when the candles are lit
on Friday evening.
Most Jews in Israel, America, and presumably
elsewhere in the world, see ourselves as the victims of the
Palestinians; as the Davids & not the Goliaths, whom we are.
There is no one answer.
Each has to answer this question for one’s self.
My answer: personally &
collectively, particularly with regards to “The Holocaust,” we
grieve only for ourselves, the Chosen People, & not, our
oppressor, the person we call a “Nazi;” nor for the others, who
also suffered & perished in the Camps, like the Romani.
In fact, all whose lives
were touched by The Nazi Holocaust are it victims, not just the
Jewish people. This is why I use
parentheses to distinguish The Nazi Holocaust, an actual event,
from “The Holocaust,” a cultural creation.
As a result of the exclusivity of grieving,
our mourning is incomplete.
It does not lead us to letting go (partial), nor open us to
forgiving (full) our oppressor(s); the Nazi’s (on Yom HaShoah)
or the Pharoah (Passover). Thus, instead of gaining
consciousness and freedom from our suffering through these
ceremonies, we remain victims in and to our suffering.
Consciousness is the redemptive fruit of
grieving/mourning/forgiving. Without consciousness, we go about
our lives unaware. What we see, think, believe, and feel, we
take as given, like the air we breathe. In turn, we pass on to
our children our drives, judgments, loyalties, projections,
complexes etc. And they, in turn, on to their children.
Thus our victim hood, a Jewish complex, is
us individually and collectively. It clouds our eyes to what we
are doing in the present in Palestine. We do to the Palestinians
what was done to us in “The Holocaust.”
I saw the Palestinians (Ed. with stamped serial numbers on
their hands and blindfolded) with their hands tied behind
their backs, young men ( Ed. kneeling in the desert and left
there without food and clothing for 24 hours or more), I said,
'It is like what they did to us in the Holocaust,'" Yarkoni (Ed.
dubbed the “singer of the wars”) said. "We are a people who have
been through the Holocaust. How are we capable of doing these
Her words were deemed so offensive that the
union representing the nation's performing artists called off a
planned tribute to Yarkoni that had been in the works for two
years. The head of the union said it was forced to make the move
after members of the public flooded its offices with complaints
and returned tickets purchased for the event, and after sponsors
canceled their financial support.
Government ministers denounced Yarkoni
who won the coveted Israel Prize in
1998). The town of Kfar Yona canceled her performance at a
Memorial Day event to honor Israeli soldiers who have fallen in
battle. Youth movements declared a boycott of her music. The
septuagenarian (Ed. who
served in the Givati Brigade in the War of Independence)
received so many hate calls, her daughter said, that she is now
too frightened to appear in public.
Los Angeles Times.
April 29, 2002
I left the exhibit to see “Dybbuk”
performed by the S.F. Ballet. at the S.F. Opera House. This is
in an upscale, safe, & clean part of the Civic Center area of
San Francisco. In contrast to SoMa gallery, the Opera House is
opulent, grand, well-lit, & well-maintained. The audience is
well-clothed, fashionably and expensively.
The contrast between the two showcases, their
locations, & the audience was a cross-cultural statement about
money, safety, & privilege. Unlike the exhibit, the ballet was
packed; a sold out house. The highest ticket price for the
matinee was around $150+. Each of our seats cost $55. By
contrast, the donation bowl at the exhibit was empty. A donation
of $3 had been requested.
Jerome Robbins, the choreographer, adapted an
ancient tale into a formal ballet. Leonard Bernstein composed
the orchestral score. Both are celebrated Jewish American
The S.F. version on April, 10th,
2005 was the same version as that of the World Premiere on May
16th, 1974, performed by the New York City Ballet.
The performance was stunning. Yuan Yuan Tan,
who danced the female lead role, Leah, is one of my favorite
dancers & a world-class ballerina. Leah’s lover Channon, now
dead, possesses her body as a dybbuk, & forces her to
refuse her bridegroom, chosen by her parents, on her wedding
not only an enactment of a personal story, but an inner event
because of its archetypal dimension. In addition to the
excellence of the artistry of the company, the director, & the
orchestra, this dimension accounts for the power of the ballet.
A dybbuk is
a wandering soul of someone who has left the body, but, somehow,
has not left the world. (In Judaism there is no afterlife.) The
dybbuk has chosen not to leave, because it has a task or
mission to complete. It clings (“dybbuk” is the Hebrew
word for clinging) to a living human host through whom it will
finish its work.
(This is a quasi
mystical definition of Rabbi Freud’s description of the
unconscious and its workings, particularly the collective
unconscious later described by Jung. It could be said that
personal analysis is exorcism, a rite forbidden by traditional
Jewish law. Analysis removes a dybbuk, the unconscious
material that lives in the body and mind of the analysand.)
A dybbuk may
seek revenge for some evil done to it while it lived. For
twenty-three centuries evil has been directed towards the Jewish
Many seek revenge.
While watching the
ballet, I reflected on the Palestinian art exhibit. Clearly a
dybbuk or dybbuk’s have & still do occupy many
Zionist & Jewish bodies in Israel.
How better to understand the behaviors of Ariel Sharon, the
current Prime Minister of Israel, & all the previous prime
ministers beginning with Ben Gurion? All have knowingly
committed crimes against humanity towards the Palestinians. They
willfully have ignored the Geneva Conventions, set up after the
Nazi Holocaust, at the request of the Jewish people, to ensure
“Never Again” from happening again.
How better to understand the split in the
Jewish soul: dybbuk.
Violence done to
oneself in a family or a nation becomes suffering in others –
children, other family members, a community, a nation, etc.
This suffering can
take one of two courses.
violence to others (as Jews & Zionists are doing to the
compassion towards others (e.g., Truth & Reconciliation in South
Despite the horror
of “The Holocaust,” no world-class Jewish apostle of
non-violence and compassion (the likes of Bishop Desmond Tutu,
Aung San Suu Kyi, or the 14th Dalai Lama) has
appeared on the public stage.
Is this because
revenge, violence, & hatred are part & parcel of the the Jewish
psyche? Some persuasively answer yes. The Jewish people believe
that our God instructs us to hate and punish the wicked & the
enemy, who persecute us, and in some cases, never forgive.
On this point,
Jesus differentiated from his Jewish tradition: “You have
heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate
your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for
those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your
Father in heaven; ... ”
In a well-intentioned moment of
religiocultural chauvinism, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
recommended to H.H. 14th Dalai Lama that the Tibetan
people, have a Passover holy day & Seder ritual.
The rationale was that now, like the Jews once were, the
Tibetans are in diaspora. To the other Rabbis there, his
suggestion was the greatest thing since unleavened bread.
However, lacking yeast, i.e. that which raises and distills
spirit, for Buddhists, it got no rise out of His Holiness. The
basis of Mahayana teachings is impartial compassion and
love for all sentient beings, including one’s enemies and those
who have harmed us.
Driving home, my
head a buzz, I reflect on my afternoon:
just seen art that easily could have arisen from Jews in the
Warsaw Ghetto & Nazi Germany.
realized that I haven’t seen much, if any, real art from “The
Holocaust.” I don’t think that much, if any, exists;
Palestinian ‘final solution’ (a term used in the Press in
Israel) & “The Holocaust” are genocides, ethnic cleansings,
exodus’ & diasporas from one’s homeland, and dehumanizing. The
resultant trauma may take generations to heal, if ever;
remembered that Pope John Paul II, who just died, refused to
pardon the Jews, 2,000 years later, for committing the crime of
deicide; his advisory panel had suggested to him that the Jews
evidently, in the Pope’s eyes, The Holocaust (plus the
Inquisition) hadn’t wipe the slate clean; that the Jewish people
hadn’t sufficiently atoned for their crime & had to suffer more;
or he found them useful politically as scapegoats;
maybe, he was possessed by a dybbuk.
I also reflected on
the perilous alliance of Jewish Zionists & Orthodox Jews with
Christian Zionists and fundamentalist Christians, who need the
Jews to take back the Temple of the Mount in order to fulfill a
prophecy. When this happens, Armageddon and End Time will come,
according to the faithful, who believe they will bodily be taken
up, experience Rapture & be saved. The rest of us will instantly
be vaporized & suffer eternal damnation.
While this may seem
like Heaven’s Gate think, I find it scary. In the U.S. and
Israel, these folks have their fingers on the nuclear triggers.
Earlier in the
morning, I had read in the NY Times “A Culture of Death, Not
 by Frank Rich. One paragraph stood out,
because it touched my paranoid Finzi-Continis’ fears: “ No one
does the culture of death with more of a vengeance - literally
so - than the doomsday right. The "Left Behind" novels by Tim
LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins all but pant for the bloody demise
of nonbelievers at Armageddon. And now, as Eric J. Greenberg has
reported in The Forward, there's even a children's
auxiliary: a 40-title series, "Left
Behind: The Kids," that warns Jewish children of the hell that
awaits them if they don't convert before it's too late.
(Ed: BF, mine). Eleven million copies have been sold on top of
the original series' 60 million. ...”
This brief essay has suggested that human
hatred and destructiveness arise in response to, and are not
innate in the humans, nor permanent. It was Hitler’s childhood
experience that gave birth to a hatred fanned by several million
adults in Germany and Europe who themselves had seeds of hatred
and destructiveness in them.
These caused extreme suffering in millions, not just Jews nor
was this confined to one-continent and one-generation.
In Palestine, Jews, many of us from Eastern
European backgrounds, are keeping alive Hitler’s torch by doing
what was done to us, using the same words even, to our cousins
and neighbors, the Palestinians.
MADE IN PALESTINE, an art exhibit of
contemporary Palestinian art, is carrying the torch of the
the bearer of the light of wisdom.
Through the art work in this exhibit,
is telling us that the Holocaust will never be over until we
learn its lessons.
* * * *
May peace come to the Palestinian and Israeli
people. May their ancestral lands be returned to them. May their
families in exile return to their homeland. May there be one
state where all live in safety, free from inner and outer harm.
May peace, joy, and forgiveness prevail and come into the Holy
Land of our hearts.
Jonathan, “Unknown face of Palestinian art,” San
Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 2005.
See also: Eshelman, Rob, "'Made In Palestine Exhibit,'"
The Electronic Intifada, April 12, 2005.
“Letter to Ghandi,” in PERPLEXITY OF THE TIMES,
Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1946, pp. 117-128.
Norman, THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY, Reflections on the
Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Verso: London &
New York, 2000.
Mitscherlich, Alexander and Margarete, THE INABILITY
TO MOURN, Principles of Collective Behavior, New
York: Grove, 1984.
Edward, THE ANGUISH OF THE JEWS, Twenty-three
Centuries of Antisemetism,
Paulist Press, 1985.
Finklestein, Norman, IMAGE AND REALITY OF THE
ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT, Verso: London & New York,
Rodger, THE JEW IN THE LOTUS, A Poet’s
Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India, New
York: HarperCollins, 1995.
account of the harrowing and courageous process of
healing Holocaust wounds through the process of
psycholytic psychotherapy, see Ka-Tzetnik 135633,
SHIVITTI, A Vision, Berkeley: Gateway Books & Tapes,
Alice, “Hitler’s Childhood, From Hidden to Manifest
Horror,” in FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, Hidden cruelty
in child-rearing and the roots of violence, New
York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1990, 142-197.
Mary H., “Requiem for the Vanishing Human,” in
Psychological Perspectives, Issue 43/2002, 36-46.
is a depth
psychotherapist and photographer. He has published some
fifty articles on a variety of subjects, including
Israel and Palestine, in online and professional