Rafael Moses a Cain- interpretation

by Hermann Beland back to Newsletter 1-2015

Rafael Moses belongs to the fathers of the Nazareth conferences. I will recall some memories which belong to the pioneering and mostly very courageous initiatives Rafael has organized confronting atrocities, helping both sides in the conflicts by letting meet both sides. I also want to remind us how he was breaking the waves of prejudicial establishments, mostly together with his wife Rena Moses-Hrushowski. So he once told me that he was going to have a private meeting with Arafat, as a deputy of a group of Israeli and Palestinian Psychiatrists and Psychoanalysts who had formulated the necessary mental prerequisites on both sides for peace and future, but clearly not as deputy of the government.

I remember the evening of the last day of the 1987 international conference, called “The Holocaust for those not directly affected”, organized by Rafael Moses and Chesi Cohen, which had been in a way a precursor of the Nazareth conferences. In each small group there was one German member. It was the first time, that German analysts had been officially invited to such an international Israeli conference dealing with the Holocaust. In the small groups they were the recipients of much suffering that they had evoked being Germans; they were attacked being Germans; but they also felt made to be agents of helpful reactions, something like catalysts, helpful for the Jewish/Israeli members e. g. against the danger of self-righteousness. The Germans had come to this conference with a lot of anxieties being or being seen as children of perpetrators only; for the Israeli and Jewish members of the conference who nearly all were working with children of the first and second generation of Holocaust survivors it had been a new and disturbing experience to speak with Germans. In the German participants experienced for the first time the function of the presence of the other side in both aspects. On the evening of the last day of that conference, in the house of Rena and Rafael Moses, Shlomo Molcho St. Jerusalem, Shmuel and Mira Erlich-Ginor offered to the German DPV president Gottfried Appy and to Hermann Beland, then president-elect, the plan to have a German-Israeli group relations conference on “The Past in the Present” of German and Israeli psychoanalysts. It was the birth-hour of the Nazareth-conferences and the later PCCA.

Before that decisive moment of our history the IPA president and the organizers of the first International Psychoanalytic Congress on German soil 1985 in Hamburg had been criticized clearly by Rena and Rafael Moses in a paper published in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. The criticism was that the organizers had not dared to give free an emotional collective expression of the confrontation with the past in the country of the Holocaust. What an opportunity had been wasted! But then Rafael began to realize a new endeavor, a research in depth about the German and the Israeli collective hidden mental situation after the war, represented by the analysts of both peoples and in relation to the Holocaust. The research project was intended as a self-experiment. Two small stable groups of German and Israeli analysts were expected to interview each other with honesty, understand the unconscious meaning, interpret the defenses and to discuss the outcome (from written texts of the recorded interviews); then to have a meta-circle; and thirdly to have a meta-meta-discussion on six weekends a year, three years long. All group discussions were to be transcribed for the following meetings being lastly the basis for a book, documenting what had dominated collectively and unconsciously both peoples. The ambitious expectation was that once it had proved to be a valuable self-experimental research method for conflict realization between Germans and Jews, the same procedure would be applicable to other political or national groups in conflict. Wolfgang Loch gave the lead of the German part on to Hermann Beland who was running for financial resources, but none of the existing foundations in politics, business, science, and society were willing to give the million of DM we needed. The “project” did not come into existence.

It was not the Kairos then, but I had been full of anxiety of the moment that this self-experiment will begin. It was such an enormously daring thing to make the mental essence of the diametrical burden of the two peoples of the Holocaust conscious for both sides! When we decided for the Tavistock group relation method in Jerusalem, as I told before, I did not feel a tenth of that anxiety. But it had been clear all the time that the “project” was invented as a gift to the burdened German analysts who could grasp their need to get helped mentally to have their unconsciously denied guilt conscious, but could not do it alone. They needed especially gifted Israeli analysts as representatives for the whole Jewish people.

Rena and Rafael were equipped greatly for this enormous difficult task. They not only were good analysts, scientifically clever, awake in the group dynamics within the society at large, basically friendly, compassionate like humane surgeons, clearly modest from self-analyzing, - this all they had; but what I want to stress is another attitude: there was clearly no need to accuse the other, not at all. And this element made a great impact to the German membership of the DPV in 1983, when Rafael gave a paper in the fall-meeting in Wiesbaden about “The guilt-feelings of an Israeli analyst because of the Palestinians”. Imagine! But this was the only message poor burdened German analysts could hear as a model for themselves.

The German analysts in these years were deeply shaken by the dawn of responsibility they began to feel for the past collectively. Hillel Klein (“From Guilt to Responsibility”) in springtime 1983 spoke in the DPV meeting about his own psychological work to win back his lost objects and himself from inner destruction. He opened up ways which the Germans had not even thought possible for themselves or which they did not feel entitled to. The same happened when Rafael spoke to us. He spoke in German what he could not do in 1975 at the IPAC in Jerusalem. Now he did it. The whole plenum of German analysts was shaken, many of them in tears. The insights gained were reinforced in remarkably reflexive plenary debates afterwards in which many hundreds of members were present, the biggest work groups I ever met.

1996 in the DPV-DPG group conference in Seeon (Germany) as a follow up of Nazareth I, after an absolutely crucial moment in the conference, it fell on Rafael to read the interpretation of the staff in the SE. There had been a struggle of two groups, because an owned room had been taken by the other group. “The oldest, wisest” and the only Israeli member of the staff, “the most appropriate person, a German-born, internationally renowned and admired Jewish psychoanalyst”, now white haired told the German membership that unconsciously they were parentless refugees. The director of that conference, Ross Lazar, (whom I have just quoted from his conference report) interpreted the moved reception of that interpretation as an absolution, illusionary taken by the Germans. But that was not the case. Rafael could spell out the Cain-interpretation, so that it could be taken as a matter of fact and as a task, but not for desperation. And as this man he remains in our memory, gratefully beloved.