Dear friends and colleagues,
Following the decision of the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society to hold our upcoming annual congress in Tel Aviv, the Society has received several requests and appeals urging us to refrain from doing so. These requests were mostly concerned with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and its record of human rights violations against Palestinian Arabs.
In considering these requests, we have taken into account the fact that Israeli society is complex and multifaceted. Likewise, the Israeli mental health community includes both Arab and Jewish professionals. Despite their differences, they work together productively, not only as colleagues but also as partners, to bring a measure of understanding and tolerance to a conflict-torn society.
Many – perhaps most – Israeli mental health professionals, both Jewish and Arab, strongly oppose the occupation. For many years, Israeli mental health professionals have been at the forefront of local demonstrations and condemnations of human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza.
Recently, the Israeli mental health community has taken a lead role in protesting against the racist, oppressive, and anti-democratic policies of the current Israeli government. As part of our commitment to support our colleagues in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the local organizers of this congress have offered bursaries to enable dozens of Palestinian mental health professionals to attend the congress in Tel Aviv, and to engage in the scientific dialogue.
The 2023 congress will include, for the first time, an introductory day on the topic of Neuropsychoanalysis from the Past Towards the Future. It will be held in Nazareth, an Arab city in the Galilee, and will be attended, in addition to our international guests, by local Arab and Jewish professionals.
We would therefore like to suggest a different approach to the above-mentioned political issues, an approach inspired by the theme of this year’s congress – PLAY: The Social Mind and Brain.
PLAY involves negotiating and bridging differences in attitudes, opinions, and narratives between individuals and groups. In order to interact playfully with others, children and adults need to adopt an empathic attitude. To be able to play, we have to be ready to step outside our respective comfort zones, and to interact freely with others in sometimes unfamiliar and ambiguous situations.
We urge you to come to Israel, attend the congress, and interact with local professionals who are working together to increase understanding and tolerance in this troubled region. To put it succinctly, if we, the Jewish and Arab organizers of this congress, can work and play together, despite our differences and disagreements, shouldn’t you do the same?
With best wishes, and hoping to see you in Israel in July,
The Organizing Committee