אילן עמית THE LAMP | Adam | Stocks

1HI IAmI

1he Iamp
A (:./ _··/.;
·/···/·./ B·.¸·.//,
by
Ilan Amit

IURIKA IDI1IONS 2009
© IlanAmit / Iureka Iditions 2008
ISBN/IAN: 9¯8-90-¯2395-64-1
All rights reserved. No part oí this publication may be repro-
duced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any íorm or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo-copying, recording
or otherwise, without the prior permission oí Iureka Iditions.
1able oí contents
Introduction 9
1rivialities 9
Not Knowing Who We Are 11
About 1his Book 14
chapter 1: I Went Out Alone 1¯
An Adult conspiracy 1¯
Iarly Iears 18
How Iiano Is Ilayed 20
A Bespectacled Boy 22
Shiíting my Viewpoint 23
1he Iecking Order 25
A Secret Society 26
Weeping in mountains 2¯
chapter 2: Schaechter 31
Alleged Irooí oí the Non-existence oí God 31
Iarly Delinquency 32
Iirst Iove 33
Iarly Incounters with Ideology 35
Iectures by Ieibovitch and Schaechter 38
Schaechters Disciple 40
chapter 3: Alona 45
A Garin is Iormed 45
Alona and her Innuence 4¯
Kíar Giladi and Naama 50
Accusations and Verdict 52
Beginning communal Iiíe 1ogether 53
chapter 4: Garin Yuval 5¯
1he Ivening Irayer 5¯
5
1he Sabbath 58
1he Vineyard 59
more Books and Ieople 61
Other Ieople, Other Groups 64
Neveh Ilan 66
1he Scapegoat 6¯
Invironmental Awareness 69
chapter 5: meeting Remarkable Ieople ¯1
A Very Hot Ilace ¯1
marriage and Iirst Academic Studies ¯2
Ieldenkrais ¯4
An Ixchange on Silence ¯5
Gurdjieíí and Ouspensky ¯¯
Vera 80
Irich Neumann 83
chapter 6: An Ixperimental School 8¯
Iarent and Student 8¯
Yodíat 88
High School 1eacher 91
Iooking Back 93
Separation 95
A New Iorm oí Iiíe 9¯
more oí the 1echnion 98
changing Attitudes 100
chapter ¯: Aronovitch 103
Iarenting 103
I cannot Rely on my Ieelings 104
meeting Aronovitch 106
Beginning Inner Work 109
more on Aronovitch 111
Aronovitch Ieaves 114
6
Irivate and Group Secrecy 115
chapter 8: Glimpses oí Inner Work 11¯
A Green Ieathered Hat 11¯
A Rendezvous With conge 118
]ohns Show 122
Guides and their Innuence 124
Snow at the 1op 128
chapter 9: Iacing the Void 131
1he Iamp Went Out 131
1he Irospect oí Blindness 133
Boxes Re-emerge 135
Voluntary Suííering 136
Krishnamurti 139
Sublime Iresence 142
Blind Dreams 144
chapter 10: changing Ierspectives 14¯
A Real Iiíe Story 14¯
Intimations oí mortality 149
centers íor Inner Work 151
Summer Retreats 153
madame De Salzmann 15¯
Advanced Studies 159
Iamily matters 163
chapter 11:
Arriving at Where We Already Are 16¯
An Argument About meditation 16¯
Sitting íor 1hree Hours a Day 169
Ambition and Resignation 1¯1
A Iesson írom 1ai chi 1¯2
Real Work Is Iart oí Iiíe 1¯3
¯
climbing a Iadder 1¯5
more about Sleep 1¯8
Raven cry 180
chapter 12: Ireedom and Inevitability 185
Unseen Sights 185
Irivileged Vantage Ioint 188
A Iogical 1autology· 190
Assuming Responsibility íor the Inevitable 192
Voluntary Suííering 194
Iear oí Death 195
Virtual Reality 198
Iierce Grace 200
8
Introduction
1rivialities
IN 1HIS BOOK I am going to describe parts oí my liíe,
including the things with which I was, and mainly still am
occupied. Not that I am a particularly interesting person
or because my liíe is in some way important or instructive.
Not at all. In íact, my later liíe is probably much less
interesting or instructive than most lives, because oí
my obvious limitations. Having been blind íor 25 years
now, I cannot simply go on an excursion somewhere in
the mountains íor a day or two, like I used to do when I
was young. Nor can I take my car and drive to the Dead
Sea or to Iake 1iberias, enjoying the drive along empty
roads and waiting íor the lake to appear down in the
valley, while most people are at their routine jobs, as I
sometimes used to do. 1he list oí things I cannot do now,
things I used to do as a sighted person, is quite extensive:
read printed books, draw or paint, search through a
secondhand book store, study maps and guide books
íor an upcoming trip to a new country, learn about new
discoveries in mathematics or physics, or decipher ancient
texts - ]ewish or others.
Still, as with everyone else, I have only my present liíe
to deal with. 1rying to recollect an idealized version oí the
past or dream up possible rosy íutures will suit neither my
almost venerable age nor my hard-won understanding. So
íor the moment I bring myselí to examine the apparent
trivialities that constitute my daily or weekly routines,
trying to nnd what they can teach me about liíe, the
world, and myselí.
1here is one strange thing that I almost never íail to
do in the morning. Is it a meditative exercise to begin
9
the day· Or am I períorming the long íorm¨ oí 1ai
chi meditation in movement· Or at least walking
íor an hour on the treadmill, keeping myselí íit· No,
these I also do sometimes, even quite oíten, but not
with the regularity oí that special daily activity that I
almost never íail to períorm. Well, here is what I do: I
check the closing price oí a particular stock on the U.S.
stock exchange. I bought it íiíteen years ago, thanks to
my son, who worked until recently in that particular
company and still owns more stock in it than I do.
Over the years the stock has lost most oí its original
value. Yet I have not sold it, due to a sense oí having to
share the burden oí anxiety íor that stock with my son,
as well as the hope that its price will eventually go up,
at the end oí the day, the year, or the decade.
But why do I keep myselí updated on the daily value
oí that particular stock· Am I so íond oí money that
I am waiting íor a chance to sell at a pront· Or am I
superstitious, íearing catastrophe to my savings· Neither.
I enjoy the security oí earning money, yet I do not grieve
too much over its sudden or gradual loss.
1here was a time when I became rich, as a result oí a
deal in stocks with an American company. 1hen that
American stock lost much oí its value, due to various
uníoreseeable events. When the time came íor resale oí
my American stocks, I was no longer rich, but oí very
modest means. Iersonally, I was surprised to notice how
little this nnancial saga aííected me.
So why do I íollow that stock with such regularity· Or
why do I do a diíncult crossword puzzle every week, even
at the expense oí more pressing tasks· 1hey say that doing
diíncult crossword puzzles protects your mind írom old
age dementia. But there are lots oí other recommended
preventative measures that no one íollows, probably just
10
because they are recommended. We tend to avoid most
things deemed as useíul¨.
We seem to have a deep need íor rituals, public or
private. We also seek regularity - brushing our teeth,
sipping our morning coííee, eating our regular meals. We
períorm these rites, not just because they are necessary,
but also because they provide structure and apparent
meaning to the now oí time. Iike the week oí labor and
the day oí rest, like a prayer that begins your day, like a
ritualistic meditation, like an oííering at the altar.
One day you see it. You observe the way you go
through the motions. Yes, it is not a true ritual. Not a
real prayer. But then is a real ritual real· What kind oí
nostalgia lies behind an actual prayer· What are we really
searching íor in this liíe, in this world, in ourselves·
Not Knowing Who We Are
Once, in a series oí group meetings, we, the group
members, tried to tell our liíe stories. Only two or
three stories could be included in a single meeting. We
were aware oí what Ouspensky says in !o ·..·./ ./ //.
m··..·/.··, that when Gurdjieíí gave this exercise to his
disciples, everyone avoided or misrepresented vital details.
In our example, though, the question oí keeping to the
íacts did not play a central role. Rather, we saw íriends
with whom we were meeting in the group on a regular
basis in quite a new light. We learned that some oí them
shouldered burdens oí which no one was previously aware,
such as supporting a wiíe who suííered recurring attacks
oí major depression or having a childhood that could only
be described as delinquent and how it was subsequently
transíormed, almost transmutated. Some people related
their experiences oí survival during the Holocaust at a
very young age.
11
clearly such stories can grip our imagination and
arouse our empathy. In a group meeting, however,
another aspect also became prominent, though not
equally in all stories: Ieople íailed to appreciate what was
unique about them. Iersonally, I had already become
aware oí this phenomenon in another context. 1here
were two people who played a central role in bringing
about the establishment oí the Gurdjieíí inner work in
Israel, Amnon and Yehuda. With time, Amnon took
a conírontative position vis-à-vis our Irench guides
in this work. He started his own groups without their
authorization, although he did receive consistent support
írom other senior members oí the work. Still, he continued
his personal participation in the original group that was
working with those Irench guides. He was a psychologist
by proíession and many people in the group turned to him
íor personal advice.
I remember a group meeting, without the presence oí
Irench guides, where questions oí our integrity as a group
came up, in view oí the íriction among the Irench guides,
on one hand, and among us on the other. Amnon spoke
in that meeting, in an unexpectedly conciliatory tone. He
said he wished to relate a story. I do not know to this day
ií it was a traditional ]ewish íolktale or an impromptu
invention. It went like this:
1here was once a íamous christian monastery, which
attracted many visitors and had a constant stream oí
would-be acolytes. With time, however, disputes broke
out among the monks and the image oí the monastery
became tarnished. Iewer and íewer people came íor visits,
and instead oí acquiring new recruits, the monastery lost
veteran monks. 1he situation went írom bad to worse,
until only nve monks remained and they could not agree
on what to do next. One oí them heard oí a wise ]ewish
12
rabbi living nearby and he suggested that they go to
consult with him.
1he rabbi listened to their stories about how liíe in the
monastery had been in the past and what it had come to.
He pondered íor a long time, then said: I dont know
what to say to you to help you solve your problem. 1he
only thing I can tell you is that one oí you is the savior,
only one, and I dont know which oí you that is. 1he nve
monks returned to the monastery disappointed, because
the rabbi could not tell them what to do. Still, since one
oí them was the savior and it could be any one oí them,
they began to respect each other. 1his created a change
íor the better in the atmosphere. Visitors began to return
and their positive impressions encouraged more visitors
to come. 1he monasterys reputation began to improve
and newcomers began to arrive as acolytes. Iinally the
monastery resumed its íormer glory.
Several months aíter that meeting, someone
called to tell me that Amnon had passed away. I was
dumbíounded. He had just turned 61. He had said he íelt
a little tired, had lain down on the soía, and suddenly he
was gone: He leít a wiíe and two daughters and a host oí
younger people íor whom he was a guide. I knew Amnon
írom a very early age. I still remember little things about
him, his way oí speaking with a smile, his eagerness to
learn new things, new teachings, new proíessional ways
oí treating patients. 1hen a thought struck me, like
a revelation: While I had just revived an impression oí
Amnon, oí what was particular about him, what was
unique, he could not have had a similar impression oí
himselí, no matter how hard he tried. He, Amnon, did
not know he was Amnon. He could not have known what
being Amnon entailed. I too cannot know what others
know about me - what it means to be Ilan.
13
We are born into the world as individuals, but not
entirely separate individuals. We are part oí something, an
entire, grand unity. As such, we íail to have very distinct
boundaries. Rather we penetrate each other spiritually
and emotionally. Nevertheless, despite the practical and
theoretical hurdles associated with our individuality, we
are still born as individuals and die as such. What need,
what absence do we íulnll by coming into the world·
We cannot really know that. It seems, however, that
each oí us brings with him something unique, that has
never been beíore and will never be again. It is a single
note or perhaps a little tune that become part oí the huge
orchestra oí liíe. Yet individually we do not know what
this note or tune is. We cannot recognize this particular
aspect oí ourselves. Others can, but we cant.
One oí the reasons to encourage people to narrate their
liíe story may be to help them make an eííort to identiíy
their own voice, their specinc contribution to existence.
can they· Irobably not. 1he mongols oí Genghis Khan
never washed. 1heir clothes, made oí animal hide,
absorbed body odors. Among the mongolian nobility
it was considered a compliment to let someone wear
your coat, with your intense body odor. But could you
identiíy your own body odor· Writing a biography seems,
thereíore, a hopeless attempt to recognize your personal
odor, though such an endeavor is, in a way, the most
appealing.
About 1his Book
1his book proceeds more or less chronologically, starting
with impressions oí my early childhood and continuing to
my early teachers and others who signincantly innuenced
my early adult liíe. I then describe the garin (nucleus
14
group) Yuval, the attempt to realize our early ideals,
and additional people who had a signincant innuence or
introduced me to other masters and their teachings. 1hen
I describe my short, though íor me interesting, career
as school teacher. my actual contact with the Gurdjieíí
groups occupies the next two chapters (¯ and 8). chapter
9 deals with the issue oí blindness, while the next is again
about inner work in the groups. 1he penultimate chapter
brings my contemporary ideas and understanding with
regard to groups, exercises, etc. Iinally, the last chapter
(12) addresses issues related to my outer, rather than inner
work, concluding with a kind oí summary.
1his portrait oí a smooth¨, íocused, and orderly now is
a bit misleading, since there are numerous digressions to
side issues, unrelated to the main subject oí each chapter.
I hope this adds interest and color to the book and helps
the reader nnd that particular note or scent which, as I
have already said, I may not be able to nnd myselí.
I would like to thank several people íor their
contributions, help and encouragement with regard to
this book. I am deeply indebted to my various teachers
mentioned in the text, some oí whom are still alive.
my wiíe Ilana was involved in all stages oí the writing
and made signincant contributions. Ava carmel did a
superb editorial job, in particular in view oí the íact that
I am not a native Inglish speaker. 1he idea oí writing a
spiritual¨ biography was nrst proposed by the publisher
oí this book, who continues to extend his support and
encouragement. Iroí. Iran Yashiv and mr. Illy Ber read
early versions oí the manuscript and made useíul remarks.
15
chapter 1: I Went Out Alone
An Adult conspiracy
I WIN1 OU1 alone. 1he street was crowded. Busy-looking
grownups were passing by without paying any attention
to me. 1hey wore long pants while I, a small boy, was
wearing shorts. I wanted them to take notice oí me, not
to see me as just another silly little boy. I ngured - I dont
know why - that the best way to impress these people in
the street was to pretend that I was speaking Inglish. I
didnt understand Inglish then, but I had oíten heard
British, Indian, and Australian soldiers speaking outside,
under our window. I could distinguish between them by
their diííerent uniíorms and I thought I could adopt their
accents. It was a time oí war. During the night Italian
or other enemy bombers would ny by. 1he sirens would
wake us up and we would hurry down to the little shelter
in our basement, along with the other neighbors. 1he
entrance to the building was íortined with sacks oí sand
and we, the children, would peep outside, to the dark skies
crisscrossed with searchlights that were trying to locate
enemy aircraít. It was both thrilling and írightening,
listening to those nighttime alarms, with a particular
smell oí drowsy people and their blankets. Aíter several
hours the state oí alarm ended.
So, walking in the street, I began talking to myselí out
loud, in my mock Inglish. I wonder where I got the idea
that talking to myselí was a common practice. I discretely
watched passers-by, to see what eííect my Inglish had on
them, but I couldnt detect any particular results. Was it
really possible that they were unimpressed, or did they
realize that my Inglish was not real· I concluded against
the latter possibility, nrstly, because I was convinced that

my babbling was somewhat like the real thing. Besides,
they would have paid even more attention ií they had
discovered my ruse.
I cant remember exactly when, but a curious solution
dawned upon me. Ierhaps it was aíter several abortive
attempts. could it be that all oí these people were
unaware oí my presence, even when I was making such a
heroic eííort to demonstrate my Inglish nuency· No, that
was quite implausible. 1hen how could it be explained·
Ividently, these people actually knew me very well and
were observing me in secret. 1hey wanted to see how I
behaved on my own, thinking that I was unobserved.
1hey would then tell my parents what they saw. Aíter
some time all that would be cleared up. my parents would
explain to me how I was being tested and I hoped that
I would have stood the test very well. Yet that expected
revelation never came. I gradually accustomed myselí to
the íacts oí liíe. Why, as a little boy, did I íeel írustration
at not being noticed by casual passers-by in the street·
I dont remember myselí as eager to attract attention
(although I may have conveniently covered this up since
then).
Iarly Iears
In another early memory I had just gone to bed and the
light was switched oíí, when I experienced a peculiar
sensation. 1he walls oí my room were receding,
accompanied by a sound or whistle, like the honking
oí an approaching car. 1he walls were pulsating and
I experienced the sensation oí íalling into an endless
abyss, although I was actually lying saíely in bed. 1hese
sensations, both írightening and thrilling, were repeated
every night.
18
1hen a íear began to grip me while I was lying in bed.
As íar as I remember, it was not related to the sensation
oí the receding walls and íalling, but it occurred during
approximately the same period. It dawned on me that
my parents, and in particular my mother, could suddenly
die. my íather was absorbed with his proíessional and
community responsibilities. I liked to go íor walks with
him, but it was my mother upon whom I was dependent.
Surely I could not manage one day without her. But
what ií she died· What would become oí me· I became
so depressed by this thought that once it gripped me I
began to cry. my mother would come to console me and
I would say to her, as I remember distinctly, mother, I
dont want you to die.¨ She would respond by promising
that she was not going to die, not yet. I wanted to believe
her. It was vital, but a little doubt persisted and the next
night it could start all over again.
Since then many things have changed. In his old age,
my íather became almost totally deaí and could no longer
communicate with people. my mother, who had been a
very active person, suííered írom Alzheimers disease
in her nnal years. my íather died 25 years ago and my
mother several years later. Iach oí them reached the
venerable age oí 92. 1hus both oí them died at more or
less their proper time and that was how my elder sister
and I accepted it. Where was the early íear oí being leít
alone that lay so heavily on me as a child· my íather lost
his own íather at an early age and, as a schoolboy, had to
support his íamily. He once told me, You do not become
a true adult until your íather has died.¨ 1oday I tend to
agree with him and I think that this is true oí your mother
as well.
I dealt with a diííerent kind oí íear several years later.
my íathers work during that period took him out oí
19
town. He would sometimes return home on weekends,
while other weekends we would go to visit him at his
workplace. 1his meant that my mother and I were leít
alone during the week. my elder sister, twenty years my
senior, was married and living íar away. By then I was
nine or ten years old. 1he íormer íear oí being leít alone
due to my mothers death was gone, but another concern
began to grip me. What ií my mother suddenly dies in
her sleep· How would I know· What would I do· Who
would I call to connrm her death and what arrangements
would be necessary· It seems to me now that my main
concern during that period was the unavoidable need to
keep touching my mothers body to see ií she was alive.
my mother was a short, beautiíul, and very íeminine
woman, who spoke several languages and recited classical
poetry by heart. I was still attached to her and my
revulsion at the thought oí the corpse that would be leít
behind was not in any way a shrinking írom her. Rather, it
represented a young boys íear oí everything connected to
death, íear oí the untouchable. Why should a corpse, and
in particular that oí your mother, be untouchable· At that
time it was not a conscious conclusion on my part, but an
instinctive repulsion that I still experience today, though
not in relation to those close to me, like my mother or
wiíe.
How Iiano Is Ilayed
mrs. Ilstein, an elderly woman who lived in the
adjacent apartment, was a piano teacher. During the
era oí silent movies she had played piano in the local
cinemas. Now she taught young girls and one or two
boys, who hesitantly repeated the same tunes, which
I used to hear through the apartment wall. Only a íew
20
oí her students were older and produced what seemed to
be more serious music.
Ior some reason my mother did not suggest that I too
take piano lessons with mrs. Ilstein. Ierhaps we could
not aííord it, perhaps she considered me too young.
We had what was then called a tea wagon. It was a
little glass table with íour small wheels, that stood by the
armchair in our living room. I used to pretend it was a
piano. I would tap on it with my nngers and imagine I
heard a song I was íond oí at the time, 1he Ierpetual
Iund will help secure our land.¨ 1oday this would be
considered a jingle, but then we took it quite seriously.
I was sure that this was how one plays the piano. You
sing the song to yourselí and tap the piano keys with your
nngers, the way I did on the tea wagon.
I was in the nrst or second grade, when one day my
schoolteacher asked who would volunteer to play the
piano at a ceremony planned íor upcoming íestivities.
Only two oí us raised our hands - Shulamit and I. I was
surprised, since I already knew that playing the piano
was such an easy matter. Why didnt more pupils come
íorward· 1he teacher told us to stay aíter school, to
demonstrate our piano playing ability. She led us to a
room with a piano, where the school principal waited.
Shulamit played nrst.
Do you want to play írom sheet music or by heart·¨
the teacher asked her. Shulamit chose to play írom
sheet music. Her playing was slow and hesitant, which I
attributed to her choice oí sheet music, rather than the
song she heard in her heart. When my turn came, I chose
to play by heart and I treated the piano as I had treated
our tea wagon. I tapped with my nnger, rather quickly,
the rhythm oí 1he Ierpetual Iund will help secure our
land¨. 1o my great astonishment the music that came
21
out was very diííerent írom the song inside me. I could
not understand it, but I dared not show my írustration
outwardly.
Several days later my mother told me that she had
met the school principal, who had congratulated her
on my períormance. She said she assured him that I had
never taken piano lessons and I most certainly could not
play piano. So Shulamit was the one who played at the
ceremony. However, I did begin taking piano lessons with
mrs. Ilstein.
A Bespectacled Boy
When I was seven years old, I was already somewhat
diííerent írom the other schoolboys. I wore glasses, a rare
thing íor children at that time. I was a poor sportsman,
due to a congenital eye disease, which restricted me
írom an early age. my íather was a teacher and vice-
principal in the school in which I studied íor the next
12 years, though not at the same campus. While I was
in elementary school, this pedigree was írowned upon.
1eachers were considered to be the enemy and a teachers
son was a potential traitor. Nevertheless, when we, the
boys, ambushed the girls aíter school, as we oíten did, it
was I who had to explain to the school principal the next
day that it was the girls, not us, who started it. At home I
would wrack my brain íor what seemed, at least to me, to
be a convincing explanation. 1he next day the principal
would listen to me very seriously. I would always believe
that this time I had really impressed him. Yet it always
ended up with some punishment or other imposed on all
oí us. Again I had íailed in my special mission.
When we werent ambushing the girls on our way
home or stopping revolving water sprinklers on the grass,
22
thoroughly wetting ourselves in the process, or jumping
írom wall to wall, where once someone íell and broke his
jaw, we would nght each other. 1hese nghts oíten turned
into bullying sessions against one oí the weaker, less
popular boys, myselí included.
It was wintertime and my mother had just bought me
a new coat, which I really liked. I can still remember the
new smell oí that coat. I wore it to school íor the nrst time,
with obvious satisíaction. But that same day on my way
home, I became the target oí the bullies. I ended up being
thrown down on the muddy ground. 1he other boys ran
away and I stood up, íeeling deeply sorry that my new
coat was nlthy.
I took the incident as an aííront to my parents, who had
worked so hard to earn the money íor my coat. When the
other boys threw me down on the ground, they hadnt
taken this into account. When I came home I burst into
tears and told my mother what had happened and how I
íelt about it. 1o my surprise she didnt take the incident
so seriously. She assured me that she could easily launder
the coat and it would look like new again. But I did not
give up my wounded íeelings so easily and I continued to
ponder the incident in the same way I had tried to dream
up explanations oí why we had ambushed the girls aíter
school.
Shiíting my Viewpoint
I have a strong recollection about that aíternoon,
although nothing particularly signincant actually
happened. At times when I íound myselí thinking about
our above-mentioned explanations íor ambushing the
girls, I íound it helpíul to detach myselí írom our cause
and look at things objectively. 1his time, when I thought
23
about the uníairness oí my classmates, it occurred to me
to try to look at the incident more objectively. But how·
I again imagined the details oí the incident. Here I was
and here were the others. I tried to see things írom their
perspective, instead oí mine. I íound that it was much less
malicious than I had supposed. In íact, the others did not
harbor any particular bad íeelings or hatred towards me
or my parents. Indeed, they werent even aware oí the íact
that I was wearing a new coat. Ií they had been, perhaps
they would have been more cautious. Anyway, I was sure
they had already íorgotten the incident. Ií I still recalled
it, it was because I was still angry at them.
What was the lesson oí this shiít in viewpoint· I asked
myselí. I re-examined the incident. Here I was, lying on
the ground in my new coat. And here were the other boys,
getting ready to go home. I íound I could choose with
whom to identiíy. It was natural to identiíy with myselí,
lying there on the ground. But why should I identiíy
with myselí· It was certainly not the best position in
this particular case. But then, with whom else should I
identiíy· Yes, I could choose someone else, but in the long
run that would not necessarily prove to be better than
identiíying with myselí. Why couldnt I just reírain írom
identincation and always look at things objectively, as I
am doing at this moment·
I cant recall what happened later, but I subsequently
adopted that objective outlook. It was not the result oí a
conscious choice. I was still too young íor that. Apparently
I had initially been inclined to adopt an objective outlook
and that incident helped awaken it in me. Is everybody
similarly inclined· I do not know. Some people give a
contrary impression. In my own children, now already
grown up, I nnd a similar inclination, to a greater or lesser
degree. One thing it entails is that you do not expect
24
your liíe to be an ongoing celebration and you do not íeel
cheated when it isnt so.
1he Iecking Order
When I was a child, my parents used to restrict my social
activities, íearing a recurrence oí the eye condition that led
to the operations I underwent as a baby. Needless to say,
I had no recollection oí these operations and I believed
that my parents used them as convenient excuses íor
making me stay home. 1here was already an established
pecking order among the children living on the same
street and attending the same school. 1he highest in the
pecking order were those who, íor some reason or other,
were not restricted or disciplined by their parents. 1hey
could go out whenever they liked and stay out as late as
they pleased. 1he more restrictions any oí us experienced
at home, the íurther down the social ladder he íound
himselí.
Naturally, at that time I was not íamiliar with the
concept oí a pecking order. I think it was only introduced
aíter World War II, while the events I am describing here
took place during the war. Nevertheless, I understood
what a negative eííect these restrictions had on my social
standing.
In the hope oí redressing this situation I decided to write
a book. I had just started reading the daily newspaper and
I was very impressed by ads that read Sir (madam), you
(masculine) / you (íeminine) are hereby invited to visit .¨
1he idea oí killing two birds with one stone seemed to me
a symbol oí linguist eínciency and I decided to adopt it
in the book I was about to write. I think I used a little
clothbound notebook, which I probably received on my
seventh birthday. 1he book began: Ivery boy (girl) needs
25
his (her) social environ-ment¨. In Hebrew, the language
in which I wrote the book, there are diííerent suínxes
íor verb íorms according to gender, which I indicate in
Inglish by (he, she). 1he book proceeded to describe the
uníortunate innuence on a boys (girls) acceptance in
society oí restrictions imposed on him (her) by his (her)
parents. I remember my mother showing the book to her
íriends, with obvious satisíaction. But it did not have a
positive eííect on the restrictions I suííered.
A Secret Society
Some years later several oí my íriends established a secret
society with the acronym IDWID - Iat, drink, íor we
die tomorrow¨. Strict tests were imposed on those who
wished to join. 1hey had to prove their resourceíulness
by acquiring a substantial stock oí sweets, preíerably by
breaking the law. I myselí was not admitted to IDWID,
but I was íamiliar with its activities, through a íriend who
was a íounding member. At the time some new boys had
come to live in our neighborhood. most were oí German
descent. 1heir parents had ned Nazi Germany and settled
in Ialestine. 1hese boys could easily be distinguished by
their íoreign accents, their Iuropean clothes, unsuited
to the local climate, and their renned manners, which
we veterans loved to mock. 1heir arrival extended our
pecking order, so that I was no longer in the lowest ranks.
One oí these boys oí German descent was Daniel. I was
taken aback by a rumor that Daniel had been admitted
to IDWID. Initially I did not believe it, but my above-
mentioned íriend agreed to tell me the story, on condition
that I didnt tell anyone else. (I hope this commitment is
no longer in íorce.) Daniels parents, said my íriend, wrote
26
a letter to the heads oí IDWID. 1hey explained that
Daniel, being a new immigrant, had diínculty integrating
into the local peer society. 1hey begged IDWID to
accept him as a member and to help with his integration.
In addition they oííered any necessary support. 1here was
a general discussion oí the entire IDWID membership.
It was decided to admit Daniel, on the condition that he
supply the necessary provisions íor the get-togethers,
which his parents readily did.
I continued to be on íriendly terms with Daniel íor
many years. He ultimately became a proíessor oí electrical
engineering in the USA, wrote several proíessional books,
married, and had children and grandchildren. Recently I
discovered a recorded message írom him on my telephone,
saying he was in Israel íor a visit and suggesting that we
meet. Uníortunately I discovered the message too late,
íor when I called I was told that he had already leít the
country.
Weeping in the mountains
As with Daniel, another meeting with my mother, now
long deceased, is no longer possible, though the reasons
are obviously diííerent. In her later years, my mother was
living in a twilight world oí her own. I sometimes wrote
down things she said, since her monologues became
poetic during those years.
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28
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·.c.c/.·. ! .·/ ,.·· !· ·/ /.···//. o./ /. ·.c.c/.· ··./ //·o¸·.
29
chapter 2: Schaechter
Alleged Irooí oí the Non-existence oí God
A1 1HI AGI oí 11 or 12, the problem oí whether or not
God exists began to trouble me. It was several years since I
had begun to read in school the biblical stories oí creation,
the Garden oí Iden, the sin oí Adam and Ive and their
expulsion írom paradise. 1here were the myths oí the
nood and the 1ower oí Babel. In most oí these and other
tales, God had a plan íor the universe, íor humanity and
íor the Israelites, but this plan was thwarted, again and
again, by the disobedience oí humanity in general or oí
particular human beings. Naturally I sided with God and
íelt thankíul to him íor sparing Adam and Ive, even aíter
they had sinned, íor rescuing Noah írom the nood with
his ark and subsequently striking a covenant with the
descendants oí Noah that never again would humanity
be destroyed. 1he question oí what the existence oí God
entailed íor me as a person came up only when I was about
11 years old.
I remember walking with a classmate and
discussing the existence oí God with him. my íather
was a mathematician and I too had an inclination to
mathematical thinking, even at an early age. 1his was
equally true oí my classmate. 1he íollowing argument
occurred to me during this discussion: Space, geometric
space (the space envisaged by the axioms and theorems
oí geometry) is unlimited, i.e., it is innnite. Ií God exists,
He must consequently be somewhere in this space, since
there cannot be anything outside or beyond innnity.
But geometric space is homogenous. Iach point is like
any other. 1hus the points where God exists cannot be
special in any way. 1hey must be like all others. But
31
this contradicts the special nature oí God, His absolute
uniqueness. Hence God cannot exist.
my íriend could not think up a counter-argument, so
both oí us accepted my reasoning as conclusive. Ií ever
God had existed, He ceased to exist írom then on, íor a
considerable length oí time, at least as íar as my íriend
and I were concerned. As a result oí this apparent demise
oí God, I seem to have lost all nrm grounding íor moral
principles during that period.
Iarly Delinquency
I became a member oí a gang, much like IDWID and
became completely involved in the activities oí this gang.
I can now see that what we were doing was to test the
borders between acceptable and unacceptable behavior,
by engaging in íorbidden activities, mainly shopliíting.
We would individually go into a department store,
take a toy revolver that pleased us, and put it in a pocket.
1he next time we would take ammunition íor the toy
gun, ammunition that would make a lot oí noise without
causing any harm. Or we would go by ourselves to a shop
that sold cheap ornaments, ask to see a íew, then hide one
in a pocket. I remember once having stolen a thin chain
íor a pendant in this manner. One oí my íriends told me it
was made oí gold and that I must return it. I dont know ií
he could really tell what it was made oí, but I immediately
accepted his judgment. Returning it aroused the suspicion
oí the owner and it was more diíncult than stealing it.
One oí the German boys had an extensive stamp
collection. Some oí us used to go to his house to look at
his collection, and we always managed to take some oí his
stamps, without his noticing. Our most írequent activity
oí this kind, however, was to steal bottles oí juice írom a
32
small store near our school, where the shopkeeper used to
store his bottles behind the store. 1he shopkeeper became
aware oí what we were doing and he would chase us to
the back gate oí the school, which was always closed. We
could crawl under the closed gate and disappear and he
couldnt íollow us.
However, one day he gave a detailed description oí
us to the school principal and we were summoned to his
oínce. It was a diííerent principal írom the one we had
had in the lower grades. He did not discipline us with
punishment, but held a kind oí a moral debate with us.
I dont remember exactly what he said, but it leít a deep
impression on me. Irom that day on, I leít the gang and
its activities, as ií I had nnally íound and internalized the
borders oí legitimacy. Other boys continued unperturbed
and some ended up as outright criminals.
Iirst Iove
Girls interested me írom an early age, in particular the
good-looking, radiant ones. I was, however, extremely
bashíul in my relations with them. I could not believe they
would ever be interested in me, since I was such a poor
sportsman. Besides, my mother and sister kept telling me
that I looked like a little monkey. 1hey probably meant
it as a joke, but I took it quite seriously and concluded
that, not only did I wear glasses, but I was also not worth
looking at.
my selí-assurance grew a little stronger as I got older,
since I was considered by the others, and partly also by
myselí, to be intelligent and wise¨. At the age oí 13 or
14 I liked to read romances and biographies oí real or
nctitious characters who displayed a certain excellence
that compensated íor their dencient looks.
33
1here was one girl, Aviva, whom I particularly liked
during that period. She was a classmate who lived in
my neighborhood. We used to visit each other, do our
homework together and talk. She was good-looking and
there was a serene atmosphere about her that appealed to
me very much. One day Aviva came to my house. We sat
in my room and talked. I steered the conversation towards
her and her preíerences regarding boys. She participated
without reservation, which encouraged me a lot. I asked
her ií she would mind ií a boy touched her. She said it
depended.
Upon what does it depend·¨ I asked.
It depends on who it is.¨
And ií it were someone you liked·¨
Ií it were someone I liked, then perhaps.¨
Inwardly I was excited, but I tried not to show it.
And ií it were someone you liked in particular·¨ I
asked.
Someone I liked in particular . probably yes.¨ she said.
I stood up and began pacing the noor.
Would you say you liked me in particular·¨ I asked
her.
1here was a moment oí silence. 1hen she said yes.
I went out to the little balcony, with its potted plants
tended by my mother. I thought the syllogism was clear:
She would not mind ií someone she liked in particular
touched her. I was someone she liked in particular.
conclusion: She would not mind ií I touched her. I
returned to the room. She was sitting on a chair. I stood
behind her and took her íace in my hands. I probably
expected her to get up and embrace me or to give me
some other positive signal. She did not move. Apparently
she did not expect me to act right away or she was simply
taken aback by my sudden boldness.
34
I lost heart. I íelt the ground give way beneath my
íeet, at least metaphorically. What should I do now· I
íelt intensely ashamed and I wanted her to go, so I would
not become even more embarrassed. I took out one oí
the books I was reading, which described an outstanding
person and his love. I gave it to her and said Read it and
you will understand me better.¨ With that we parted
and never again met in private. Ior years I could not
íorget the incident. It gave me an impression oí myselí as
someone disconnected írom the intuitions and emotions
that regulate our interpersonal relations, someone trying
to rely on reasoning and words alone.
In later years my attitude towards the incident
changed. 1he sense oí shame and ridicule weakened.
Instead, I noted that I could remember not only the details
oí what had happened, what was said and experienced,
but also the entire setting: the íurniture in the room, the
little balcony and it plants, a bookcase and the books
it contained, Avivas hair and its style, perhaps even
what she was wearing. How did that come about, when
other, more satisíying events I could remember only as
headlines, recalling that such and such took place, without
recollection oí any particular detail·
Iarly Incounters with Ideology
1he town oí Haiía, where I lived during those years,
extended írom the port uphill to the summit oí a partly
íorested, moderately sized hill - mount carmel. In
general, the better neighborhoods were the upper ones.
I lived about halíway up the slope. A íriend oí mine lived
two streets below. His íather had a shop íor the sale and
repair oí leather bags oí all kinds, including schoolbags.
I oíten went to see him at home or at his íathers shop,
35
which were located in the same building. His íather
dressed and behaved, not as a shop owner, but as a
craítsman, somewhat like a shoemaker. 1he íamily took
pains to create the impression oí belonging to the working
class, which was more acceptable in those days, at least in
some circles, than belonging to the middle class, like my
parents.
One day my íriend asked me ií I had read 1/. ·./../.!
v··/·o¸· oí marx and Ingels. I was a voracious reader, at a
time when television and computers were still unknown.
At 13 or 14 I used to read books intended íor older boys.
However, I hadnt considered such a book as suitable
íor someone my age. my íriend gave me the book and I
devoured it, nnishing it that same day. What struck
me was the way the book suddenly made sense oí the
mysterious world oí grown-ups, how most people, i.e.,
the working class, make a living írom their work, but do
not own the necessary machinery. 1he íew who own the
machinery, the capitalists, make a pront by selling the
products oí the labor oí those workers íor much higher
prices than the workers are paid. 1he capitalists have the
right to that added value, thanks to their ownership oí
the means oí production, i.e., the machines. 1he workers,
who since the industrial revolution have not had means
oí production oí their own, have no choice but to sell
their physical or mental work to the capitalists, íor the
minimum wages, in order to survive. 1his injustice can-
not continue íor long. 1he workers will acquire those
means oí production during a revolution that will do away
with the capitalists and bring about a dictatorship oí the
proletariat.
And what about the middle class, like my íather and
mother· 1his class cannot hold out íor long, I explained
to my íather. It is bound to join the ranks oí either the
36
workers or the capitalists. my parents, who had already
heard oí this socialist ideology, tried to raise doubts about
its rationality and validity. However, they could not
propose any alternative explanation oí the contemporary
social world that could rival, in breadth and totality,
what I had read. I concluded that this was the only
comprehensive philosophy available and decided to
delve deeper into its details, such as so-called historical
materialism¨, the theory that proíesses to explain the
course oí history by means oí technological and economic
developments.
It was a time oí political riít in the country, a riít
between the more extreme political parties with
communist tendencies and the less extreme Social
Democrats. 1he riít was so intense that kibbutzim (plural
oí kibbutz), or communal settlements, broke apart, with
one íaction remaining and the other settling in a new
kibbutz nearby. Iamilies separated along political lines
and emotions ran very high. 1he pioneering spirit was
still strong and the youth movements encouraged us, the
youngsters, to settle in new kibbutzim or to integrate into
existing ones. consequently the political riít extended,
overtly or not, to the youth movements. my íather was
chieí oí the Boy Scouts in the country and I was a Boy
Scout myselí. Our Boy Scout movement was quite
diííerent írom the British or American ones, in that it
included youngsters oí 1¯ and 18 as regular members, not
just group leaders oí younger groups. 1he idea was that
these youngsters (i.e. ourselves) would go to a kibbutz
right aíter they nnished their secondary education. And
so this movement also suííered the above-mentioned
political riít.
my íather was naturally inclined towards the Social
Democrats while I, as is common among the youth, was

ideologically, a sworn extremist. I soon íound out that
more senior members also held similar views, so my
íriend, the son oí the leather bag dealer, and I volunteered
to join them. It was a clandestine aííair and I was not
immediately trusted, because my íather was in the
opposite camp. Aíter a while, though, I was welcomed.
I met regularly with my new íriends and learned oí the
many secret and less secret activities they were involved
in. 1he underground atmosphere was very thrilling, in
particular since I íelt that we were bringing the workers
revolution nearer to realization. my íather did not
intervene, either because he did not know, or because he
thought I should be íree to decide íor myselí.
A year passed, with my links to my new íriends
becoming ever stronger, as is oíten the case in a
clandestine endeavor. However, my ideological
convictions grew weaker. I listened to political discussions
and heard arguments that had not occurred to me
previously. I came upon other philosophical books that
contradicted the ideas oí marx and Ingels. moreover,
the secrecy oí our activities began to trouble me, as ií
it signaled a lack oí honesty, although I did not quite
understand the nature oí that lack.
Iectures by Ieibovitch and Schaechter
I was already in the níth or sixth grade. In school, írom
time to time we would be invited to lectures by university
proíessors, one oí whom was the late Yeshaya Ieibovitch,
a renowned orator, who was both an orthodox ]ew and a
well-known researcher in biology and philosophy. I recall
a brilliant lecture by Ieibovitch on his theme Idealism and
materialism. I am not sure that I understood everything,
38
but íor the nrst time I heard a strong, rational argument
against materialism. I saw that Ieibovitch held a world
view, an ideology that was not less comprehensive than
that oí marx, and probably closer to contemporary
science.
Now I íaced a dilemma. I was personally attached to
my íriends in the clandestine organization, but I no
longer shared their political views. I put some questions
to them and saw they had trouble answering. 1hey, in
turn, said they íelt that my allegiance to my íather was
innuencing me and suggested that we part company. I
was disappointed but relieved.
Dr. ]oseph Schaechter was a teacher in the upper grades
oí our school, then considered as one oí the best schools
in the country. many ]ewish scientists, philosophers
and men oí letters ned to Ialestine írom Nazi Germany,
Austria, and czechoslovakia beíore World War II
broke out, due to consistent persecution by the Iascist
authorities. 1he Hebrew University in ]erusalem, then
the only university in the country, could not employ
all, or even most oí them. Some, like Dr. Schaechter,
became secondary school teachers. Others had to take
up incongruous occupations like taxi drivers. Ior many
years there was a well-known taxi station in Haiía that
was staííed exclusively by ex-university proíessors
írom Iurope. moreover, the husband oí a well-known
school principal írom another city, 1el-Aviv, also an ex-
university proíessor írom Germany, worked as a street
cleaner. He maintained his job until pension and proudly
displayed his broom and scoop in his apartment.
Our school and other schools benented considerably
írom these uníortunate circumstances. However we,
as youngsters, did not yet understand nor appreciate
this. In sixth grade, the students barely listened to Dr.
39
Schaechter, who taught unpopular subjects such as Bible
and ]ewish philosophy, despite his eííorts to quiet us down.
But when I reached seventh grade, my attitude towards
him changed. During the 1en Days oí Repentance (the
period between the ]ewish New Year and Yom Kippur,
the Day oí Atonement) he was invited to lecture to the
upper grade students in the school auditorium, on the
subject oí repentance. Something in the way he spoke and
the things he said captured my attention.
He began by describing what he called Iron curtains¨
that separate us írom a divine radiation that comes
írom the cosmos. 1hese Iron curtains, he said, are our
belieís, views, and ideologies, which deny the existence
oí this radiation, by materialistic or other arguments.
In his view, the 1en Days oí Repentance did not consist
mainly oí repenting íor specinc deeds. 1hat we could do
whenever the occasion arose. Repentance during the ten
days, he said, consisted primarily in giving up those views
and ideologies and opening up to the divine radiation that
reaches us írom the cosmos.
While listening I renected on my juvenile prooí¨ oí
the non-existence oí God. Was that an Iron curtain·
And what about my views during my association with
Historical materialism· 1here was something in the
way he spoke about the divine cosmic radiation, a deep
humility, an honesty that I immediately appreciated. Ior
the nrst time I íelt the presence oí a higher world and
the need to drop whatever arguments and views negated
that presence.
Schaechters Disciple
I began to watch Dr. Schaechter at school. I saw a group
oí eighth graders, who accompanied him in the breaks
40
between lectures. 1hey walked slowly alongside him until
he would suddenly make an about turn. 1he pupils would
continue by inertia, realize he had turned and hasten back
to catch up with him. It was a somewhat comical aííair.
Still, I joined them during the next break. Schaechter
would invite pupils to his apartment, to read philosophical
texts together: martin Buber, Iudwig Wittgenstein, and
a philosopher I had not heard oí - Soren Kierkegaard. I
attended those meetings regularly and soon íound myselí
to be his most constant adherent. I began to visit him
every aíternoon. We would read philosophical texts and
the articles he wrote, írom time to time. Or we would
go íor a walk together and I would ask questions and he
would answer them. I introduced some oí my close íriends
to him and they would oíten join us.
1o this day I regard Schaechter as my nrst and most
important spiritual teacher. my association with him
occurred at the right age, I had a desire to learn and íound
in him a íountain oí scholarship and inner understanding.
Since he had studied mainly in Vienna, his main sources
were in German. I spoke a little German already and, in
order to read his sources, I quickly mastered enough oí the
language to read books nuently. 1ogether with another
senior student oí his we undertook the publication oí a
Kierkegaard anthology in Hebrew. We could not read
the Danish original, but chose passages and translated
írom a combination oí Inglish and German translations.
1he anthology was printed by a serious publisher while I
was in eighth grade.
my strongest impression írom that period is the
recollection oí a lucidity that descended on me aíter
exchanges with Schaechter, in which I asked a question
that really disturbed me and he answered it. By that
time a certain rapport had been established between us.
41
I seem to have divined, thanks to his presence, the right
questions, and he would zoom in on the appropriate
answer, once more partly thanks to my questioning. He
had a wiíe and a son who was about ten years old then, but
in some sense I was his spiritual son during that period.
I sometimes wondered how my parents accepted my
intensive association with Schaechter. 1hey certainly
preíerred it to my íormer relations with the clandestine
Socialist political circle. Ierhaps they also appreciated
the breadth oí learning I acquired, directly or indirectly,
through him - international and ]ewish literature,
philosophy, and history oí science, as well as the various
]ewish scriptures. Schaechter was íormerly a member
oí the Vienna circle - a leading Neo-Iositivist academic
philosophical center - where he wrote his doctoral thesis
under moritz Schlick. But at the same time he was also a
rabbi and a graduate oí the ]ewish rabbinical seminary in
Vienna.
Yet my mother, who was also acquainted with
Iuropean literature and knowledgeable about it, was
most certainly upset, deep inside, by my preíerence íor
someone else. my íather, I think, was more liberal in these
matters. Yet he too was certainly unhappy about my
voluntary choice oí Schaechter as a spiritual íather.
During that period I discovered a new world oí
letters - poetry, prose, and contemplation. I read
literature in the original languages and was íascinated
by Goethe, Hoeldrlin, Imily Dickinson, and the lesser-
known Austrian poet, Georg 1rakl. I read everything
by Hermann Hesse and in particular his magister Iudi
(1/. c/.·· B..! c.c.), which I greatly admired. I also
read Iranz Kaíka, Heinrich Von Kleist, the Swiss author
Gottíried Keller, and the Austrian Adalbert Stiíter,
in the original German. I was deeply impressed by the
42
major works oí 1olstoy and Dostoevsky, although I had
to read them in translation. I read (though I now believe
I did not really understand some oí these authors at the
time) Ilato, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, as I have already
mentioned, Heidegger, Sartre and - then still in Inglish
- camus m,// ./ ···,//··. I read and greatly admired the
last part oí Wittgensteins 1·.././··. In addition, under
Schaechters tutorship, I read many traditional ]ewish
thinkers, as well as the original ]ewish scriptures. 1his
legacy still plays a central, though perhaps not a unique,
role in my spiritual world, and I shall return to the ideas oí
some oí these authors in later chapters.
What were the central ideas that I, as well as others,
learned írom Schaechter· His chieí concern was íor
what he called meaning¨. contemporary culture is
preoccupied with science, technology, and the material
world, but does not care about meaning, the meaning
oí our individual and collective lives. Ior him meaning
was somehow related to the presence oí a higher world
in our experience oí ourselves and oí others. 1hat was the
original signincance oí religion. He was a traditionalist
in religious matters, that is, he íollowed the precepts oí
orthodoxy, coming as he did írom an orthodox home
in Galicia. However, he was opposed to contemporary
orthodoxy, íor its íailure to make religion relevant to
everyday modern liíe, insisting instead on dated customs
and concerns. In many oí these aspects he was íar ahead oí
his times.
Under Schaechters innuence we ultimately set up
a garin (nucleus group) oí a íuture settlement that
wandered íor several years to various kibbutzim, until it
nnally settled in Yodíat. Schaechter remained in touch
with the members oí Yodíat aíter I had leít íor other
endeavors. He used to come there during the major
43
]ewish íestivals and, írom time to time, would speak to
the members oí the younger generation. In Yodíat a little
apartment was set aside íor him and his wiíe and they were
treated with love and respect. Schaechter passed away in
his early seventies and was buried in Yodíats cemetery.
I attended the íuneral. 1he cemetery was in a sheltered
spot among the pine trees. A cool breeze was blowing in
the trees and there was silence during the proceedings. I
remember thinking that ií it mattered where you were
buried, then this was certainly the place.
44
chapter 3: Alona

A Garin is Iormed
1WO OR 1HRII years aíter the establishment oí the
State oí Israel, the pioneering spirit was still prevailing.
1he most acclaimed path íor a young graduate oí high
school was to join a garin (literally a nucleus), a group
oí young people who did their compulsory army service
together and then joined an existing kibbutz or, with the
blessing oí the authorities, established a new kibbutz.
However, it became clear to me and some oí my íriends
that this situation could not persist íor long. 1he newly
created state had many other needs, besides agricultural
communal settlements - army, industry, education, and
government. 1he pioneering spirit, we argued, would
have to give way to other, broader motivations. Besides,
the waves oí newly arrived immigrants írom muslim
countries, as well as Holocaust survivors, were not moved
by the pioneering spirit, and most oí them would not nnd
their way to a kibbutz.
1he important question íor some oí us who graduated
írom the youth movement during that period was
whether communal settlements like the kibbutz had
become a thing oí the past or whether they could be
resurrected under a diííerent ideology and motivation.
more concretely, could the ideas we learned írom Dr.
Schaechter become the basis íor a new interpretation
oí the communal settlement and a new motivation íor
joining it·
I tried to put this question to Schaechter, but he was
not íamiliar enough with the kibbutz ideology, since he
was not himselí a pioneer. Also, he was mainly interested
in education, seeing himselí as too old to start on a new
45
path, as a teacher in a kibbutz. 1hus it was necessary íor
us to explore the entire question on our own. I was less
than 18 years old, but I was quite certain that I possessed
the necessary qualincations íor such an endeavor. 1his
was, in part, the íamiliar boldness oí an overly selí-assured
youth. But it had also something to do with Schaechter
himselí.
Schaechter had a persistent tendency to criticize
other intellectuals, in particular popular ]ewish and
revered celebrities. Ior instance, whenever Iinstein
was mentioned, Schaechter would say, Iinstein is a
great physicist, but when he starts talking about other
topics, such as religion or philosophy, you suddenly see
that Iinstein is an idiot: Schaechter would repeat this
a number oí times, with evident relish. 1hat was also
his view oí other celebrities, such as Sigmund Ireud. Oí
course we, his young íollowers, were unable to judge
íor ourselves his sharp criticisms and denunciations.
However, we were happy to join in and applaud him. Ior
ií we shared his view that Iinstein was an idiot, how much
more sophisticated and wise we ourselves must be. We
developed a similar derogatory attitude towards many
oí our companions in the youth movement, who did not
share our enthusiasm íor Schaechter and his ideas.
Schaechter came írom a small town in Galicia, where
he was considered a brilliant religious scholar. In search
oí broader education he moved to Vienna, where he had
to carve out a place íor himselí with meager nnancial and
social means. Iollowing the rise oí Iascism in Austria, he
was íorced to leave once more and go to Ialestine, where
again he was at a disadvantage. Some brilliant immigrant
scholars were oííered academic positions, while he, like
many oí the others, had to make a living with diínculty,
as a high school teacher. He íelt that he had a spiritual
46
message, but was rejected by many oí his contemporaries,
in particular by the intellectual elite. By way oí reaction he
developed that sharp, derogatory attitude towards those
who, in his judgment, enjoyed undeserved recognition
and acceptance. I was unaware oí all this at the time and
developed, íor my own part, a selí-important attitude
similar to that oí Schaechter. I imitated him in various
ways, even adopting his style oí handwriting.
I served in the youth movement, as a group leader to
youngsters two years my junior. Naturally I íound them
to be more receptive to my new ideas than those in my
peer group. Still, adherents oí Schaechterism, also known
as Schaechterists, constituted a minority, even among
those youngsters, while in my peer group there were only
three or íour oí us Schaechterists. Initially, we were not
very sure what we actually wanted. However, it became
clearer during our discussions among ourselves, with our
íollowers, and with Schaechter.
Alona and her Innuence
As I have already indicated, the town oí Haiía lies on the
slope oí a hill called mount carmel. It is believed to be
the same mount carmel mentioned in the bible, where
Ilijah had his contest with the prophets oí Baal. 1he top
oí the hill is called the carmel proper, while the slope is
mainly another quarter, Hadar Ha-carmel, or just Hadar
íor short. 1he Boy Scout movement, like our Reali High
School, had diííerent branches, one in Hadar and another
on the carmel proper. I lived in Hadar and was a group
leader there. my closest íriend Yossi, also a Schaechterist,
lived and was a group leader on the carmel. He also had
íollowers among the youngsters he led, one oí whom was
Alona.

Alona came írom a íamous and revered íamily írom
Kibbutz Kíar Giladi, the Shohats, who were among the
íounders oí the organization called Ha-Shomer, 1he
Watchman¨, young men who volunteered to deíend the
earliest ]ewish settlements in Ialestine, mostly on horse-
back. Her grandmother, maniah Shohat-Wilbuschevitch,
was renowned in Ialestine oí that period íor her
revolutionary role in 1sarist Russia. At a certain point she
had been in prison there, tried and sentenced to death,
but pardoned, on condition that she leave Russia. 1hat
was when she emigrated to Ialestine.
Ha-Shomer was later superseded by the Haganah,¨1he
]ewish selí-deíense¨, íorerunner oí the Israeli Deíense
Iorces, the IDI. Alonas íather was a high-ranking oíncer
in the IDIs newly established air íorce, and he committed
suicide, apparently on romantic grounds.
At 16, Alona was an exceptional girl, not just íor her
striking good looks and intelligence, but because oí her
mysterious link with nature. When she walked in the
pine groves that covered parts oí mount carmel, small
animals, and sometimes larger ones would come to her.
1here was a deep quiet about her, as ií she exuded calm,
even when she laughed. Yossi and I admired her without
actually íalling in love with her. She was somehow beyond
the reach oí our love. Her romantic aííairs later took her
íar away írom us. She always predicted her own íuture:
When I am grown up, I shall not be as I am now, I shall
not be good. We believed her, although we did not
understand.
I remember coming to her home once. 1here were three
oí us - Yossi, Yehuda, who was another boy her age, and
myselí. We oíten went to her place to discuss things with
her. Her position was somehow unique, not unlike that
oí Schaechter. We accepted whatever she said as nnal, as
48
ií she had some mysterious relation with higher sources.
She used to speak sparingly during such meetings, but
this time she was silent. Oíten, when several people
meet, silence is awkward. But this time, in her presence,
there was nothing oí that. No one íelt an urge to break
the silence. We sat comíortably, not saying a word. 1his
lasted íor a rather long time, about an hour or an hour and
a halí. 1hen it was time to go. We rose and leít, smiling at
her, still without saying a word. It took us some time aíter
we leít to begin speaking again.
Irom Schaechter we learned about a higher world
and its presence in our lives. He also extended to us his
exceptional clarity oí thinking. Irom Alona we received
the direct experience oí nature and the ability to listen to
our intuitions and íeelings. consequently, our ideological
perceptions consisted oí three existential dimensions:
1he divine or I vis-a-vis God, nature, or I vis-a-vis the
world, and the community or I vis-a-vis the other. 1he
goal oí our envisaged kibbutz, our communal settlement,
would be to íacilitate the development and extension oí
these three dimensions by living together in a natural
environment and cultivating the soil. We did not consider
ourselves as responding to any particular requirement or
demand oí the state or the Zionist movement, except as
an experiment that could perhaps be extended in íuture
to other communities and regions.
1he question arose oí where to settle down and realize
our ideas. Usually the authorities, the ]ewish agency,
would decide ií and where to send a new garin. We
doubted that the authorities would recognize a diííerent
kind oí community such as ours as a legitimate candidate
íor a new settlement. 1hen Alona intervened. She said
that near Kíar Giladi, the kibbutz in the north were she
was born, there was an ancient archeological site called
49
Abel. It is surrounded by a grove, where a spring wells
up each winter, creating a tiny brook. It is called the
Opening Spring¨. 1he site was uninhabited and the
members oí Kibbutz Kíar Giladi would, according to
Alona, certainly welcome us to settle there.
Kíar Giladi and Naama
Since Alona had said it, we did not doubt that we would
indeed settle in Abel. We made several trips to the place
and íound it to be very pleasant. During that period we
separated írom our original group in the Boy Scouts,
and established our own garin, which we named Yuval.
1here were about twenty oí us, most oí whom were still
in school. Others served in the army. I was exempt írom
army service, due to my eye problems, so I decided to
go to Kíar Giladi, to establish relations with our íuture
neighbors. I was 19, with only a high school education.
But there was such a shortage oí teachers in that initial
period oí statehood, that, based on the quality oí the
school írom which I had graduated and my personal
academic achievements, I was oííered a temporary license
to teach. Ior similar reasons an external school was set
up in Kíar Giladi, íor students írom new settlements
who wished to graduate írom high school. I applied íor
a teaching position there and was accepted. I was also
oííered a group leadership position with the local kibbutz
youngsters, who went to a diííerent school írom the one in
which I was to teach.
I received a tiny room. 1he door was more reminiscent
oí a cupboard door than a door leading into a room.
1he room was not much wider than a bed and just long
enough íor a little table at the end oí the bed. But I was
quite satisned with the arrangement. I took my meals in
50
the common dining hall, together with the other kibbutz
members, and soon became acquainted with several oí
them.
One man I came to admire was Haim. He was an elderly
high school teacher, whom I consulted about the material
I was going to teach and the sources I should use. I was
astounded by his breadth and depth oí knowledge, which
I did not expect írom someone in a remote, northern
kibbutz, íar írom academic libraries. It turned out that
Haim possessed an enormous private library, mostly in
Yiddish: Until I met him, I was unaware oí the extent
oí the erudition contained in the contemplative Yiddish
literature that had been written in the period between the
two world wars, and which was now becoming extinct,
due to rivalry on the part oí Inglish and Hebrew. I dont
know how Haim acquired this library. It must have been
brought írom some ]ewish institute in Ioland during the
war, but he made good use oí it.
Alona told me that in Kíar Giladi there was a girl close
to my age who, in her view, was really worth meeting.
Having arrived, I immediately looked íor her. Naama was
still in the upper grade oí high school and we immediately
became a couple. I cannot even say ií I actually loved her,
because the recommendation oí Alona was so decisive íor
me that I did not bother to stop and consider. Naama had
a large íamily in Kíar Giladi - her parents, three younger
sisters, and two married aunts. I was warmly received by
the íamily and the solitude and desolation oí my írugal
living quarters were alleviated somewhat.
I began teaching students who were about two years
my junior. I was also acting as a group leader íor Naama
and her classmates, who were almost my age. Since then
I have held several high school and academic teaching
positions, but the brightest and most proíound student
51
I ever had was Amos, who is still my íriend today, many,
many years later. I tried to teach in the spirit oí the ideas
I learned írom Schaechter, as well as their application to
the new kind oí kibbutz we were contemplating. As was
the case in the íormer groups oí the Boy Scout movement,
several oí my students and some oí those whom I was
supposed to guide became enthusiastic adherents oí these
ideas, including Naama and Amos. Others were neutral
or became outright critics.
Accusations and Verdict
I wrote to my íriends, Yossi, who was in the army at the
time, and Yehuda, still an eighth grader at the Reali High
School in Haiía, about the situation in Kíar Giladi, and
how many oí my new young associates could be counted
on íor our íuture communal settlement, Garin Yuval. Ior
some reason I did not like the tone oí my letter. Ierhaps
I íound it too conspiring, so I threw it in the waste basket
and wrote another. I did not know that I had already
aroused the suspicion oí some members oí the kibbutz,
and that my waste basket was being searched. I noticed
that some oí the little kibbutz children would run aíter
me on my way to the dining hall shouting the Indian
garin, the Indian garin¨. I later learned that they were
told that my associates and I were planning a new kind
oí communal settlement that would íunction as an ideal
garin¨. 1hey did not catch the exact wording and replaced
it with the Indian garin¨.
In those days the Socialist and Zionist doctrines oí the
kibbutz were still widely adhered to by the membership,
and, as is common in small communities, there was
a certain íundamentalist strictness about them. Any
unauthorized digressions were considered heresy. So
52
my associates and I were summoned beíore the young
generation oí kibbutz members in a kind oí court
proceedings. I was seated alone on what was to signiíy the
deíendants chair. Opposite me, about 40 or 50 young
kibbutz members, all my seniors, were seated in rows.
my associates, who were not accused directly, occupied
the wings. 1o my surprise, a renowned teacher írom an
adjacent kibbutz, whom I greatly admired, played the
role oí prosecutor. I seriously tried to convince him that
the accusations were without íoundation, since I had
not mailed the íamous letter, but had thrown it in the
wastebasket. 1his was actually a weak counter argument.
1he unanimous decision was to stop my work as a teacher
and expel me írom the kibbutz.
Beginning communal Iiíe 1ogether
I continued to visit Naama, trying to remain as
inconspicuous as possible, except to her íamily. When
the school year ended and compulsory army service was
to begin, we íormally created Garin Yuval and obtained
authorization íor its inclusion in the íramework oí
NAHAI, an army brigade that alternated between
regular army service and agricultural work, in a kibbutz
on the countrys border. We were directed to Kibbutz
1el Yitzhak, where we began our communal liíe. Alona
was not among us. In íact she never joined Garin Yuval.
She went to America, married, divorced, and remarried.
She had one daughter. I met Alona a íew times aíter that,
and she always spoke and acted as ií we had last seen each
other yesterday. She was deeply involved in the aííairs
oí the Sixties - the Ilower children, music, spirituality,
drugs, and íree love. Iinally she divorced a second
time and turned to religious orthodoxy. A woman who
53
had known Alona since her youth leít her a substantial
inheritance. She used the money to secretly help people in
need. She died oí cancer in her sixties.
So we were living and working in 1el Yitzhak. In the
evenings, aíter supper in the dining hall, we would gather
on the grass outside, beneath the tall trees. In Kíar Giladi
there was a well developed classical musical culture.
Naama and her íriends brought this culture with them and
shared it with all oí us. We would sing melodies by Bach,
mozart, and mendelssohn, oíten in harmony. When we
had exhausted these, we would turn to ]ewish traditional
songs and the more serious modern ones. 1his would go
on íor hours every evening, until at last we would disperse
and go to bed.
Something disturbed me about these evenings together.
1hey always began well, with energy and attention spent
on the choice oí melodies and on their períormance. As the
evening progressed, however, the atmosphere became less
íocused. Ieople would begin to talk among themselves,
the songs were oí a markedly lesser and lesser quality, and
the evening continued to spiral downward, until the get-
together disintegrated.
1oday I would accept such a situation as natural,
nnding nothing wrong with it. At the time, as a
consequence oí my youth and inexperience, I consistently
strived íor períection, and this progressive disintegration
impressed me as being less than períect. I pointed out
my observations to my íriends, who had to admit their
veracity. I argued that the problem was a result oí the lack
oí a clearly denned time írame. 1he period aíter supper
was constrained only by the need to go to sleep and could
drag on almost indennitely. I thereíore suggested that we
get together, not aíter supper, but beíore it, to sing a íew
selected songs together. 1hen we would go to the dining
54
hall with the kibbutz members, but sit separately at two
or three oí our own tables. 1o íurther avoid progressive
disintegration, we would keep silent during these meals.
When I pondered these plans it occurred to me that
they were not unlike a kind oí religious ceremony, an
evening prayer. Orthodox prayers, as íar as I could
remember, were lengthy aííairs, loaded with barely
comprehensible medieval texts that took hours to go
through. But that was certainly not the original íorm
oí an evening or any other collective prayer. I went to
see Schaechter. He maintained that the original íorm
oí a ]ewish religious service, as portrayed in the bible,
did not include a spoken prayer at all. It was a careíully
orchestrated priestly service, consisting mainly oí
sacrinces, períormed without public presence. Only
during the Second 1emple period, aíter the exile oí several
generations in Babylon, the synagogue was instituted.
consequently, public presence in the Second 1emple
became sanctioned and music, song, and liturgical prayers
were introduced.
It occurred to me that the roots oí ]ewish religious
service could be íound in the Israelites íorty years oí
wandering in the Sinai desert, aíter leaving Igypt and
receiving the 1en commandments on mount Sinai. 1he
1emple during that period consisted oí the Sacred 1ent,
which could be dismounted and carried írom camp to
camp. 1here was no public presence inside the Sacred
1ent either, but the people could witness the descent oí
the cloud oí Reverence on that Sacred 1ent.
According to the Book oí Numbers, the Sacred 1ent
contained a table, on which two loaves oí bread were kept.
A lamp with seven candles would be lit by the priest every
evening, illuminating the table. I saw in this a possible
beginning. 1oday we light with electricity. candles
55
are an anachronism. Also, we are not going to keep the
community out oí the place oí service. Iveryone should
be present. Instead oí many songs we shall sing but one.
Similarly, instead oí saying many prayers we shall recite a
single liturgical text.
56
chapter 4: Garin Yuval
1he Ivening Irayer
OUR NIW IDIAS were not realized in 1el Yitzhak, but
in another kibbutz to which we were directed - Ramat
Rachel, actually a semi-agricultural suburb oí ]erusalem.
1here our conditions improved somewhat, in comparison
to 1el Yitzhak. We received a small house to serve as our
clubhouse. Also, we were given permission to eat supper
at separate tables in the communal dining hall. Several
days aíter arriving in Ramat Rachel, we tried out our
ceremony oí a common evening prayer. We decided to
assemble outside oí the clubhouse, to go in together and
stand íacing one wall, where we had already placed a lamp
that shone on a table covered with a white cloth. On the
table was a basket with two ordinary loaves oí bread. We
were to sing a single song set to a melody by Bach, the
words being Iet us sing Hallelujah.¨ 1hen we were to
read the 23rd Isalm, 1he Iord is my Shepherd.¨
I distinctly remember the nrst evening we tried this out.
We assembled outside the clubhouse. 1he atmosphere
was tense, with a mixture oí íear and expectation. Upon
entering the room with the table and the lamp, two oí
the girls burst into an uncontrollable and interminable
nt oí laughter, which nnally led them to run away. Aíter
they leít I remember joining in the Bach melody with a
strongly beating heart. 1hen all oí us recited the 23rd
Isalm together. Aíter several moments oí silence we
turned and leít íor the dining hall. 1here we sat together
íor a silent meal, interrupted írom time to time by
requests íor more tea, the bread basket, etc. Otherwise
there was silence.
What we used to call 1he Ivening Irayer¨ soon

became routine. 1he anxiety was gone and there were no
íurther nts oí laughter. Instead, the evening prayer and
the silent meal íollowing it became the íocal point oí our
entire day, so much so that those who returned to their
parents homes íor a íew days, or leít íor other outside
activities, íelt they were missing something. We started
to plan íurther individual and communal events with
similar aims, a process that extended beyond Ramat
Rachel to other places to which we were later sent. One
was a morning prayer, to be recited by each oí us out
loud and out oí doors. It consisted oí the nrst verses oí
Genesis I, In the beginning the Iord created heaven and
earth.¨ We did not expect it to be observed as strictly as
the evening prayer, since it was to be an individual aííair.
Nevertheless, it also became an integral part oí many
oí our days together. Another more complex issue was
conduct on the Sabbath. On the eve oí the Sabbath we
replaced the two loaves oí bread in the prayer hall with
new ones. By that time they were green with mold. We
íelt badly about the mold, since it made our ceremony
look a bit ridicules, but íound no better solution, since
changing the loaves daily would be a waste oí íood.
Anyway, the question oí our conduct on the Sabbath itselí
still remained open.
1he Sabbath
1he Sabbath oí the Israelites in the desert, to which we
looked íor guidance, consisted simply oí what we would
today call calm, rest, and meditation. Sit each oí you
where he is. Iet no one leave his place on the Sabbath¨.
Iater these injunctions were interpreted somewhat
diííerently, since their original meaning must have been
too diíncult to put into practice, particularly as it was
58
necessary to go to synagogue, so that leaving ones place
was unavoidable. In our search íor períection during
that period, we nevertheless decided to try spending
the Sabbath in calm, rest, and meditation. But we soon
encountered problems. We wanted to read the weekend
newspaper, since we didnt have any other opportunities
íor receiving iníormation about the outside world. But
reading the newspaper meant going into other, íar and
very diííerent worlds, and certainly not staying were we
are¨.
Iven reading a good novel, such as f.···./.c, by Selma
Iagerloeí, a book we greatly admired in those days,
could not be taken as realizing the injunction to stay put.
In íact, reading was a sure way oí leaving your place in
íavor oí somewhere else, such as the Sweden oí Ingmar
Ingmarson, the central character in f.···./.c. Ierhaps
it would be better to go íor walks in the area, instead oí
remaining shut up in our rooms and reading whatever we
could lay our hands on. But this would already constitute
a compromise, something we wished so much to avoid.
1he Vineyard
Our work in Ramat Rachel was mainly in the nelds,
orchards, and vineyards. 1hese were all irrigated with
sprinklers using treated ]erusalem sewage. When working
in the vineyards you could not avoid being soaked by this
sewage water. 1he younger kibbutz members did not like
this work, so we had to do it, together with one or two oí
the kibbutz elders. I worked íor a long time with one oí
them, Reuben, a very coarse type írom the Ukraine, who
told me his version oí the íacts oí liíe. He did not look
like a ]ew and had probably spent the Second World
War with the Russian partisans, who did not care much
59
íor ]ews. Reuben told me repeatedly what a good wiíe he
had, but that she should never hear how good she was. He
described rural liíe in the Ukraine, how the young gentile
masha, the shikse¨, would enter the cow shed to milk
the cows, upon which the young Ivan, who was chopping
wood, would put down his axe, íollow her into the cow
shed and emerge aíter a íew minutes, closing his trousers.
Despite his coarseness there was something honest
about Reuben and I came to like him. Aíter a íew months
oí working together in the vineyard, he leít íor another
job in the kibbutz and I was placed in charge oí the entire
vineyard. It was a large plot with dark, late-ripening
grapes that were sent to market aíter most oí the other
varieties. We had to spray the ripening grapes with
chemicals against íruit nies or else the grapes would be
greatly damaged. At that time the chemicals in use were
very toxic and once again the younger kibbutz members
reíused to do the spraying, so we had to do it, wearing
masks and protective coats. Once I became so angry when
I learned that we had to do the spraying alone, that I burst
into tears. I remember Reuben, when he heard about it,
telling me that women cry to make peace while men cry
írom anger.
1he grapes had a rich, spicy taste, perhaps due to the
íact that they were irrigated with sewage water. When
it was almost time íor the pick, the government imposed
a control on íood prices, including grapes, to avoid a
íurther rise in the cost oí living index. 1he controlled price
meant a heavy loss íor the vineyard, ií we proceeded with
the pick. But ií we waited too long the grapes would be
overripe and almost worthless. I decided to wait. Ivery
day I would check the sugar content oí the ripening
grapes, to see ií we could wait any longer. One day,
while the price control was still in íorce, I íelt the grapes
60
becoming soít. I checked more vines. All the grapes were
soítening. What a pity: 1hey could not be saved.
more Books and Ieople
Shaechter gave me a strange book, ·/··o¸ .o! A·/·co, by
the ancient chinese statesman Iu Bu-Wei, translated into
German by the well-known chinese scholar oí German
origin, Richard Wilhelm. 1he book went through the
íour seasons, each divided into three months. Ior each
season and each month it denned the dominant color, the
dominant musical note, whether the sky and earth were
benevolent or cross, what íoods should be eaten, which
clothes to wear, what activities should be undertaken and
which should be avoided. 1his book had an aura oí deep
harmony with nature about it, which greatly appealed to
us. Although the book was oí non-]ewish origin, we tried
to nnd ways to nt the ideas into our local conditions, but
we could not come up with a workable result. In Israel
there are only two major seasons, winter and summer,
with very short intermediate periods oí spring and íall.
1he impact oí the seasons on what people wear, eat, or
do can be íelt, but modern liíe makes it possible to import
íood and wear clothes that do not necessarily íollow the
rhythm oí the seasons. moreover, we have lost the natural
instinct íor what should be encouraged or avoided in
diííerent seasons, such as going on a distant voyage,
holding a large gathering oí people, undertaking new
construction, etc., as mentioned in Iu Bu Weis book.
I recently tried to locate the book, but was unsuccessíul.
I did learn some interesting details in the process. 1he
name Spring and Autumn is traditionally associated with
the period oí íeudalism in china, between the 8th and
5th centuries Bc. It was a period when the king relegated
61
most oí his authority to íeudal lords, and political power
in matters relating to the whole oí china were taken care
oí collectively. It ended when the period oí the Warring
States¨ began.
1he ·/··o¸ .o! A·/·co annals oí Iu Bu Wei is a
collection oí writings by the guests oí Iu Bu Wei, the
Irime minister oí the state oí Qin, edited by Iu Bu
Wei himselí during the late Warring States period.
1his collection is divided into three parts, 1he 1welve
Records¨, 1he Iight Views¨, and 1he Six Discussions¨
and it consists oí one hundred and sixty articles.
It seems that Richard Wilhelm singled out one item oí
this collection that dealt with government and the rhythm
oí the seasons, and translated it under the name oí the
entire collection. 1he name was appropriate because it nt
the central idea oí the innuence oí the seasons.
1he adventures oí Iu Bu Wei, recorded more than
2000 years ago, are typical oí the pursuit oí riches and
political power throughout the ages. Iu Bu Wei began as
a traveling merchant, an occupation that was despised by
the aristocracy oí the period. He seems to have been very
successíul commercially, accumulating a great quantity
oí gold. Subsequently he learned that, as was customary
in those days, one oí the lesser sons oí the king oí Qin
was sent to live in ]iao, the capital oí the neighboring
kingdom, to serve as a kind oí hostage. He also learned
that the chieí wiíe oí the king oí Qin was childless. (His
children, including the one sent as hostage, were írom
lesser wives.) 1his gave Iu Bu Wei an idea. As legend tells
us:
On returning home, he said to his íather, What is the
pront on investment that one can expect írom ploughing
nelds·¨
1en times the investment,¨ replied his íather.
62
And the return on investment in pearls and jades is
how much·¨
A hundredíold.¨
And the return on investment írom establishing a
ruler and securing the state would be how much·¨
It would be incalculable.¨
Now ií I devoted my energies to laboring in the nelds,
I would hardly get enough to clothe and íeed myselí, yet
ií I secure a state and establish its lord, the benents can
be passed on to íuture generations. I propose to go serve
Irince Yiren oí Qin, who is hostage in Zhao and resides in
the city oí ]iao.¨
Bu Wei managed, by bribery and persuasion, to get the
release oí Yiren, the prince oí Qin írom being hostage in
]iao. He also persuaded the childless wiíe oí the king oí
Qin to adopt Yiren as her son, which made him prince
regent oí Qin. In the meantime, Yiren discovered a
beautiíul and enticing girl among the servants oí Bu Wei
and asked íor her, making her his wiíe. She bore him a son
(rumors had it that he was actually the son oí Bu Wei),
destined to become the nrst emperor oí china.
When the king oí Qin died (or was poisoned by Yiren),
his son Yiren became king oí Qin (under a diííerent name)
and made Bu Wei prime minister and chancellor oí the
kingdom. Bu Wei was very successíul in this position,
enlarged the area oí Qin and assembled, as was already
said, many leading scholars oí the day in his court.
When Yiren died, his young son Zheng, then 13,
inherited the kingdom (again adopting a diííerent name)
and connrmed Bu Wei in his oínce as prime minister.
However, his mother was getting involved in sexual
scandals and Bu Wei íeared that this was menacing the
well-being and integrity oí the kingdom. He devised
a complex scheme oí associating her with a íake eunuch
63
who could satisíy her desires. His plan succeeded, and
the queen dowager bore the íake eunuch two sons and
installed him in a position oí power in the kingdom.
However, he became progressively bold and seems to
have challenged the authority oí the king. In response,
the king overpowered him and had him, his two sons, and
all his relatives executed. Bu Wei was spared, but exiled.
Still, íearing subsequent execution, he committed suicide.
So even people in a so-called position oí power who are
endowed with keen íoresight, prove to be helpless against
the íorces that shape human history in general and their
personal destiny in particular. It seems to me that this
applies to our times, as well as to those oí the Warring
States¨ period oí ancient china. We shall return to this
topic in the last chapter oí the book.
Other Ieople, Other Groups
1here were several other groups in Israel at the time whose
activities were somewhat like our own, and who tried to
establish contact with us. One was an enlarged íamily
oí Hungarian origin named Vactor. 1hey were extreme
vegans, who ate only grains and seeds. Ior example, they
didnt eat juicy green peppers, but only the pale seeds
inside. 1hey did not drink orange juice, but only ate the
seeds oí the orange. 1hey drank water only írom springs,
oí which there were only a íew that nowed naturally, or
rainwater, which they collected in underground cisterns
or wells. 1hey slept only outdoors, winter and summer,
with just a thin woolen blanket. 1o make a living they ran
64
a laundry in Haiía and took in and educated young boys
who had trouble adjusting in their íamilies. When they
visited us in Ramat Rachel, they tried to make us accept
their liíestyle. It was, I recall, a cold winter evening, yet
they insisted on sleeping outdoors, like they were used to.
I can still see their thin bodies and hear their Hungarian
accents.
One day a letter arrived írom a clandestine religious
organization called 1he Ilame oí God¨. 1he letter
suggested we meet, ií we were prepared to íollow their
instructions about a meeting place. A íew oí us went.
1hey arrived at a place deep inside an ultra-orthodox
quarter oí ]erusalem. Aíter several roundabouts
calculated to make you lose directions, they entered a
small room. On the table was a well-known book, 1/.
1.o,., by one oí the leaders oí the Hassidic movement.
1here they encountered two young men, roughly our
age, who described themselves as students at the Hebrew
University who had chosen to become ultra-orthodox,
according to the precepts oí that same Hassidic rabbi.
1here was a short exchange, in which our people described
our search and our mode oí liíe. It was decided to arrange
a meeting between one oí them, Adin, who was their
leader, and me, in Haiía.
I remember that meeting well. It was during the period
in which I was deeply convinced that our path was the best
option íor integrating the best oí the pioneering spirit and
the mainly ]ewish religious ideas oí Schaechter. We were
walking down the streets oí Hadar in Haiía. Adin told me
that he was a student oí physics at the Hebrew University.
I liked him and the way he spoke. I brieny described
what we had learned írom Schaechter and how we were
trying to nnd the right approach in our daily liíe in the
kibbutz. He listened silently, without interrupting me.
65
1hen he began to speak. He said that what we were doing
was a grave mistake. Religious precepts, ceremonies,
and prayers were not something íor people to invent,
according to their current understanding. 1hey were
sacred procedures that possessed not only human, but
cosmic repercussions. By íailing to íollow the traditional
]ewish procedures to the letter, we were causing more
cosmic harm than that done by outright atheists.
What he said was the opposite oí everything Schaechter
stood íor. It meant that we, in Israel, should adopt the
detailed religious practices oí generations oí Diaspora
]ews, without attempting to make them meaningíul
to contemporary liíe. Besides, at that time I had little
knowledge oí the Iurianic Kabbalah, which íormed the
theoretical basis íor his accusations. I was thus inclined
to reject his view altogether. Nevertheless, his argument
against the ease with which I, in particular, sought
to introduce elements oí religious ceremony into our
communal liíe struck home, and I have never íorgotten it.
Neveh Ilan
In the meantime we moved írom Ramat Rachel to Neveh
Ilan, a kibbutz that was practically deserted. most oí the
íamilies had leít, some íor a nearby moshav, and some íor
the city. 1hey were mainly oí Irench origin, people who
had participated in the Irench underground resistance
during World War II. 1wo people írom adjacent
kibbutzim were appointed as caretakers oí the equipment
and grounds and we were to provide the necessary
manpower íor continued maintenance oí the kibbutz. We
were almost alone in Neveh Ilan, with a íew remaining
íamilies oí the original settlers. 1he kibbutz was on the
slope oí a hill, on the top oí which was an old building,
66
known as the khan¨, or ancient caravanserai. We turned
it into our clubhouse, continuing the way oí liíe we had
begun at Ramat Rachel.
It was a happy period. We had to run the kibbutz,
mainly on our own. We drove tractors, cars, and trucks,
operated agricultural machinery, learned to take clutches,
axles, and motors apart and nx them, prepared íood íor
the dining hall, etc. many oí us acquired new technical
skills that would come in handy in later stages oí our
lives. We continued pursuing our special customs and
ceremonies and íound the old khan up the hill to be
especially suited íor these undertakings. New members
joined us during that period, although our number always
remained small, about 30.
1he Scapegoat
Ivery Saturday aíternoon, we would assemble in the
khan íor a meeting. Oíten we would read an interesting
spiritual text, ]ewish or other, or something written by
one oí us íor the specinc occasion. One impression that
remains with me írom these meetings, however, is not
related to the readings, but to what might be called the
scapegoat phenomenon¨. 1he bible describes a ceremony
carried out by the High Iriest on the eve oí Yom Kippur,
the Day oí Atonement. He would place his hands on the
heads oí two goats and coníess the sins oí the people. One
oí the goats would then be sent away, accompanied by a
special envoy. When they arrived at a desolate place in
the desert called Azazeel, the envoy would push the goat
down into an abyss. 1his magical procedure was supposed
to purge the people oí their collective sins.

A scapegoat phenomenon occurred in Garin Yuval, and
has probably occurred in many other small communities
oí people whose lives are closely knit. One oí the members
would suddenly appear to the others to have a harmíul
impact on the entire group. Ií only he or she could be made
to leave, things would immediately change íor the better.
However, once the person in question actually leít, the role
oí communal scapegoat would pass to someone else.
I have already mentioned the elderly teacher Haim,
írom Kíar Giladi, who possessed an extensive library oí
historical, literary, and philosophical works in Yiddish.
His eldest daughter, Dalia, was a classmate oí Naama,
who also joined our group. Dalia was a girl oí outstanding
beauty, but there was something odd about her, as ií she
was never really present, then and there. One day my
íriend Yehuda told me that Dalia was not suitable íor our
group and that she would have to go. I was astonished
by his decisiveness. Aíter all, it was not an easy thing íor
a daughter oí Kíar Giladi to join us in those days, when
we were ostracized by the kibbutz members. 1elling her
to go would make it even harder. But Yehuda would not
budge. 1he garin, he said, was more important than any
individual. Dalia leít and she was not the last among us to
become a communal scapegoat.
One oí the kibbutz members still living in Neveh Ilan
was ]acques. He was about 50, with a record oí past
activities in the Irench resistance and a central position
in a Irench garin that had settled several years previously
in Neveh Ilan. He was a serious, selí-suíncient person,
whom I immediately respected. I thought he might be
persuaded to stay and join Garin Yuval, despite the age
diííerence between him and us. One day I went to see
him in his house. I asked him about the Irench garin and
why it had disintegrated. 1hen I described our garin, our
68
ideas, what we had learned írom Schaechter and how we
conducted our daily lives. ]acques listened attentively.
1hen he said, Iets meet in twenty years and then see.¨
1his rebuttal was a hard blow, because there was nothing
I could say. Whatever I said would be beside the point.
Nevertheless that conversation is still on my mind. Yes,
]acques. many more years than twenty have passed and
now I understand better what you meant.
Invironmental Awareness
In those days there was an ideological wave akin to our
contemporary environmental awareness. It was led by
landscape architects, such as Iouis mumíord, involved in
the Regional Ilanning movement, especially as practiced
in the Netherlands, with reíerence to the newly reclaimed
polders there. It also comprised the íorerunners oí organic
íarming and other environmentally inclined ideologies.
We studied these developments as intensively as we could
and integrated them in our overall perception oí the three
dimensions: man and God, man and nature, man and his
peers. Invironmental consciousness related to the second
dimension, man and nature. However, it soon renected
on a concrete decision we had to make.
1he authorities oííered to let us remain in Neveh Ilan,
as our permanent place oí communal settlement. We
were to receive the built-up area oí the kibbutz, as well
as a hotel that belonged to the kibbutz and was currently
operated by an outside contractor. 1he adjacent arable
lands that had íormerly belonged to Neveh Ilan were
to be transíerred to neighboring kibbutzim, who were
already íarming them. We would receive other arable
land in exchange, situated about an hour and a halís drive
írom the kibbutz, to the south.
69
We knew very well by then that we would not be
able to settle in Abel, near Kíar Giladi, as Alona had
envisioned long ago. We could also not be certain that
the authorities would let us settle on our own anywhere
else, due to our small numbers. consequently, the oííer
oí Neveh Ilan, despite its shortcomings, represented a
signincant opportunity íor us. Nevertheless we rejected it.
1he chieí reason, as íar as I remember, was the proposed
separation oí the living quarters, in the hills oí Neveh Ilan
near ]erusalem, írom the agricultural nelds in the prairies
to the south. We íelt that the integration oí people with
their environment, which we had already unsuccessíully
embarked upon according to Ii Bu-Weis book, could not
be undertaken seriously with nelds such a long distance
írom our living quarters.
Our negative decision meant that Neveh Ilan would
be handed over to another group, while we had to go
elsewhere. Iirst we went to a neighboring kibbutz, Kiryat
Anavim, and then to a new project, Doshen, a íarm in the
valley oí Beit Shean, where we would have to nnd work
and support ourselves on our own. We would be there
alone, without an existing kibbutz to support us, but
there would be minimal housing íacilities, mainly wooden
barracks.
¯0
chapter 5: meeting Remarkable Ieople
A Very Hot Ilace
1HI IARm A1 Doshen was a very hot place. In the summer
the thermometers in our cupboards would always show 42
degrees centigrade whenever we took them out, since this
was the daily maximum temperature in the shade. During
that period home air conditioners were still unknown, and
to cool down our rooms we would oíten wash the noor
or hang up wet sheets. Beíore sunrise was the coolest
and most pleasant time oí day. Iooking out towards the
mountains to the west we would see gazelles coming out
oí their hiding places, their silhouettes discernible against
the early morning shadows.
most oí us íound work as day laborers in the
neighboring cotton nelds. But the hourly wages were
poor. I decided to benent írom my experience in the
vineyards oí Ramat Rachel and obtained a proíessional¨
job in the vineyards oí Kibbutz Gesher, about halí an
hours bicycle ride írom Doshen. my hourly wage was
50 higher than that oí my íriends in the cotton nelds.
However I had never learned to ride a bicycle, since my
native town oí Haiía was built on a slope and was not
suitable íor bicycle riding. I decided, nevertheless to
risk learning by doing¨, as the economists call it, and I
took a bicycle I íound on the íarm to learn on. In those
days traínc on the main road through the valley oí Beit
Shean to the ]ordan valley wasnt very heavy. I made my
way on the bicycle along the empty road, more or less
maintaining my balance, until I heard an occasional car
approaching, when, out oí íear, I would stop by the side oí
the road until the danger had passed.
In Doshen my íriend Rani and I shared a room in one
¯1
oí the barracks. I dont remember whether the white
German shepherd puppy we called Ianga, aíter ]ack
Iondons White Iang¨, was Ranis or mine, but we loved
her equally. She was a cheeríul, thin puppy, distinguished
by her rare snow-white íur. Whenever I returned írom
work, she would wait íor me at the gate to the íarm and
jump with joy and excitement. She would íollow me to
my room, licking my hands and reaching up to my íace
whenever possible. Her greeting was not unpleasant and I
became accustomed to her being the nrst to take notice oí
my arrival írom work and to welcome me. One day, when
I was almost back at Doshen I heard a bus coming írom
behind. I stopped by the side oí the road, as was my habit.
It was just aíter a bend in the road and the bus driver must
have noticed me only at the last moment. He swerved to
the opposite side oí the road. Ianga was already there,
expecting me, and the bus ran her over and continued,
without the bus driver noticing. 1here was no sound írom
her. She just lay there dead. I called Rani and we dug a
grave under a tree and buried her. I was deeply sorry, as ií
a dear íriend oí mine had died. 1his was indeed what had
happened - my nrst encounter with death.
marriage and Iirst Academic Studies
Naama and I continued as a couple throughout our years
in 1el Yitzhak, Ramat Rachel and Neveh Ilan. Now, in
Doshen, we decided to get married. my mother did not
approve oí the match, which I ascribed to her bourgeois
ideals, since Naama came írom a kibbutz and didnt have
any nnancial means. During that period kibbutz members
were not allowed to possess capital oí their own, thus
they couldnt give their grown children a nnancial start.
Iven ií a parent or grandparent oí a kibbutz member in
¯2
the city died, and willed his apartment to his son, the son
could only use it temporarily. In theory, at least, such an
apartment had to be handed over to the kibbutz.
Although we were living on the íarm at Doshen, the
wedding took place in Kíar Giladi, where opposition
to our garin had already subsided. Iater, when Naama
became pregnant, we doubted that we would be able to
continue living at Doshen, due to the excessive heat and
other conditions unsuitable íor a newborn baby.
During that period, the members oí our garin íelt a
need to attract new members. Schaechter was appointed
as director oí the Seminary íor 1eachers in Haiía, and a
high school was to be built next to it. Iike the school I had
taught at in Kíar Giladi, this new school was intended
mainly íor the children oí new immigrants living in the
newly built suburbs in the area. A veteran teacher, himselí
an immigrant írom Russia, was appointed as principal.
Yehuda and I were given teaching positions in that
school. 1his enabled Naama and me to leave Doshen and
move temporarily to Haiía, where my eldest daughter,
Yael, was born.
In parallel to my teaching duties in Haiía, I began
academic studies. my natural inclination was to mathe-
matics, like my íather, but I gave the humanities a try,
since a meaningíul spiritual interaction with young boys
and girls, I thought, was centered there, not in the natural
sciences. So I took up history and sociology in what later
became the University oí Haiía. I was quite successíul
academically, but aíter my nrst year I became írustrated
at not having encountered any teacher oí spiritual stature
comparable to Schaechter or Ieibovitch. I concluded that
in the humanities much depended on the inner quality oí
the teacher, while in the natural sciences, I hoped, more
objective knowledge could be gained, even írom mediocre
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teachers. I leít the university and switched to mathe-
matics at a somewhat later date.
Ieldenkrais
At this junction in my liíe I encountered new innuences.
One was moshe Ieldenkrais, a truly remarkable man.
By proíession he was a physicist, who had written his
doctoral thesis in Irance, during the late 1930s, under
]oliot-curie. In parallel he had become interested in the
]apanese martial arts and practiced ]ujitsu. He attained
high ranks and wrote a booklet in Hebrew, describing
the principles oí the art oí selí-deíense. His personal
work on issues oí movement and the human body drove
him to broader research on physical dysíunctions and
their healing, an area in which he proved to be a creative
genius. His nrst book, 1/. B.!, .o! m./··. B./.c·.·,
established his reputation as an original thinker in this
neld. His most impressive contributions, however, were
his individual treatments, on one hand, and his group
exercises and instructions on the other. I joined one oí
his classes and also established personal contact with
him. He told me about mathias Alexander, the stage
períormer who had lost his voice, worked on himselí in
íront oí a mirror, and developed his own method oí bodily
directions¨. Alexander became a legendary bodily healer
and instructor, developing what is known today as the
Alexander method.
Ieldenkrais also gave me two books in Irench,
I·.¸c.o/· !·o Io·.·¸o.c.o/ !o..oo·, by I.D. Ouspensky
and L.· k..·/· !. B../../·/, by G.I. Gurdjieíí. Ieldenkrais
said that, while studying in Irance, he had not been a
disciple oí Gurdjieíí, but he had oíten met the man and
his disciples and was both impressed and repulsed by him.
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I did not yet know Irench, but what I heard írom
Ieldenkrais encouraged me to try to read Ouspenskys
book, with the help oí a dictionary and a book oí Irench
grammar. I had managed a íew pages when I learned
that Inglish versions oí these books were available, and
that the Irench versions were themselves translations.
While sick in bed with jaundice íor three weeks, I read
both books more than once. I also wrote a summary oí
the central ideas in Hebrew, which I gave to Schaechter,
who was not very nuent in Inglish. 1hat summary
later appeared as a chapter in a subsequent book by
Schaechter.
I must say that the originality and vitality oí
Schaechters writing suííered during that period, in
part due to his association with us. He íelt that we
were realizing ideas oí which he had but a theoretical
understanding. In consequence he did not allow himselí
to continue his spiritual work as beíore, but dwelt
mostly on subjects that interested us, including texts we
had written, such as the above-mentioned chapter on
Gurdjieíí and Ouspensky. He also summarized ideas oí
other thinkers or spiritual teachers that he thought were
relevant íor our experiment. I was already aware oí the
problem that arose íor him under these circumstances,
but could not do much to solve it. 1he impact oí Gurdjieíí
and Ouspensky, which I will elaborate on later, aííected
him as well, at least íor an initial period.
An Ixchange on Silence
Some years later I received an invitation to a private
meeting with Ieldenkrais, upon his return írom a visit to
]apan. 1he impression oí what Ieldenkrais told us in this
meeting has remained with me.
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Ieldenkrais went to ]apan to meet with an elderly
master oí Kyogen, a traditional theatrical art. In the past
Kyogen períormances had served as light intermissions
between the more solemn No pieces, but later they
became stylized and artistic, in their own right, much like
No itselí. 1he ]apanese, according to Ieldenkrais, know
the entire repertoire oí No and Kyogen períormances by
heart. 1hey come to a períormance to see how a íamous
actor períorms this or that gesture, not to íollow the
stories or the entire sequence oí plays scheduled íor that
evening. 1hey may enter in the middle oí one play, watch
another and then leave in the middle oí a third. 1his is
considered normal and acceptable behavior in ]apan.
While they are watching, they also eat íood and sip drinks
they have brought with them. 1hey do not subscribe
to the Western buttoned-up style oí watching theater
períormances.
1he master whom Ieldenkrais came to observe had
been declared a national treasure¨ by the ]apanese
government. 1his status is accorded to persons considered
vital íor the preservation oí traditional ]apanese culture.
He was in his 80s, but every day he gave lessons to
both amateurs and proíessionals, starting very early in
the morning and continuing until late in the evening.
Ieldenkrais worked with this master in his (Ieldenkraiss)
method oí bodily awareness, in exchange íor observing
the ]apanese masters work with his ]apanese students.
1he master worked by example and repetition. He
would take a traditional Kyogen piece, períorm one
gesture, along with the accompanying text, spoken in an
artincial, drawn out manner characteristic oí the No and
Kyogen arts. 1hen each student in the class would repeat
the gesture and the text. He would then go on to the next
gesture and text, and the next, until the end oí the lesson.
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Ieldenkrais asked the master ií this method did not
lead to a somewhat mechanical style oí períormance. 1he
master told him that he personally started his Kyogen
studies under his íather at a very early age. Only at the
age oí níty did he begin to íeel that his períormance
ceased to be studied and became an integral part oí him.
1his realization had caused him great satisíaction, he said,
because his íather had told him that he too had had the
same experience at that age.
One oí the amateur students oí that master was a
íamous ]apanese television star. Once, at the end oí
a lesson, she approached the master with a question.
Iveryone in the room came closer to listen. Ieldenkrais
asked someone to translate what was said, but was
signaled to be quiet. Iater they explained to him that in
]apan there is a traditional art known as ma . It consists
oí adjusting and listening closely to the silent intervals
between spoken words. 1he television actress and the
Kyogen master were the greatest living artists oí ma in
]apan. consequently everyone was listening, not to what
they were saying, but to the silences between their words.
Gurdjieíí and Ouspensky
Aíter my initial reading oí the books by Gurdjieíí and
Ouspensky that I received írom Ieldenkrais, as well as
their Inglish translations, I became proíoundly impressed
with their ideas. It was as ií a secret treasury oí knowledge
had been revealed, knowledge that superseded whatever I
had pretended to know so íar.
man, according to Gurdjieíí, was actually a machine,
moved by external and internal impulses. 1hat applied to
me personally and to all oí us. What meaning could then
be ascribed to our idea oí a collective evening prayer or
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