Junitta Vallak passed away on the 12 of December, 2019 and she will be sadly missed.
I first met Junitta in the early 1980s. She had retired as an art teacher and was living on a property at Maldon in Central Victoria. Out of the dry and dusty farmland Junitta and her husband had carved a magnificent place of healing, which they called Casuarina. It was named after the tree (also known as the she-oak) because the Casuarina was said to have sonic qualities that relate to the sound of the singing earth. It was a place for peace.
Junitta and her husband built the first Peace Chamber in Victoria. There were Peace Chambers around the globe and the couple visited most of them. The aim was to have all the Peace Chambers inter-connected for the purpose of healing the Earth. Junitta’s goal in life was to heal what needed to be healed. She was an active environmentalist, a geomancer, a member of the inter-faith movement and an advocate for Aboriginal Rights.
At the time of Casuarina’s inauguration, I was working with women in crisis and I had organised for a small group to visit the Maldon Peace Chamber for the weekend. As soon as we turned off the main road towards the property, there was something very special about the location. It had been chosen carefully, it was the home of the Jarra people and it was a sanctuary where everyone could feel welcome regardless of religion, race or creed.
Junitta had a very close affinity with Aboriginal people and she was constantly drawn to Australia’s red centre for meditation and spiritual guidance. However, this affinity was not limited to one nation. Junitta supported the cause of Aboriginal Rights across the world.
Open a conversation with Junitta and it would generally turn to the topic of Aboriginal knowledge or the placement of ley lines upon the Earth.
The Casuarina Peace Chamber rested on the crossing of ley lines and their vortex. Above the vortex there was a large Aboriginal healing crystal. I remember thinking, it was the most magnificent crystal I had ever seen. Surrounding the crystal there was a mystical mosaic in the shape of a lotus. People would sit in a circle around the lotus awaiting instruction. Junitta would tell of her travels and of her experiences with the Native American Indian Joseph Rael, also called Beautiful Painted Arrow. Junitta studied with Joseph and they became close friends. Later Joseph visited Australia for the official opening of Casuarina and the healing sanctuary. It was the first time a Native American Indian had set foot on the land and together with local Aborigines it made for a splendid token of indigenous unity. Junitta was all about unity.
Junita was a teacher of the arts and of the mystical cultures and it made for some wonderful conversations between us. She had studied the Holy books of just about every belief and religion and she always reminded me, when I mentioned the word “God”, not to forget the Goddess. People called her “the goddess of Gippsland.”
Whether one believed in the mysteries or not, everyone who visited Casuarina marvelled at its creation. Hundreds of trees were planted on the land as an example of Junitta’s love for the environment and nature. She liked to walk in nature, especially among the banksias of our region.
Junitta was truly an advocate for peace and she was a great inspiration to the up and coming generations. In 2018 she had her final exhibition at the Stockyard Gallery with her great god daughter Skylar Farley who was eight years old at the time. The exhibition was called “A Cosmic Exhibition of the Rainbow Serpent and the Comet Venus” and it represented every aspect of Junitta’s thinking; that we should better honour the marvels of the world.
The generations exhibiting work together was another way Junitta would spread her message of peace, compassion and understanding. Her motto was “learn by teaching” so wherever she went she shared her knowledge and she was, without doubt, an excellent teacher.
When Junitta finally left Casuarina and moved to Gippsland her work for peace did not stop. Her sanctuaries in Gippsland were a small cottage in the green hills, Wilsons Promontory and the Foster Community House. She loved the majesty of the hills, the sea, the sky and the universe and she loved people.
I spent many happy hours with Junitta, sometimes it was just over coffee in Foster. Sometimes a drive through the country. There was always something new to talk about. Junitta was a highly accomplished artist and literary scholar who created art and poetry of the highest calibre. She had an innate sense of humour and was known for her one-line jokes.
Junitta was fascinated by the role of Angels in the various traditions. In one section of her book “Angelology”, she quotes the Book of Exodus 23.20 “See, I am sending an Angel ahead of you to guard you along the way.” Junitta has been a guarding angle for many and now, I hope she has an Angel guarding her into the ultimate sanctuary of peace.
We all dream. We all have fantasies. Our world is made up of dreams and fantasies, made more mysterious by the virtual landscapes of the modern media. Where then do we draw the line between normal and abnormal dreaming? When are dreams and fantasies acceptable and when are the maladaptive?
Maladaptive dreaming is not classified as a mental illness. It does not appear in the fifth and current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSMV), but is can be a problem to those who take fanciful dreaming to another level of compulsion and addiction and this in turn can lead to anxiety, addiction, loneliness and alienation.
We all have a mental repository for vision and wishful thinking, but fantasies and daydreaming need to be distinguished from simple reverie as they can cause pain, trauma, loss, and feelings of sexual inadequacy. Dreaming and fantasies can also give rise to sexual arousal at times when it may n0t be appropriate. So, what is maladaptive dreaming, what does it do and how should we treat it? We do not yet know exactly what precipitates maladaptive draming, we do there are similarities between maladaptive dreaming and Obsession Compulsion Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, there are areas where symptoms overlap.
We know that maladaptive dreaming is highly scripted, there is usually a plan or a plot. We know that there is an extensive emotional component and we know that there is movement attached to the maladaptive dreaming practice. We also know there is a degree of fantasy. The fantasy is structural and the fantasiser is secretive for fear of embarrassment or losing the dreaming.
The biggest problem of maladaptive dreaming is that, like any addiction, it can be enjoyable (fun) to begin with, but then it prevents a person from living in reality and appreciating real life situations, plus it undermines the ability to achieve real goals. People who experience maladaptive daydreaming say that they love their characters so much, it makes it impossible to relinquish them for a real life. For example if I were to engage in an elaborate plan to meet someone and I take time to plan the perfect meeting, the moment that meeting becomes a reality the dreaming, upon which the dreamer depends for stimulation, is lost.
Sometimes them maladaptive characters are fictional, at other times they are real, There are also occasions where the dreaming and fantasies are about someone real, but the real character cannot be brought into the real world without the same feeling of loss. This can cause pain to the party who in not controlling the dreaming or fantasies.
The capacity to fanaticise raises a number of questions. To begin with, we live in a society that is so bound by rational thinking that fantasy and daydreaming become a soothing escape. In the book By Force of Fantasy: How We Make Our Lives, Dr. Ethel S. Person discusses how fantasies can affects us. She tells us that the terms daydreaming and fantasy are often used synonymously, but there are differences we need to be aware of. “Daydreams are building castles in the air, taking time out for a reverie. They are idiosyncratic and repeating, you concoct a daydream that becomes a favourite and at will you can call it up again”. These fantasies and daydreams are normal, we all experience them. The shift beyond normal is manifest in the fantasy prone personality (FPP) which is a disposition or personality trait where a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy.
American psychologists Sheryl C. Wilson and Theodore X. Barber first identified FPP in 1981, and it was said to apply to about 4% of the population. Besides identifying this trait, Wilson and Barber reported a number of childhood antecedents that likely laid the foundation for fantasy proneness in later life, such as, “a parent, grandparent, teacher, or friend who encouraged the reading of fairy tales, reinforced the child’s … fantasies, and treated the child’s dolls and stuffed animals in ways that encouraged the child to believe that they were alive.” They suggested that this trait was almost synonymous with those who responded dramatically to hypnotic induction (people who are easily hypnotised). Interestingly, susceptible subjects are not necessarily those who have had traumatic childhoods, rather they are those who identify fantasy time mainly by “spacing out”.Exposure to abuse, physical or sexual, can be a cause of fantasy whereby it provides a coping or escape mechanism, but physical or sexual abuse is not the only cause, exposure to severe loneliness and isolation, can also lead to fantasizing, which provides a coping or escape mechanism from boredom. Creativity can also be predicated on extreme forms of fantasy whereby the thing created offers the escape. Here we see Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder playing a part. None of these findings are conclusive.
Sigmund Freud stated that “unsatisfied wishes are the driving power behind fantasies, every separate fantasy contains the fulfillment of a wish, and improves an unsatisfactory reality.” This shows childhood abuse and loneliness can result in people creating a fantasy world of happiness in order to fill the void.
Maladaptive dreaming which incorporates fantasy sits in a category of its own. Not yet classified as psychological disorders, they probably will be as the imaginary activity is not just obsessive, it replaces human interaction and interferes with work, relationships and general activities. Those who suffer from this condition experience excessive fantasies where they take on characters and roles in scenes and landscapes that they find appealing. People who suffer from excessive dreaming are aware that the scenarios and characters of their fantasies are not real and they have the ability to recognize what is real, this makes their practice of fantasizing and dreaming different to that of the schizophrenic who loses all touch with reality.
A 2011 study reported on 90 excessive, compulsive or maladaptive fantasizers who engaged in extensive periods of highly structured immersive imaginative experiences found that fantasizers often articulated distress stemming from three factors: difficulty in controlling their fantasies that seemed overwhelming; concern that the fantasies interfered in their personal relationships; and intense shame and exhaustive efforts to keep this “abnormal” behaviour hidden from others.  The secretive behaviour of fantasizers is also a precipitating factor in acute anxiety and debilitation. The loss of will to act, especially in a discontent person is supplemented by the fantasy contained in the dreaming. The habit is difficult to break because we are not used to telling others about our fantasies and daydreams. We are permitted these traits as children, but the general rule is, we grow out of them.
When does fantasy and day dreaming become a real problem?
Maladaptive dreaming is forms of dissociative absorption, which uncontrolled can interfere with normal functioning and cause immense distress. Any maladaptive behaviour can separate people from their daily social activities and cause them to live in alternative worlds where the love, attention and security they have been missing are seemingly replaced by a story, scene or comforting imagery. Once the love is experienced the dreaming must be maintained. Feelings of sexual inadequacy are commonly placated with maladaptive dreaming and/or fantasy. What is more this situation can go unnoticed if it is acted out alone. When this behavior involves other people it can be read as deception, but the dreamer is unable to see it tis way.
Maladaptive dreaming or fantasy is not classified as a mental illness because it is not a psychosis. The psychotic is unaware of what s/he is doing. Conversely, the maladaptive dreamer is fully cognoscente of what s/he is doing. This does not mean the action should be judged or punished. The maladaptive dreamer has an addiction. can, however be an addiction and anti-social behaviour can still have serious consequences, including at include an increased proclivity to continue the addiction.
Normal to abnormal daydreaming and fantasies.
Many human experiences range between the normal to the abnormal. Fantasies and dreaming are a forms of normal dissociation associated with absorption, which is a highly prevalent mental activity experienced by almost everyone, to the extent that it is thought to encompass almost half of all human thought, with hundreds of dreaming sequences experienced daily.
Some individuals possess the ability to dream so vividly that they experience a sense of presence in the imagined environment , this kind of visualization has often been used as therapy to lift self-esteem and to reduce the impacts of trauma. When this happens in a controlled clinical setting it works to alleviate pain. Our instincts can use fantasy and dreaming in much the same way. This experience is reported to be extremely rewarding to the extent that some of those who experience it develop a compulsion to repeat it, over and over again, like a drug addict with a needle of heroin.
The scientific literature suggests that a portion of people with maladaptive dreaming can spend up to 60% of their waking time dreaming, and could, therefore, be classified as suffering from a behavioral disorder.
Maladaptive dreams and fantasies are so prevalent diagnosing the problematic incidence is difficult, especially in today’s virtual worlds of the mass media. We recreate places and events, that have come from wishing thinking, but which have also been grounded in a virtual world of media and daytime dramas that bode with the accounts of our own personal experience. The “symptoms” are also numerous.
The overall condition of dreaming and fantasies is also extremely animated and vivid with storylines and histories that are rewritten to suit individual needs. Media sources, such as movies, video games and music can be major influences in a maladaptive dreamer’s life, they can be serialized or one-off events. These fantasies are often shaped like a book or movie. The emotional component involved in their fantasies, causing them to react physically by talking, laughing or engaging in acts of sexual gratification.
A better understanding of maladaptive dreaming.
In Israel, maladaptive dreaming is considered a psychiatric condition that was identified by Professor Eliezer Somer of the University of Haifa.  The following description has been reproduced from Healthline. Somer can also be found on Youtube. Somer writes:
This condition causes intense dreaming that distracts a person from their real life. Many times, real-life events trigger day dreams. These events can include:
topics of conversation
sensory stimuli such as noises or smells
This disorder does not have any official treatment. But some experts say it is a real disorder that can have real effects on a person’s daily life.
What are the symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming?
A person who is purported to have maladaptive daydreaming may have one or more symptoms of the disorder, but not necessarily all of them. Common symptoms include:
extremely vivid daydreams with their own characters, settings, plots, and other detailed, story-like features
daydreams triggered by real-life events
difficulty completing everyday tasks
difficulty sleeping at night
an overwhelming desire to continue daydreaming
performing repetitive movements while daydreaming
making facial expressions while daydreaming
whispering and talking while daydreaming
daydreaming for lengthy periods (many minutes to hours)
Dr. Ethel S. Person By Force of Fantasy: How We Make Our Lives,
 Lynn, Steven J.; Rhue, Judith W. (1988). “Fantasy proneness: Hypnosis, developmental antecedents, and psychopathology”. American Psychologist. 43: 35–44.
 Wilson, S. C. & Barber, T. X. (1983). “The fantasy-prone personality: Implications for understanding imagery, hypnosis, and parapsychological phenomena.” In, A. A. Sheikh (editor), Imagery: Current theory, research and application (pp. 340–390). New York: Wiley. ISBN0471 092258. Republished (edited): Psi Research 1(3), 94 – 116. http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1983-22322-001.
 Barrett, D. L. The hypnotic dream: Its content in comparison to nocturnal dreams and waking fantasy. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1979, Vol. 88, p. 584 591; Barrett, D. L. Fantasizers and dissociaters: Two types of high hypnotizables, two imagery styles. In R. G. Kunzendorf, N. Spanos, & B. Wallace (Eds.) Hypnosis and Imagination, NY: Baywood, 1996 (ISBN0895031396); Barrett, D. L. Dissociaters, fantasizers, and their relation to hypnotizability. In Barrett, D. L. (Ed.) Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy (2 vols): Vol. 1: History, theory and general research, Vol. 2: Psychotherapy research and applications, NY: Praeger/Greenwood, 2010.
 Mackeith, S. & Silvey, R. (1988). The Paracosm: a special form of fantasy. In, Morrison, D.C. (Ed.), Organizing early experience: Imagination and cognition in childhood (pages 173 – 197). New York: Baywood. ISBN0895030519.
 Singer, J. L. (1966) Daydreaming. New York, NY: Random House.
 Killingsworth, M., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind”. Science. 330 (6006): 932. And Klinger, E. (2009). Daydreaming and fantasizing: Thought flow and motivation. In K. D. Markman, W. M. P. Klein, & J. A. Suhr (Eds.), Handbook of imagination and mental simulation (pp. 225-239). New York, NY: Psychology Press.
 Somer, E. Somer, L. & Jopp, S.D (9 June 2016). “Parallel lives: A phenomenological study of the lived experience of maladaptive daydreaming”. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation. 17 (5): 561–576.
the German American Bund 1930. Courtesy of the Atlantic.com
In 2013 I wrote a book called The Deep Green Delusion: Vitalism and Communal Autarky. It was a critique of the deep ecology movement, arguing against the views of one of its gurus, named Pentii Linkola who advocates a return to primitivism. Linkola calls for an end to democracy and the establishment of an authoritarian ecological regime that ruthlessly suppresses modernism and all forms of consumerism. My argument was that Linkola was promulgating eco-fascism, which has its roots in a nineteenth century German movement called the Heimatschutz. When we think about fascist groups we tend to assume they are to the Right of politics, but the Heimatschutz was to the Left. It was the forerunner to National Socialism.
The green movement in the west has always been thought of as being in the domain of the political Left and linked with the social justice movement, but this is not environmental history. Environmentalism began in the eighteenth century and arose from the Romantic Movement, which was deeply conservative in its politics and it was largely the realm of the well-to-do or the aristocracy. In Germany the green movement was also born from the Romantic Movement, but it found its way to the realms of the extreme Far Right who were concerned with blending ecology with racial purity.
Linkola’s discourse is no different from the Heimatschutz. It is attributable to an increase in immigration and his desire for population controls, but this is only a tiny morsel of what Linkola proposes and he is not alone. Neo-fascist organizations have been growing since the 1980s with such organizations as Germany’s Deutsche Volksunion and the French Front. In Australia it is the patriotic groups like the Australia First Party who are advocating the new fascism. The 2008 economic downturn provided a fertile grown for a burgeoning neo-fascist movements across Europe, the US, Australia and elsewhere. Further, fascist groups may be a long way from taking power, but they are changing attitudes and causing disharmony and the setting in which they articulate their aims is a very familiar one that we should all be concerned about.
Let me set the scene by reverting to history. In 1929 the Wall Street collapse was very similar to the 2008 economic crisis across Europe. People suddenly realized that the stock markets would not rise indefinitely. When the stock market finally collapsed everything was impacted. In the 1930s European agriculture was faced with a severe depression. The poor agitated for land reforms and high food production, but there was not the means to meet the public demands.
By 1931 people had lost faith in their politicians and there were violent protests on the streets. It was about this time that the writer George Orwell predicted a future of totalitarian rule.
In Germany the Heimatschutz movement began reviving an earlier green movement that was based on the land and racial purity: Blood and Soil. Cities and towns were re-ordered into small communities for food security. It would lead to the worst kind of primal behaviour, two world wars and the European Holocaust.
The popularity of the movement was promulgated through festivals and entertainment, that connected the land to families and communities. The festivals would open and close with a patriotic or religious song and there were processions and marches as well as speeches on nation, homeland and loyalty. Rituals were modelled on the ancient practices of the Druids and pagan Rome. Rudolf Steiner’s wife Marie Von Sievers gave a performance of mystical dancing similar to those performed at deep ecology and mystical festivals today. The sacred May Day glorified the God Atlas the God of War, not only an important symbol for Adolf Hitler, but also Gustav Le Bon (Freud’s teacher) and his theories of crowd control. Everything was patterned by mythology and the Heimatschutz became known as Hitler’s Green Party.
The Heimatcschutz, lasted a long time, it fed the German armies during the wars and upheld the racial policy that saw six million Jews and others exterminated in the concentration camps of the Second World War.
Heimatschutz, worked because it was built on the wider Volkish movement that aimed en mass, to reform life, an idea that originated from the German idealists, Goethe, Lessing and Schiller; all three were Freemasons, a movement which Hitler later opposed.
The Volk has a different name now and the players have different roles, but the same sentiments abound in a far more discursive and insidious way than before. The Volk has found its legitimacy in a kind of communitarianism that closes borders and ranks on anyone who is not of their thinking. Let me give you a further example.
Rudolf Steiner and his deep ecology otherwise called anthroposophy, is on trend across the western world. The Steiner schools are popular in Europe, America and Israel even though Steiner, by his own admission was active in the Pan Nationalist Movement in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century and although he became a rival and enemy of Hitler, he appears to have advocated the same forms of racial segregation. Many of the current Steiner schools are funded by state authorities and their businesses are thriving. Should we be concerned? Should we disregard history and assume that the Steiner movement has changed its spots and is working towards a better world?
The aim of the legitimate ecology movement has been to draw peoples’ attention to the (w)holism in nature and to create a more sustainable planet. In reality, it has been a shift away from the bigger political and social problems to intimate forms of localization. It is anti-globalization and therefore not focused on the betterment of fellow citizens and their global rights.
The ecologist’s mantra is Small is Beautiful a term coined by E. F. Schumacher and his book by the same name, who just happened to be the head of the British Coal Board an industry that sent men into the perilous pits to boost Britain’s economy, while damaging their health and risking their lives. This gives a clue to the ambiguities in the green movement, today and in history.
Take for example Richard Heinberg’s advocacy of a steady state economy, which fails to address the social concerns inherent in capitalism or its polity. We are not seeing anything new. In the United States the New Green Deal was designed to kick start rabid consumption. The then President, Theodore Roosevelt used the New Green Deal as a panacea for ending the 1920s American Depression and it pushed America into a global war.
Today, the US President Donald Trump is pulling troops out of wars and leaving the warring parties to fight between themselves at the cost of innocent men, women and children. What is in it for Donald Trump? America has a reputation for destabilizing smaller nations and then restoring them, whereby America reaps the spoils. The nations at war are also rich in resources the western world needs to prop up its mass consumerism. Is this not another form of mass genocide? If this is ecology, it is ecology on steroids. No one ever asks, how green is the act of war? It is a topic that seems to escape the ecology and other green agendas.
In the 1960s when the environmental issues gave way to an apocalyptic discourse the earth was heralded as the embodiment of the Greek Mother Goddess (Gaia). Was this supposed to save the planet or would it simply invoke the same mythologies that could lead to another German Heimatschutz?
Environmental problems are very real and they are both local and global. We have to ask, does the environment movement have its investment in the same kind of transcendentalism that created the Volk? In the west there has been an acute rise in the forms of anti-Semitism that we have experienced in history. They are on the Right and on the Left of the political spectrum and where there was once an abundance of single issues groups, anti-Semitism appears to be infiltrating the entire protest spectrum covering many demands and issues.
Nations across the world are going through a massive transition, not unlike the agrarian transitions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that saw people leaving the land and moving to the cities for a better life. Today, while city entrepreneurs are eating up important pockets of land and cutting down forests for their larger enterprises, such as mining and the expansion of factory farming. Today’s mass production is still dependent on the natural resources as it was at the time of the Industrial Revolution. The loss of resources, combined with the drive for profits, impacts on the countryside and the traditional way of life, but how can we change it without reinventing the Heimatschutz?
Fascism arose in Europe after World War I when many people yearned for national unity and strong leadership. Today, we are no closer to national or global unity than we were a hundred and fifty years ago, but the yearning for unity has become a dangerous phenomenon driving violent protests on the streets, corrupting governments and sending the world into violence chaos. Where will it end?
We all have a democratic right to protest, but can the violence that erupts in demonstrations be justified in order to create social change? Further, is change possible from mass protest? This work examines social movement theory in light of the current direct actions.
I have been visiting the hospital to sit with a friend of thirty years who is dying. I have been reciting Hebrew prayers and blessings for her. Her name is Junitta and years ago she started one of the world’s first peace chambers. It was situated in central Victoria and built in the design of a kiva. Junitta gathered a few people together and they made every mud brick by hand and laid every stone with a prayer for world peace. It was an amazing achievement and it still stands today on land that has been regenerated for wild life. The Native American medicine man Joseph Rael came to open the kiva and it became one of many around the world working towards global harmony.
Junitta was a beautiful young woman with a vision and a gentle soul. She did not have much time for modern technology, instead she preferred the simple rustic lifestyle close to the land. Junitta’s soul is still gentle and giving, but her body is emaciated, just thin skin stretched over a tiny and fragile skeleton. I held her hands that were barely warm and so weak, it brought tears to my eyes. Her mind is alert, albeit with a little wandering, but the body is a vision of degeneration and it makes life seem so cruel.
Junitta is taking it all in her stride. She is a woman of faith and she is incredibly brave. Indeed, she told me that the Native America Indians believe the skin of the body wrinkles so it is made ready to join the earth when the time for burial arrives. The Mother Earth, according to Junitta, recognizes every person who is returned to her primal womb.
My friend has maintained her humour and she is not afraid to die. She just wants to be out of the hospital and back at her beloved property on the top of a mountain that overlooks the spectacular southern coastline.
Junitta plans to be buried in an upright position so her head is still close to the stars and so she is remembered by the sun every morning when it moves across the horizon.
Junitta was always very upright, forthright and the first to speak out against social injustice. She was a friend of the Aboriginal people and an advocate for indigenous land rights. She loved the red centre of the Australian country and she made numerous pilgrimages to it for spiritual guidance.
Junitta is resigned to her fate, but I am going to miss her a lot, she has been a wonderful friend, a dedicated teacher of wisdom and an excellent craft’s person and artist. She will continue to live in my sanctuary through the small painting of Squeaky Beach which she gave to me some years ago and which sits on the wall of my library. Today, will be my last visit to Junitta as she is being moved to another facility. I am left to wonder if I will ever see her again before she passes.
I came across this article which I thought was well worth posting.
When Will The Left Start Talking About Israeli Trauma?
09.02.2016 , by Yakir Englander
Posted originally on 972mag.com. Original Hebrew version on mekomit.co.il (“Sicha Mekomit” or “Local Call”) Translated by Dr. Henry R. Carse
By YAKIR ENGLANDER
My political opinions are aligned with Israel’s Left, but I was not born that way. Even today my personal Israeli narrative is far from typically liberal. I grew up in a modern ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the city of Bnei Brak, and although I am sociologically far from that context today, many of the core values that still influence me stem from the Hasidic tradition. When I was an adolescent, I became part of the religious settler movement. And while I am not connected to it today, the courage that I witnessed in that society, one that allows you to take action in the real world, remains with me until this day.
I understand that I may have no choice but to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike the majority of the “moderate Zionist Left” in Israel, however, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog, I see the establishment of two states as a painful separation. This solution will tear me apart from my dearest Palestinian colleagues, as more walls and checkpoints will put an end to our daily contact with each other.
In recent years, I have founded and worked as part of an interfaith peace organization that seeks to an end to the conflict. And still, like many Israelis, I find myself further and further from the Israeli Left, be it moderate, Zionist, or radical. There are two reasons for this: firstly, because the leaders of the Left act similar to religious preachers who claim to know the Truth, even when it is ideological, rather than divine. Their grasp of the Truth makes it hard for them to listen to others enter into a genuine dialogue.
Secondly, I cannot relate to the leaders of the Left, because of their language, which falls far short of expressing the complex emotions of fear and pain that I hear every day on the streets of Jerusalem.
Stop Blaming Traumatized Israelis
There is something tempting in the Truth: it protects people from the need to remember, every single minute, that they might be wrong. Certainly, this is why some are attracted to religion: it promises them access to the Truth.
It is fascinating to note that it was in fact Orthodox Judaism that was most pressed to compromise for generations on its ideas of Truth, while living in the Diaspora. Living in exile as a minority in a non-Jewish culture, Jews had little power, and they often had to act in ways that contradicted the commandments of divine Truth. A good example is the dictate of Jewish law known as “for the sake of peace,” according to which Jews must be sensitive to the values of their non-Jewish neighbors. This principle taught Jews to conduct themselves within non-Jewish society in ways that often starkly contradicted the letter of divinely ordained Jewish law, all for the sake of good relations with the non-Jewish world.
The Babylonian Talmud (written in the Diaspora) took this idea a step further when it explained that “Jerusalem was destroyed because the Jewish people living there based all their judgments only on the divine Torah.” Remarkably, it was this uncompromising insistence on the Truth of divine halakha that brought upon the fall of Jerusalem. This is because reality is always more complex, and often requires the humility to take a step back from the Truth.
By contrast, statements by the leaders of Israel’s Left reference notions such as the Truth or justice, without any flexibility or understanding of how complex reality is here. “The Right has lapsed into fantasy,” says Stav Shaffir, “and only the Israeli Left – ‘mature and responsible’ – remains reasonable, with true and serious plans for the future.” The late Yossi Sarid spoke of the separation of left from right as “a separation in the State of Israel between the sane people and the Messianics…” These are only two examples among many.
Such language is problematic. Firstly, it is easy to counter the Truth that such language claims to represent. For example, one may challenge the assumption of Israel’s Zionist Left that there is an essential difference between the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 and the earlier Jewish expropriation of Palestinian land in Tel Aviv, Galilee, Jerusalem, and elsewhere from the beginnings of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century. The Truth is always open to interpretation.
Another problem with claims to the Truth lies in their appeal to logic and reason, while human beings are in fact composites of reason and feelings, often with pain and trauma etched deeply into the human body and psyche.
The Second Intifada was at its height by the time I completed my army service and enrolled at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. My reserve duty required me to serve in a unit that identified the remains of victims, and I was called to several scenes of painful terror attacks. The personal crisis I experienced there led me to my first encounters with the Left: Israelis and Palestinians at Hebrew University. I came to their meetings feeling very confused, with no idea what was right, as well as a burden of pain and trauma. At the meetings, people were busy mocking political leaders, the failed peace agreements, the corrupt occupation, and religion as the root of the disastrous reality. Everyone agreed that only speedy progress toward a two-state solution could bring about peace and justice.
I remember coming away from these meetings with a heavy feeling – that I was being blamed for living in a reality of ongoing trauma (terror and violence had not yet ceased). At the same time, I felt I was being told that I must abandon the two things that had been able to give me any sense of safety: the army and religion. I stopped going after a few meetings, realizing that I had left an ultra-Orthodox society that demanded my total allegiance to its Truth, only to align myself with a new political form of ultra-Orthodoxy.
Talking about the Truth is important and valuable for those few people who dedicate their lives to understanding what is “right” and what is not. These days, however, Israeli society is not really being helped by lectures about how wrong and harmful it is. Not because Israeli policies are not harmful, but because there is no spiritual ability today to listen to these criticisms. As the Rabbi from Radin put it: “The obligation to convince someone can be practiced only when they are actually able to hear you.”
Israeli society needs leaders who are capable of speaking to this society’s pain and fear, who through dialogue with our feelings can free us from the powers that are destroying Israelis and Palestinians alike. We need leaders who show by example how to sacrifice part of their own Truth in order to heal wounds and bring about transformation. The Israeli peace camp must not be defined by the Left; it should include all who are ready to dedicate themselves to the process of healing themselves, and in this way to cease harming the Palestinians.
Peace Negotiations for Israelis and Palestinians with Tears
We need a peace movement that will stop clashing with the Right about what is right and what is wrong. For example, I am far less worried about whether or not every piece of evidence presented by Breaking the Silence is proven to be exact by military investigators. What is more important is to realize that thousands of Israelis who risk their lives in the defense of their country return home as I did, traumatized and in crisis. That we realize the crisis stems from the assumption that the army is purely a defensive one.
Daily confrontations between politicians from the Left and the Right only serve to emphasize the failure of the Left. Right-wing activists do not solely engage with logic. They bring up issues that relate to the fears that reside deep in our Jewish and Israeli DNA. All of these relate somehow to the conflict and its solution: shaking the moral foundations of the IDF, the feeling that Israeli critics are not speaking with their opponents but about them, the fear of non-Jews, the deep-seated suspicion of Palestinians and their leaders, the anxiety that if peace comes, Jews will marry non-Jews, and the underlying pain stemming from the conviction that Europe has never really come to terms with the trauma of the Holocaust.
The Israeli Left speaks about democratic values, but the Israeli public generally sees “Western values” as a language of logic – one that fails to speak to our hearts. If only the Israeli Left could speak to the people of this nation with the voice of 2,000 years of Israeli-Jewish culture, it is likely that the silent majority of Israelis would stand up and join the effort for peace.
The discussion of Dorit Rabinyan’s novel Borderlife, which was recently disqualified from the national curriculum by the Education Ministry, would be richer if the Israeli Left could cite examples of how the Kabbalist sages of North Africa would once study together with the Muslim Sufis, or if leaders of the Left could show that they themselves had demanded that the national curriculum include the painful poetry of expelled Jewish settlers from Gaza. The credibility of Breaking the Silence would only increase if they spoke about Talmudic rabbis who insisted on learning from or with those who criticized the rabbinate.
The Israeli Left must internalize that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will not begin when the two sides sit down at the negotiating table. Rather, the agreement begins today, yesterday, and tomorrow, within and together with the people – all people.
There is an old story of a couple who came to Rabbi Karelitz, chairman of the rabbinical court on Bnei Brak, before their marriage, asking how to achieve a healthy life together. The rabbi answered them curtly: “If you wanted advice on living together, you should have come to me 18 years ago!” When parties to an agreement sit down to negotiate, the spiritual orientation of the negotiators – and of the peoples they represent – is already formed. Their ability to compromise is limited by the existential situation of the societies they speak for. It is the work of the Israeli peace camp to work with the Israeli public (the same, of course, holds true for Palestinian leaders) so that the public, and their leaders, will approach the negotiations in a spiritual state that is as conducive as possible to achieving a healthy agreement. To this end, the peace camp must create and speak a new language – or become irrelevant.
The Israeli peace camp must become an open house for every Israeli, no matter what their orientation: Orthodox, religious-Zionists, Mizrahim, expelled settlers from Gaza, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Jerusalemites, settlers, Ethiopians, and all the rest. The peace camp must use a language of dialogue with all people, even those who do not agree with its arguments. It must understand that Jewish culture (and not just Orthodoxy) must be part of the culture of the Left, rather than viewing it as a stumbling block.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because those who lived there based their judgments on divine law. Jerusalem will be rebuilt only by those who are capable of embracing the pain we share, gathering our tears, and bringing them to the negotiating table. https://hartman.org.il/Blogs_View.asp?Article_Id=1645&Cat_Id=275&Cat_Type=Blogs
I would like to thank everyone for attending my exhibition opening. My sincere thanks go to Rabi Johnathon Keren Black and the Leo Baeck Arts Committee for allowing me to exhibit my work in what is a very special place. I feel very honoured. Also, thank you to Val Silberberg and her family for the wonderful hospitality they bestowed upon me over this weekend.
The collection of paintings on exhibition here is very different to anything that I have ever produced, or exhibited in the past. It is different because it is very personal. There are paintings in this collection that reveal my most difficult existential struggles as well as my moments of joy and gratitude.
When it comes to art, people generally look for meaning. I regard meaning as being very subjective. Every person will find their own interpretation in the task of viewing my work. My art then, is not about meaning, it is about purpose.
My purpose has always been about healing. In order to explain this, I need to tell you something about my journey through art.
I grew up East of London in the aftermath of the Second World War amidst a lot of uncertainty, fears and confusion. What followed was the Cold War, with more fears and much uncertainty and confusion.
By the time the Cold War struck I was old enough to have an opinion on wars and their consequences for people and the environment. I joined the Peace Movement while I was still in High School and this probably kick started my career as an artist. I spent much of my time in the school art room helping my teacher to create posters for the anti-nuclear campaigns. Needless to say, I was recruited into the Peace Movement before I left school.
When I left school at the age of fifteen, I went to work for a famous Hollywood film producer by the name of Sam Spiegel. Mr Spiegel had a fabulous art collection of original paintings, which drew my attention. He was a very rich man. I wanted to be an artist.
I recall how I drew a portrait of my boss to try and impress him, but it did not please him at all. The receptionist put the drawing over the mantle piece in the waiting area and my boss took it down again. I had no bad feelings over the rejection of my art, I was still learning. It was not a good drawing, but I believe he kept it.
Mr Spiegel gave me a job and he paid me enough money to live in a nice flat just off Grosvenor Square and this enabled me to finish my education at night school and I enrolled in the Kokoschka School of Painting. (The original Kokoschka school had closed and another had started up by one of the master’s best students).
I enjoyed a salubrious lifestyle for three years, travelling around London delivering documents and exchanging conversations with interesting people. I made some good friends and I had some extraordinary mentors.
Sometimes I would travel by taxi to offices and homes and at other times I would save the money and take the tube train. Over time I began to feel stuck and I wanted to do something more meaningful.
When I took the underground train, I used to sit and look at the pictures that ran along the carriages above the windows. Two advertisements attraction my attention, one was on vivisection and the other was of starving children in Africa.
The pictures disturbed me, they made me feel selfish and I knew that that my good fortune was not fulfilling my true purpose. I wanted to make the world a better place. I knew nothing about vivisection so I opted for the starving children in Africa.
After three years of being in the film business. I travelled to South Africa, where I worked in a commercial art studio and exhibited my paintings in a commercial gallery.
I was very ignorant of South Africa’s politics and I had not anticipated the violence that that comes with extreme oppression.
I arrived in South Africa well after the Sharpville massacre, but the memories and tensions were still raw and escalating.
I lived in Johannesburg with my friend Ann Sherman who was a popular singer and I often went with her to work at night so she did not have to drive herself home alone. Night time in Johannesburg was particularly unsafe and despite a curfew and it was not unusual to come across violence. I was very affected by what I saw and with activism already in my blood I rebelled and I broke a few laws.
In South Africa there were rules that compelled one to have black servants and workers. We had neither so we were immediately under suspicion from neighbours. I remember being in the front garden one day weeding the flower beds when a police patrol car stopped outside the house. The officers approached me and asked “what are you doing?”
“Gardening,” I replied.
“What are you gardening for, where is your boy?”, one officer asked.
“I like gardening,” I answered.
The fact was, no one did work that could be done by a native for next to nothing, this was the nature of the apartheid system.
The following day the police arrived with a African man who was told by the officers to work in my garden.
We tried to share the work, we tried to treat the man well, but to associate or assimilate with Africans was a crime. We had to be careful.
Despite the political climate in South Africa my career as an artist flourished then something unthinkable happened.
I was walking to work one day; it was Summer and the air was already warm. My studio was in the far end of town among other industries and a collection of buildings that were used to house African mine workers. It was never a safe area and most people would drive through it as quickly as possible. I did not drive. The pavements were generally splattered with blood and there was graffiti on the walls of buildings. Johannesburg was rather a clean city, there was barely a trace of trouble in the main centre of town, but the outlying areas were considered quite dangerous.
As I walked I could see an women lying in a doorway. She was very large and slumped over with her head resting to one side of her chest. I thought she was dead at first and I was about to cross the road, which is what one did upon encountering a diseased person. I stopped, because I thought I saw the big woman move. I went over to her and she groaned. She had multiple stab wounds along her arms and she could not speak. She had a large stab wound in the chest, the area was soaked in blood and looked awful. Beside the woman there was a line of bottles containing blood. I was told the African Bantu were very superstitious about the loss of blood. The woman had tried to catch the blood from her wounds in the bottles.
On the other side of the road, there was Police Station. I crossed the road to get help. The police must have spotted me from the window before I reached the building because two of them stood on the pavements as I approached. “The women in the doorway is alive,” I said, “can you get help?”
They told me to move on. They said it was none of my business and it was not wise to hang around. I pleaded with the men to help the woman, but they became more assertive with one officer stepped forward and putting his hand on his gun in a threatening manner. “Move on,” he said.
I had no choice. I moved on and continued my journey to work.
I did very little work that day, I could not get this injured woman out of my mind. The sun was beating down and I wondered if someone had managed to help her and whether she had survived.
Come five o’clock, it was time to go home. I left the studio and walked the same route as I always took and as I approached the area near the police station, I noticed the woman was still there in the doorway. She had passed away!
Over the course of the day the street had seen a lot of activity. The day’s garbage had been put out on the pavement ready for the morning collection and it had piled up around the body of the African woman. As the acrid smell and the flies hung in the air, I stopped for a moment to take in the horrific scene. Here was a human being, a woman immersed in the rank and rotting garbage as if she too was just part of the garbage. I was shocked, dismayed, traumatized and suddenly very fearful of the country I had called home.
When I got to our house, I told Ann what had happened, but she was not so shocked. She was out at night and witnessed many similar scenarios. “This was Africa,” she said “a black life is worth only what can be exploited and there is nothing anyone can do to change it.”
I did not agree, there had to be some way to make changes, at least to tell the story of what was happening. I took to my studio and began painting. I painted various scenes of life in Africa under apartheid. None should have been provoking, however, when they were exhibited the gallery was asked to remove them. Shortly after our home was raided by police. We though we had got away with a warning, but later a journalist friend suggested I leave the country because the police were going to prosecute me. Whether this was true or not I could not be sure, but after what I had witnessed, nothing would be the same. I could not sit back and ignore what was happening. Sooner or later I would be arrested.
A few days afterwards another friend named Melvyn arrived at the house. I had a plane ticket, but I was not sure whether to use it or not. Melvyn looked at me and said, “I am driving you to the airport before you get arrested.” I went without protest.
I made a split-second decision, there seemed no choice, but to go with my friend that night to the airport. I left everything behind and I would never see Ann, my friends or my dog again.
When I landed in Rome I had nowhere to go, no money, my papers were not in order and I did not speak a word of Italian. I was apprehended and driven to a building in the city where I had to undergo a medical examination. The doctors cleared me of any contagious diseases and then let me go.
I walked for a while and found the Trevi Fountain. I sat looking at the coins in the water. People threw coins in the fountain for good luck. An American man came and sat next to me. We talked. I told him my story. He had come to Rome to reconcile with his wife and they were both leaving Rome that same evening, so he gave me the key to his apartment for three weeks before the lease expired. There was food in the apartment and I was starving. A few days later, a letter arrived with a ticket to London’s Heathrow airport and a little English money.
I could not settle in England and three years later I arrived in Australia, which in some ways reminded me of South Africa because one of the first things I saw was a bus shelter with graffiti reading “Asians Out”. Was this just another racist country? I hoped not, but all was not well.
My instincts once again drove me to act. I joined the Womens’ Movement, the Prison Reform Movement, the Council of Civil Liberties, the Human Rights Association and the newly formed Friends of the Earth and I threw myself into protest art.
Eight years later I moved to Victoria and along with my partner and started a political graphics production company, working mostly on posters, advertising and copy-writing. Some of that work is now housed in government archives.
My art had a purpose. I still has a purpose. through my art I can heal myself of the daily trials and tribulations. I can speak out and contribute to healing the world (Tikkun Olam).
Trying to bring about social and political justice to the world might seem like an impossible task, but one has to keep trying, we cannot give up.