Tova Herzl

Stop the madness

If I were a psychiatrist, I would be able to diagnose self-destructive behavior, and hopefully treat it, thus enabling the patient to return to a normal life. Alas, I am merely a retired diplomat. Therefore, I have no good solutions or adequate answers, only many questions.

Say a family, let us call it “I,” had a close neighbor. Let us name him “Jordan,” for argument’s sake. For many years, their interactions were not great, at times even hostile. Then relations improved privately, and finally became public. Everyone in the neighborhood (including nasty neighbors to whom “J” is related, and hate “I”), knows about this connection. Some criticize him, but he is determined to remain on good terms with his neighbor, “I.”

One day, an important member of “I’s” family, let us, for argument’s sake only, call him “Smotrich,” implied that he is the owner of Jordan’s home. “J,” who has previously been threatened, naturally has some insecurities. One would expect the heads of the “I” family, to understand the importance of maintaining good relations with “J,” and to come out strongly against their errant family member. Is there a shrink who can explain the silence?

The “I” family is close to someone very powerful, who helps it in many ways, including financially, and supports them when they get into all sorts of trouble. Let us call her “US.” For argument’s sake only, of course. “US” rarely criticizes “I,” but once, when she tapped him on the wrist, a senior member of the family, let us pretend his name is “Chikli,” told her, in so many words, to mind her own business. The head of the “I” family has been very close to this powerful friend, he has even lived with her, and understands better than anyone the importance of the connection, and the existential dangers to the entire family if it sours. And yet, silence.

Moreover, when subsequently “US” made a clear statement, the head of the “I” family himself echoed the content, if not the tone, of those dismissive comments toward her. One would almost think “I” can make do without “US,” or that others were waiting to replace her, in her support of “I.” Experts on mental health, can you explain?

Despite its humble beginnings, the “I” family is very successful financially. Leaders of the family have recently proposed changes to its future conduct. While these are not directly connected to its bank balance, some of its nearest and dearest, who are experts on business, have warned of dire economic consequences. The family ignored them, and continued with its plans, undeterred.

Very many members of the immediate family, other relatives who care deeply, as well as close friends, have all warned that those proposed changes will cause a nasty smell, even a stink. They fear that this could lead to an estrangement from interlocutors and family members who are sensitive to odors, thus limiting future interactions to those with deficient olfactory systems. For months, the response to these pleas ranged from vicious name calling to a muted “we hear you, don’t worry, just trust us.”

Finally, the noise of the critics became so loud, that it was impossible for anyone to do anything. That convinced the leaders of “I” family to discuss the source of the foulness. However, they did not throw the package away but put it aside, temporarily, to be hauled out at will. At the same time, the leader of “I” family agreed to provide the family’s recognized bully, shall we call him Ben Gvir, with potential means to protect future packages.

In the wake of all these ongoing developments, “I” family, which enjoys social interactions, has noticed that it is hosting fewer guests than before, and that invitations have fizzled. But despite being universally recognized as intelligent and resourceful, it inexplicably assumes that the increasing isolation is temporary — friends will flock back, and all will be well

I could go on, but the list is long, and time is short. Dear readers, I was trained to explain my country’s policies. Some were easier to explain than others, but I did my best. I have no skills to explain delusion, and wanton self- destruction. Is there a psychiatrist among you, who can explain this madness? Suggest how it can be stopped, before it is too late?

About the Author
Tova Herzl served twice as congressional liaison in Washington DC, was Israel's first ambassador to the newly independent Baltic states, and took early retirement after a tumultuous ambassadorship in South Africa. She is the author of the book, Madame Ambassador; Behind The Scenes With A Candid Israeli Diplomat.
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