I’m not so much into novels these days, though. Reality is way too interesting. Making it up isn’t half as interesting as history in the making, at least when the story behind the story is told.
Like the reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office is a drop-off site for millions of dollars – in cash – from the United States and Iran. How does the cash arrive? In SUV’s and plastic bags. Where does it go? To every faction, tribal leader and drug kingpin under the Afghan sun.
The reviews are clear on The Good Psychologist. It’s a stunning debut novel with shortcomings, mostly in narrative development. Reviewers also complain there’s a little too much lecturing. It seems Shpancer discusses psychology and the life of the psychologist in a professor/clinician way. It’s understandable.These are Shpancer’s day jobs.
Here’s the kicker, though. From the reviews I’ve read, Shpancer is light on the details of geography and personality. Details of where the novel takes place are fuzzy. The reader knows the psychologist through his professional titles.
There may be a reason for this. Though the book is a best seller in Israel, few Israeli books translate into market share in Europe and America. Obviously, for the American market books written in Hebrew are translated into English. The only Hebrew language market for Jews in America is for Israelis who, like Shpancer, live mostly outside Israel. Basing the novel in a generalized landscape gives the novel a wider appeal. Does it also function to hide another landscape that increases in controversy daily?
Israelis living outside Israel area growing niche market. This is what interests me in Shpancer’s work. After all, where we’re from and what we’ve done in life is important. Israelis have been the Jewish boots on the ground in our post-Holocaust life. An Israeli psychologist’s view is immensely important here, especially when the psychologist enters the discussion of trauma and its effect on individuals and nations at large as Shpancer has.
Psychology is grounded in the human psyche. It’s also contextual. What are Jews thinking about consciously and otherwise after the Holocaust – and after Israel? How has the Jewish state changed our psychological make-up? What does it mean for our individual and collective psyche to be raised in or to support a state that in our parent’s or grandparent’s lifespan cleansed another people from their land?
Psychologically speaking, what does it mean to be born in a state that believes itself to be the last refuge for a persecuted people – and then leave it?
Israelis have experiences that Jews born outside Israel cannot understand in depth. Perhaps Shpanser’s is writing about these very issues now. Whether I agree with his conclusions or not, it’s important and weighty subject matter. Our Jewish future depends on hearing these views.
Our post-Holocaust boldness that celebrated Israel’s prowess has ended in a whimper. More and more Jews downplay their support for Israel in public – in private it’s even worse – and when Israelis travel or leave Israel, they hope their identity will slip under the radar.
Hiding in plain sight is a Jewish fixation in history. It is rarely accomplished. At this point in history hiding isn’t an option. It means abandoning responsibilities to ourselves as a people and, yes, abandoning our responsibilities to those whom we have displaced and now occupy, the Palestinian people.
More and more Israelis are coming out. They’re speaking the truth of where they come from and what they’ve done.
When Israelis come out it’s an amazing sight to behold. They encourage other Jews to come out as well. What do we really want as Jews? Is our future to permanently occupy another people?
Even a wannabe psychologist like me knows that Jews can’t hide in plain sight. Nor should we.