No Promises Not to Forgive, Please

As a clinical psychologist working in inpatient psychiatry, I saw many lives wrecked by anger. Not just by the explosions of temper that caused people to be fired from jobs or rejected by friends and family. It was more than that. I saw lives wrecked by quiet bitterness.

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Barbara A. Olevitch,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
As a clinical psychologist working in inpatient psychiatry, I saw many lives wrecked by anger. Not just by the explosions of temper that caused people to be fired from jobs or rejected by friends and family. It was more than that. I saw lives wrecked by quiet bitterness. For example, I met a former handyman whose tools had been stolen many years before who just couldn't bring himself to buy new tools, because of his angry feeling that he "shouldn't" have to buy them again.

In Judaism, we appreciate the destructive power of anger. Our laws of rechilus forbid us to remind someone that he was wronged by somebody else. Why is this? Why would it hurt him to be reminded? Doesn't he already remember?

Embedded in this commandment is a profound truth about the human heart and the human situation. HaShem, in his kindness, showers such bounty on us every day that when we have a quarrel or a loss, or even, G-d forbid, a death, our pain gradually fades as we begin to enjoy other things. Our psychology is fluid. Our enthusiasms constantly regenerate, if we let them. As adults, we very often disregard this fluidity, because we allocate our time and energy to our previous commitments. But when we have a disappointment, and our previous commitments are no longer possible, as long as we are alive, this fluidity returns. New dreams are born, new goals. That is, if we let this happen.

The process of healing takes time, of course. The new dreams and new goals may be numerous and confusing. It may take time until we choose the ones that are feasible and weed out the others. We may choose the wrong ones at first and experience new disappointments. It may take decades before our new projects reach the state of fullness and completion that our previous situation already had. But as soon as these new dreams and goals begin to sprout even a little bit, there is a return of hope, and there is joy in nourishing them day by day.

Our laws reflect this truth about our psychology. Otherwise, what would be the reason for restrictions upon a mourner? Why would he be deprived of the pleasure of putting on fresh clothes? Precisely because otherwise, his focus on mourning would be interrupted. We have guidelines about how long it should be before the mourner returns to a full social life, including occasions of rejoicing. We need these guidelines precisely because a person's balance between mourning and forgetting is so vulnerable to influence.

Those who lost their homes in Gaza have no obligation to mourn at all. Why create one? Why distribute T-shirts that say "We Won't Forgive and We Won't Forget"? This is social pressure. If they want, individually, to weed out their angry thoughts and devote themselves to personal rejuvenation, what is wrong with this? Anger is not a precondition for the development of political innovations. In fact, it leads to political conflict and stagnation. Why give them a uniform to wear that denies them their right to move on? Haven't they suffered enough? Why not allow them to take on other causes, other beautiful projects? Let them each heal as soon as they are able to. Their precarious living situations undoubtedly give them frequent reminders of their losses. Why would they want any further reminder?

This divisiveness is precisely what our enemies are hoping for. In this very act of feeling so superior to the Disengagement proponents, for falling into the psychological clutches of our enemies, the anti-Disengagement forces may be also falling into their clutches.

Because if the Gaza refugees develop the same pattern of never forgiving, the Palestinians can claim that this is proof that losing your homes is an unforgivable problem that never ever goes away. If this campaign to discourage the Gaza refugees from healing succeeds, it will be not only a painful and unnecessary blow to them and to their children, but also a tragic and dangerous capitulation to the worldview of the enemies of the Jewish people.

It is an insult to HaShem to imply that He created human beings in such a way that they remain pitiful unless all of their losses are exactly restored. People are suggestible. If they are not taught about their ability to heal, they don't realize that they have it. Those living in Palestinian refugee camps are constantly being told that they have sustained an irreparable loss.

Those Jews who have just lost their homes in Gaza knew that by their efforts, they could surpass all expectations. Where others saw only dangers and desolation, they seized an opportunity to live a beautiful, holy life. Now, they actually have another opportunity, not one that they would have wanted or that we would have wanted for them, but, nevertheless, an opportunity that shouldn't be passed up.

If Gaza refugees can allow themselves to heal and find other projects to inspire them, and essentially take one angry refugee group off the map, this will be a stunning blow to the psychological warfare of our enemies. All the Palestinian refugee group has against us is this claim of their own pitifulness and their implication that it is our fault. If we show that HaShem made human beings capable of regeneration and reorientation, then the constant Palestinian complaint to the world about their refugee status will lose its persuasiveness.

Helping the Gaza refugees to resettle should be an urgent political priority, an act of war against the destructive psychological push of the Palestinians. Let them be the only group with the permanent grudge. That type of group feeling is not for us. We will have to find other ways of saying "no" to the further shrinkage of the state of Israel rather than pointing to the pain of the Gaza refugees.