Israel And The Cycle of Abuse

Matthew Gindin
5 min readApr 7, 2023

What happens when a horribly abused child grows up?

In many cases, a war rages within the child over how to relate to the world around it. With trust and hope? With self-protective manipulation? With magical thinking? By erecting a psychic fortess? By going to war? Each of these strategies is a different voice within the child, and they can fight amongst themselves for a long time, sometimes for a lifetime.

What happens when the abused child comes from a lineage of abuse and anxiety, where the trauma goes back generations? What happens when this abused child is an entire people?

Do these voices become embodied in factions within the people itself? Maybe some turn to magical thinking- taking refuge in Kabbalistic stratagems and prayer, and the hope for messianic rescue.

Some remain open to the world, seeking to become healers and activists.

Some plot strategies of escape, or seek to amass power and erect walls.

And inevitably there are voices inside who seek to repeat the patterns of the abusers- to lie, to dominate, to rage, to beat, to hurt, and to cling to the illusion of control.

Early Zionism was pluralistic, with different factions having different dreams. All shared in the vision of Jews being reborn as a vital community living once again in our homeland. The basic thrust of this idea for many was to once again walk in the sunlight as full human beings taking up “normal” space in the world. It was driven by the experience of generations of traumatic abuse at the hand of non-Jewish communities and governments, and given fresh urgency by Russian and Polish persecutions in the 19th century.

Cultural Zionists like Martin Buber, Ahad Ha’am, and Albert Einstein did not envision the creation of modern, militaristic nation-state, but simply wanted a vibrant, free Jewish community in Palestine living in peace with their neighbors. One could understand them as turning away from the magical thinking of religious Judaism towards a this-worldly rebirth of the Jewish people. These Zionists sought a healing which would include not power-over, but power-alongside, others.

In 1946 Einstein wrote, “It seems to me a matter for simple common sense that we cannot ask to be given the…

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