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Why I Left the Cult

Monday, October 10, 2016 3:15
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cuxhdg-vuaaqf5xDear Israel and Israeli Jews,

Maybe it’s pointless writing to you, and I guess I am not expecting a response. I am writing because I feel a certain sense of duty. After all I come from you, so maybe, maybe some of you might listen to me, might get curious, take a risk and entertain what is currently unthinkable to you.

I left what seems like a very long time ago, twenty-five years. I don’t think you’ve changed much since, except for the worse maybe. Psychologies like yours have the nasty habit of getting worse if left untreated. I always remember you as harsh, defensive, hot around the collar and ready to explode at every opportunity, loud and unforgiving. You had pockets of calm and maybe even kindness, but they were reserved for those who lived in the nicer greener places, and they had more money than we did.

I grew up in Bat-Yam and it was terrible there. It was an endless dense noisy mass of concrete; clumps of heavily populated blocks of thin-walled flats as far as the eye could see, separated only by bitumen roads. It’s not what you usually like to show the rest of the world, and it’s not what the rest of the world think of when they think of you. I grew up on Hashikma Street. What a cruel joke that was, naming that awful concrete dessert, Hashikma… ‘The Sycamore’. There were no trees there. During my childhood I had no idea what a shikma tree even looked like. Whoever these people were, did they think that by naming the street sycamore it would somehow make it better for those of us destined to spend our childhoods there? Did they think they could fool us into thinking it was nicer, more idyllic than it really was? All it did was tease and torment. The name of my street spoke to me of something I had no access to and that I thought I could never have.

This schizophrenic split between the name of the place and the reality of it is symbolic of your entire existence. Where I grew up wasn’t much different to many working class neighbourhoods elsewhere in the world, but I was always told that we were not the same as everyone else. We were special, we were better: more moral and ethical, more civilised. Don’t tell me you didn’t say that. I remember very well! I actually paid attention at school.

But with the mind of a child, I kind of sensed that we weren’t special at all. I suspect a lot of children who suffer abuse within their own families at the hands of their own people, develop doubts about their group. If you protected me better, maybe I would still be a part of you. But you couldn’t protect me or other children like me precisely because you are not who or what you say you are, a more enlightened and ethical people. You are a group of humans with gifts and with flaws, and with plenty of cowardice like every other group. You are no different from any human society that hides and even enables crimes against its own children, and that fails to protect the vulnerable in their midst.

A few years after I left you, I gradually began to realise that I was the same as any cult leaver. It was a shock, but looking back I wonder why I hadn’t seen it before. Then again, rarely can people inside a cult see where they are. If they could, the cult wouldn’t be what it is. They think that they are members of a special group that has a special destiny, and is always under threat. The survival of the cult is always the most important principle. Cult members are taught from birth that the world outside is dangerous, that they have to huddle together for safety. Every member of every cult is a recruit.

At this point you are probably going to say that cult or no cult, this was entirely justified. Have I forgotten the holocaust? No. Of course not. Persecution of Jewish people throughout history was very real indeed. Whatever Jewish identity is, Jews were a hated and despised group among many cultures in Europe, and Jews have always had an uneasy co-existence with non-Jews. Any marginalised or persecuted group has an uneasy relationship with the dominant culture. Once you have been discriminated against it’s hard to trust.

But two big things bother me about you. One, this history of persecution is so inseparable from your identity, you can’t see beyond it. Not even your most talented artists, academics, intellectuals and writers, can see beyond. You all seem to be caught up in it, except for a very small and extraordinary minority of people who can see Zionism for what it is. Anyone who has suffered trauma tends to feel separate and different. It’s human psychology once you have been abused, to feel that you are no longer the same as everyone else. But anyone who was abused and traumatised has a duty to get better and not allow the fear and the victimhood to become their identity. Those of us who were abused and traumatised have this duty because if we don’t heal, we either hurt ourselves or others, or both. That’s where you are and that’s what you are doing. You have not only allowed trauma to become your very identity, you have glorified it and are worshiping it as a god.


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