Who better than a psychiatrist to analyse a refugee's struggle to redefine his cultural identity? That psychiatrist is Libyan Jew David Gerbi, and the object of his analysis is himself. Interesting feature by Rachel Soussan in Algemeiner:
Following his recent trip to Libya, psychoanalyst and former Libyan refugee David Gerbi (pictured left) met with members of the World Organization of Libyan Jews in Jerusalem and was appointed their official representative in public affairs. The Organization which was established in 1982 aims to provide a platform for Libyan Jews who were exiled from their native country following pogroms and political and religious oppression which culminated following the Six Day War of 1967. Furthermore, the Organization advocates for Libyan Jews to have the possibility of revisiting their homeland to rebuild and restore desecrated Jewish holy sites such as cemeteries and synagogues. Gerbi hopes to play an active role in facilitating dialogue between the World Organization of Libyan Jews and other parties who share their values.
In an article published earlier this year in The Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, Gerbi discussed his struggle to regain and redefine his cultural identity after his family was exiled to Italy following the mass expulsion of Libyan Jews in 1967. After a curfew was imposed on the Jews, similar to the beginning of the Holocaust, Gerbi recalls his mother sending him out to collect food for him and his five siblings. “From one day to the next we lost our societal status.” Gerbi’s family was forced to hide in their apartment for weeks, surviving on minimal rations supplied by kind neigbours and Gerbi’s own nightly feats.
His more permanent trauma however, was caused following his abrupt relocation to Italy. He describes his paradoxical identity crisis; while he felt hated and repelled by the Arab World, he still felt inherently connected to his Mediterranean roots. The phenomenon of being stateless affected thousands as they struggled to reestablish their identities on foreign soil.
Gerbi speaks of the ‘collective trauma’ caused by the fear of retaliation. “If people are afraid to speak out against injustice, they strengthen the oppressor. It is a vicious cycle that becomes harder and harder to break out of. It took me years to finally address what had happened to me and my family.” He describes himself as a part of the generation of the Children of Silence.