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My life story  

I was born in Tel Aviv, 1954, third child of David, who immigrated to Israel from Lithuania and Margot, who came from Germany, both prior to the Second World War. My father was the chief commander of Tel Aviv district Ezel (Irgun Zvai Leumi) and a member of its high command. After Israel was established he turned to commerce. My mother, a pediatrician, is still working. We grew up in a Revisionist home. My father was very close to Begin throughout the years and my mother was the Begin family physician. I studied at the Bilu religious-elementary school and then continued in a secular high school – Municipality A – in the science stream. My military service was in the “Parachuted Nahal” and I fought in theYom Kippur war in Battalion 50. Discussions with fellow fighters led me to reconsider my right wing upbringing. I found myself adopting a more leftist approach. I also took part in the first Lebanese War (Operation Peace for Galilee) in a reserved paratroop brigade which fought on the eastern front.

In 1975-77 I studied and traveled abroad and then returned home to continue my studies in The Faculty for Computer Engineering in the Technion, graduating in 1982. From a young age I had wanted to be an engineer but now I decided to change direction. I wanted to work with people rather than with machines but mainly I felt a need to understand myself better. For my parents, engineering was a  practical and prestigious occupation while the humanities were considered impractical.  Once more I abandoned the principles on which I was raised, in the hope of crystallizing a new identity. In those days I started undergoing psychotherapy. In  1985 I completed my first degree in Psychology at Haifa University. I was accepted for graduate studies in Clinical Psychology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem but after a year I was found unsuitable and my studies were discontinued. I decided not to give up the dream and continued my studies in psychology in a personal program. I was fortunate to study under Prof. Albert Solnit, Prof. Rivka Aiferman and Prof. Zeev Klein whose warm personality and breadth of view influenced me deeply. In 1987 I was accepted as a counsellor in the adolescent ward at Eitanim Hospital which was directed with psychoanalytic orientation by the late Yoram Hazan. The impact of the ward and Yoram on me was immense and the experience evolved into my first novel “License for Insanity” which was published in 1994.

In 1988 I married Hagar from Kibutz Ramot Menache, a guidance counsellor, and we have two daughters Mor and Stav. In 1988 I was accepted for graduate studies in Clinical Psychology of the Child at Tel Aviv University and I graduated (M.A.) in 1991. I completed my internship in Talbiah Hospital and South Clinic in Jerusalem in 1990-94. During these years in Jerusalem I underwent psychoanalysis for eight and a half years with Neomi Aner who is Kleinian by orientation. For a living I lectured on computers at the Hebrew University. In 1994 we moved to Haifa where I opened a private clinic where I still work. In 1995 I graduated from a three year psychotherapy course of the Israeli Psychoanalytic Institute in Jerusalem. In Haifa I developed in three directions: working as a psychotherapist, lecturing in academia and continuing my writing. My novel “The Arab Within” won the Israel Writers Association’s book of the year prize, 2000. “Israel on the Couch” was published in the same year by Yedioth Ahronot. In this book I tried to integrate politics and psychology – the old love from my parents’ home and a new love, which is my chosen occupation. In this book I tried to say that not everything is rational as politicians pretend or even believe but that we have to be aware of the emotional processes we undergo as a group and nation.  I was looking for integration between leftist and rightist positions because I felt that these two personality structures are necessary for any advancement in the peace process. This book was also published in English by SUNY PRESS and in German by Patmos. In the same period I also wrote “Childland” out of my exciting involvement with my daughters’ childhood world. Together we created a huge model of Childland from plasticine which you can see on the site. I read this book in my daughters’ classes at school and the children were very involved. To this day the book and its spirit accompany the family. But it is also my only book that hasn’t been published because it was rejected by all the publishing houses I tried.

The family spent three years in the States (2001-4) for my Ph.D. program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in G.M.U. This was an enriching experience for all of us. There, I wrote a Personality Study of Menachem Begin for my Ph.D. dissertation trying to understand his multifaceted personality which led him  and us – on his and our life journey that included high points as well as low ones. This book, titled in Hebrew “Menachem Begin – A Portrait of a Leader” (Resling publishing house) and in English “Menachem Begin – The Absent Leader” (The National Defense College) won “The Menachem Begin Heritage Center Research Prize, 2004.”

Back home I returned to my clinical work, to academia and also to my writings but this time the focus was on multiculturalism. My acquired psychoanalytic listening skill, the ability to listen not only to the content but also to the music and the emotion led me to investigate the different way of thinking of diverse cultures. I assumed that there one could find the key for understanding other ways of thinking, different to our own. When I listened to an Arab leader saying something on the TV I thought to myself how we would articulate this phrase differently. I lectured for five years at the Arab Academic College for Education in Haifa, at Haifa University and also in other college courses dealing with cross-cultural psychology and I instructed guidance counselors who worked with children from a variety of cultures (different Arab sectors, different religious sectors, Ethiopians, Caucasian and more). This work taught me how far western society is from being able to understand eastern culture and vice versa. How we are quite ethno-narcissistic, knowing only our own cultural way of thinking and believing that all the world thinks like us. These years of research generated “The Cultural Code” series with its four volumes which was published by Ben Gurion University. These years also deepened my understanding of human nature because I stopped looking only at western society as many do. In this way I could understand the process that western society has gone through in the last five hundred years of the modern era from a traditional-collective society to a modern-individual one including the surge of creativity, science and democracy that accompanied this process. The first book in the series “Cracking the Cultural Code” deals with the different parent-child communication patterns in eastern and western societies and how this gap is responsible for the different creative capabilities developed in these societies. My Arab students documented conversations between parents and children at their homes and my Jewish students were asked to “translate” it to their “cultural language” writing how these conversations may develop at their homes (e.g. someone took the child’s ball) and vice versa. In this way two “cultural languages” were discovered including their exact rules of how to translate from one “cultural language” to the other. The second book in the series “Dialogue” presents a dialogue between different cultural solutions to everyday difficulties of parents with their children with the aim of finding the solution that fits him/her. A student – mostly from the Arab Academic College for Education – presented before the class a difficulty that was taken from his surrounding. A dialogue was developed in which the students presented their cultural solution to this problem while I presented the western solution for it. The third book in the series “The Quran for Educating the Child” and the Quranet Project that emanates from it aim to help Muslims to create a bridge between tradition and modernity by using Quranic verses to solve everyday educational difficulties (the girl doesn’t want to do her homework, the child is arrogant etc’). This book was chosen to represent Israel at the President’s Conference, 2008. My last book in this series, “Babylon – a Guide to the East-West Encounter”, summarizes this subject and teaches the reader to listen to and understand members of the other culture and also to “speak” in their cultural language. raise a child capable of succeeding in modern society.

 How to raise a creative child? In 2013-4 I created 160 short videos that present the principles for raising a successful and creative child. These videos are still only in Hebrew.

Now I teach at Tel Aviv University in “International Masters (MA) in Diplomacy and Security Studies” the course “Cultural gaps in Israeli-Arab negotiations and ways of dealing with them” that is based on my book “Babylon – a Guide to the East-West Encounter.” In this course the students – Israelis in senior positions – created a website “Speeches to the Muslim world and to others” including the speeches they wrote to different sectors in the Muslim world according to the rules that were taught in the course in order to create a dialogue between the two sides.

I also conduct the radio program “Following the Digital Gold” together with Dr. Ushi Shoham Krausz in “Reshet A” of Kol Israel every Wednesday between 12-13.

Ofer

September, 2015