“Israeli Anonymous” 😀 Community in Sebastopol

While continuing to manage the Zur Institute and its 150 online continuing education courses, I have also put down strong roots in my town, Sebastopol, where I am active in groups such as “Israelis Anonymous” 😀, Depth Psychology discussion group, Carl Jung’s discussion groups, a Hebrew book club, a writing group, and more. I have re-immersed myself in the practice of meditation, as well. Daily sitting-meditation seems to have a profound impact on my psyche, opening me to a deep appreciation of the “Now”; and thus, empowered, I strive to be present, as if each day (or each moment) were my last one on earth.

Like a tree whose roots are nourished by rich soil
I have planted myself firmly in Sebastopol, as a part of the Israeli Anonymous community 
My soul, soothed in silence
Meditating daily 
A practice to clear my mind
And let the stillness, the wonder of
Life flow through me

The Challenge, Excitement & Courage of ‘Beginning Again’

As I turned 66, one of the questions that naturally emerged was ‘how do I want to live my remaining years?’ Summiting mountains on foot or on a motorcycle, diving to extreme depths, fighting wars, jumping out of planes, teaching all over the world, backpacking on a glacier, authoring cutting-edge books, fighting irrational dogmas, implacably seeking justice and peace, were all achievements and enriching challenges of the past. Now the question is, What’s next? When I consider the possibilities, I can’t help but feel that surge of excitement that always precedes the new and unknown. I will intensify my meditations on a range of subjects, some old, some new. I will resume reading classic literature. I will write from the heart, for I still have so much to say. Perhaps I will travel to new parts of the world, visit new museums, libraries, or ancient sites, or. . .??? The ideas flood my mind as I go through the process of figuring out this new phase or how to begin again. Well, I do know that I am not going to take up golf. What is certain is that I will continue to nuture my close bonds with my precious family, friends and community, to engage in meaningful activities, and always promote peace and justice. While I know that life is going to move at a slower and more contemplative pace, I am yet not sure about its focus or form.

Beginning again
A match struck in the dark
A candle in the soul, reignited
A time for reflection, contemplation
A thirst for knowledge
A new day dawning
A life luminous with endless possibilities

Dying Well: Forethought, Consciousness, Planning, Joy & More

Alongside the question of ‘what is next in my life?’, I ponder ‘how do I want to die?’. I know that I neither want to die ‘erect’ (i.e. in my prime) as my mother did, nor do I wish to go through the lengthy, painfully slow journey that my father took in the final period of his life. My young son, Ilan, insightfully said one day “Aba (dad), you will not die on top of Kilimanjaro nor on the glacier in Alaska nor among the sharks in the deep ocean. You are mostly likely to die slipping on a banana in the local Safeway.” When it comes to death, I love the scene of Little Big Man where Chief Dan George announces “Today is a good day to die” and wanders off into the woods. The “Right to Die” law that was passed in California in 2016 gives me some choices or control regarding the way I may choose to die, which is a relief. I found appealing the story of a terminally ill California woman who invited friends from all over the country to a ‘farewell party’ – a jubilant celebration of her life and relationships. After two days of partying she retired to a room where, with her doctor and a few close people, she took the drugs that ended her life. Personally, I also wish to die among my family and friends but I am also resign to not knowing how I will spend the last days or last minutes of my life.

This day could be my final one
A foot placed between sky and sand
Heaven and earth
Life and the in-between 
And the precious moments 
Sun fading to pink
Tender embraces of family
Long walks with friends
Plane rides above the earth
To faraway places
A slower pace
An embrace of all that is.

Crewing for My Son Through the Majestic Panama Canal

In 2019 I had the golden opportunity to fulfill a dream I have had since I was a 21-year-old Israeli merchant marine wishing to sail through the majestic and iconic Panama Canal. I was thrilled to be invited to crew for my son, Eitan (who lives on his beautiful 36-ft. sailboat in San Diego), who was hired to transport a 47ft sailboat from Baltimore to San Francisco. The Panama Canal certainly deserves its impressive rating as one of the top ‘Wonders of the World’. Eitan, a competent captain, led us through the 50 miles long perfectly designed three locks going up from the Atlantic Ocean side to the impressive and enormous man-made lake at the top, and then through three impeccably constructed locks down toward the Pacific Ocean side. This was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience in many ways.

Fulfilling a dream
Born long ago 
Sailing through the Panama Canal to crew for my son 
An adventure
A wish brought to life
Looking out at the majestic waves
My heart, warm with camaraderie
and love for my son

Father-Son Now Man-to-Man: Sailing the Rhode Island Coast

Not too long after crewing for Eitan on the majestic Panama Canal in 2019, he and I joined up for another fantastic nautical journey, this one off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island. On this three-day trip I enjoyed the great pleasure of crewing for him on a 44-ft. catamaran headed to Martha’s Vineyard, passing along neighboring islands off the coast of Rhode Island.

Sailing with Eitan, just the two of us together on the magnificent Atlantic, opened a special door to our hearts, as it reminded us of the many adventures we have taken together, including kayaking 17 miles along the Na Pali Coast off of magical Kauai, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and many more. The meaningful connection and deep conversations we had into the night were precious beyond words. What was at one time a father to child relationship has now morphed into that of man and man.

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5 Forms of Guilt

The following are my thoughts on the different types of guilt and some of the ways in which I have experienced guilt. These are less obvious forms of guilt and go beyond lack of guilt (psychopathy) and excessive guilt (depression, anxiety, suicide, etc). As would be expected, by the age of 71, I have experienced most forms of guilt.

1. Appropriate Guilt:   This type of guilt is an appropriate response to, or regret for, what we have come to understand, acknowledge or admit that we have done something wrong, unjust or immoral, or feel remorse for what we have not doneIn my own life, I regret some of the ways I endangered others with the way I rode my motorcycle or shot the light bulb in the bunkerwhat I did or did not do in war, or was insensitive to friends’ needs.

2. Catholic Guilt – Religious Guilt: This kind of guilt is religion-induced that does not differentiate ones thoughts from their actions.  Besides the Catholic church, other Christian denominations also believe people should confess to ‘sinful’ thoughts, yearnings or desires even when no actions were taken. Similarly, the ultra orthodox Jewish religion makes no distinction between ‘sinful thoughts’ and ‘sinful acts.’ I have experienced this kind of guilt as a young man when I felt guilty for internally reacting disproportionately with extreme anger.

3. Survival Guilt: This kind of guilt primarily manifests in people who have survived a life-threatening situation, such as battles during war or car accidents where others died or were severely injured. They often believe they could have done more to save the lives of others even if they could not. I have definitely felt this kind of guilt in relation to fellow soldiers who died or were heavily injured in military operations I was part of.

4. Neurotic – Toxic guilt – Persecutory guilt: This form of guilt is derived from a sense of not being a goodenough person, feeling like a failure who deserves to be punished.  Persecutory guilt is a form of self-inflicted punishment whereby hostility is turned against the self.  I have not experienced this kind of guilt.

5. Existential guilt: This type of guilt can seem free-floating or unrelated to any particular situation. It is about one’s sense of accomplishment or success in addition to an awareness of the inequalities and injustices that exist in the world, such as a family member or community of people who are less capable or less fortunate than you are, or the fact that there may be people starving in Africa, or that the whales are dying off due to over hunting, pollution and other factors. When a person asks themselves “Am I doing enough to help others or help the world?”  I have definitely experienced this kind of guilt combined with deep concerns for the underprivileged people worldwide, victims of unjust war,  and disappearing species around the world.

The Coronavirus Pandemic exemplifies a variety of feelings of guilt that are the result of the fact that billions of people are unemployed, locked at home, or struggling with food needs, yet ‘you’ still have a job or can provide for your family. People may feel guilty because their children can’t see friends and grandparents or participate in normal activities.  Perhaps someone they care for has been ill with COVID-19 or they feel guilty because a loved one has died all alone (‘coronavirus way’), and they couldn’t be there to say goodbye.

Not All Affairs Are Created Equal

Infidelity, unlike what most people assume, is neither rare, an exclusively man’s doing, nor the likely end of the marriage. Almost a third of all marriages may need to confront and deal with the aftermath of extramarital affairs. Women, men, gay, straight, young and old, all seem to be somehow engaged in affairs. Online affairs have become extremely prevalent.  Marriages can get stronger when couples deal constructively with the affair. See: Infidelity & Affairs: Myths, Facts & Ways to Respond

Types of Affairs:

 

1. Conflict Avoidance 8. Unsatisfactory Marriage
2. Intimacy Avoidance 9. Exit Affairs – Jumping off point
3. Individual Existential/Developmental crisis 10. Long Term Parallel Lives
4. Sexual Addiction – Sexual Obsession 11. Online (Most prevalent)
5. Accidental – Brief – One Time Affairs 12. Cyber Affair w/ a Sex-Robot
6. Philandering 13. Consensual
7. Retribution

Myths and Facts:

Myth: An affair inevitably destroys the marriage.
Fact: Many marriages survive affairs and many emerge stronger from the infidelity crisis.

Myth: Infidelity is rare in the animal kingdom.
Fact: Only 3% of the world’s 4,000 species of mammals are pre-programmed for monogamy.

Myth: Infidelity is rare and abnormal in our, and most other, societies.
Fact: Men’s infidelity has been recorded in most societies.

Myth: Society, as a whole, supports monogamy and fidelity.
Fact: Society gives lip service to monogamy/fidelity, but actually supports affairs. (i.e. Ashley Madison)

Myth: Men initiate almost all affairs.
Fact: Infidelity has become an equal opportunity issue in the West.

Myth: An affair always means there are serious problems in the marriage.
Fact: Research has shown that some of those who engage in affairs reported high marital satisfaction.

Myth: Infidelity is a sign that sex is missing at home.
Fact: Some unfaithful spouses have reported increased marital sex during the period of their affair.

Myth: Infidelity always has to do with a bad marriage or a withholding partner.
Fact: There are many reasons that people may choose to have an affair.

Myth: Full disclosure of all the details of the affair to the betrayed spouse is prerequisite to healing.
Fact: Giving the uninvolved partner all the X-rated details of the affair can be traumatizing.

Myth: Extramarital affairs are never consensual.
Fact: Open marriages used to be popular in the 1970s and are still around.

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Almost 70, Still ‘Twisting the Throttle’ as Evel Knievel

My 2019 trip to Israel had a different flavor than previous ones, as this time I traveled alone. This afforded me the chance to spend quality time with my sister, and to fulfill a yearning to revisit and re-experience the Negev desert via off-road motorcycle. My body and psyche clearly remembered the long and exciting days that I had spent as a young man navigating and exploring the dirt roads, creeks, springs, and craters of that awesome landscape. To start the adventure, my nephews Tal, Shay, Leor and young Ely had planned an exciting day along the steep slopes of Jerusalem, so that I could prepare for the desert ride. I rented a Yamaha WR250 dual-sport off-road motorcycle and headed with them to the Jerusalem hills. It turned out I was indeed in need of this ‘prep’ trip, as I flew off the bike at least half a dozen times, landing on my shoulders, my recently replaced knees, my back and, yes, even on my head (again). I ended up in ‘urgent care,’ where they put me on antibiotics via an IV drip. Miraculously, I sustained no broken bones and no damage to my ‘new’ knees, although who knows what it did to my head! A couple of days later the five of us headed south to our ‘real’ destination, the stunningly powerful Negev Desert, with three dirt bikes and a 4×4 pickup truck trailing us with food, water, tents, etc. The ride, the awesome landscape, the challenges, the comradery, and the conversations with these generous and capable young men was immensely gratifying.

It has been interesting for me to contemplate this adventure at this point in my life, now pushing 70.  “Twisting the throttle wide open” had a different feel to it this time. Now, death did not seem so remote or abstract. Looking it in the eyes I still felt a sense of calm, but gone was the former strain of defiance or romance. Stripped bare through the hard cast of age, death is simply an objectively possible outcome!

My friend Garry Cooper describes this part of my character as:

Roaring toward the precipice,
twisting the throttle wide open
to either soar over the abyss
or crash in a blaze of adrenaline and glory.

Confirming Israel’s Moral Amnesia

On my 2019 return trip to Israel, observing its political-moral scene was a painful reminder of why I left the country 40 years prior. Back then, I knew I had to leave, as it was clear to me that staying in Israel and bearing witness to the immoral occupation would corrupt me as well. This was a consequence I refused to pay. As Dissonance Theory explains, when there is an inconsistency or discrepancy in people’s minds between attitudes and behaviors it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior. People tend to adjust their ideology to their behavior and not vice versa. Sadly enough, this is, indeed, what seems to take place in Israel today.

A tragic example is of an Israeli teenager girl who was brutally murdered in August 2019 by a homemade bomb that exploded at a natural spring. She was visiting this spring not far from her home in a settlement in the West Bank. Government officials declared it an act of terrorism. A local rabbi, declared her “a martyr,” calling on God “to avenge her death.” There was barely any mention of the greater context. The fact that the young woman was part of the occupation, living in a settlement built on military-conquered Palestinian land in the occupied territory of the West bank was barely uttered.

I decided to conduct an experiment, asking people first what they thought about “the girl who was recently murdered in the West Bank” and asking others (a second group in the ‘experiment’) for their thoughts about “the settler-girl who was recently murdered in the West Bank”. Almost unanimously, people in the second group objected to my referring to her as a settler, accusing me of “justifying her murder.” I definitely did not justify the murder; all I was doing was simply putting the murder in context. I think that sadly enough, most Israelis, even the ones that lean to the left, after 50 years of occupation (as predicted by the dissonance theory) have lost track of the context—the oppressive, inhuman, murderous immoral occupation of the West Bank.

Evacuation Wonders: What I wish to be burned away or give ‘fire’ to

Evacuation orders were inching in. The cellphone text alerts gradually progressed from “Evacuation Advisory” to “Evacuation Mandatory.” In between, there was enough time to consciously or unconsciously, wittingly or unwittingly contemplate the evacuation ‘wonders,’ considerations and choices:

The first set of questions were obvious:

Q: What do I take? — What is dear to my heart?
A: Our dog & cats, cell phone, laptop, passport, etc.

Q: What is OK to leave?
A: The remainder of my physical possessions

Q: What do I wish I could take but forego for lack of space in my car?
A: Photo albums, some nostalgic old clothing, and a unique collection war propaganda.

The second set of questions were more complex:

Q: What did I wish the fire would burn away?
A: I wished to toss into the fire my petty desires for comfort, my impatience, my attachment to being someone who changes the world, and my ego identification in my accomplishments. Then, also my huge collection of hard copy academic articles and books (so that my study could transform to a sacred meditation space).

Q: What was the most ridiculously absurd thing I took with me?
A: Alas, my attachments to my ego’s accomplishments. I recognize that without an ego at all, one can’t do much in life. So I suppose I needed my ego to navigate the evacuation journey!

Q: What would I like for the fires to give energy to or fuel growth in?
A: Many things! I would like to add energy to the fires of my desire to continue to learn and grow, to ‘do good,’ and to serve social justice. I’d like to fuel my passion to serve the greater good in psychological health through fighting the unnecessary dogmas of the therapy profession; and for my mission to challenge unexamined beliefs and myths. I’d like to energize my empathetic caring for family members, friends, colleagues and strangers in need; my capacity to focus on what gives me meaning and joy; and my ability to contemplate and meditate.

Zur Institute: A Dream Fully Realized

Dr. Zur is well known for having the vision to introduce ideas well head of their time: When almost no one spoke of HIPPA or Clinical Form he was already touring the country giving presentations about it. He was one of the pioneer leader the Private Practice Outside Managed Care movement in the 90’s. When almost no one contemplated the complexities of Dual Relationships or the Risk of Risk Management, he was already writing and publishing books and articles about it. When almost no one cared to invest in Telemental Health education he was already envisioning and focusing on creating courses and resources about it.

In 1997 Dr. Zur developed a vision that was also ahead of its time, the Zur Institute: The creation of a successful model of online education that would provide CE credits for Mental Health practitioners. When asked, “Who do you think you are? Do you think you are going to compete with UC Berkeley?” Dr. Zur, simply, responded, “What a great idea.” Indeed, Zur Institute, Inc. has since served dozens of thousands of individuals, becoming one of the most successful and biggest online CE programs in the world. After 25 years of passionately devoting himself to developing and upholding the highest educational standards for Zur Institute, in April 2020 Dr. Zur left his role as its Director/owner. He then devoted his energy and time to the non-profit he created: Project Insights.

On Critical Thinking: Exploring Politically and Professionally Incorrect Myths & Faulty Beliefs

Whether in psychology, oceanography, chemistry, limnology, or on ‘hot’ topics such as gender, race, victims or war, I have devoted a big part of my life to exploring the ‘given’, the unexamined truths, and often, the politically incorrect beliefs.   The Following are some samples of the faulty beliefs I have challenged (and links to my writings on each topic):

Therapists (& General Public) Beware: You Are One Borderline (BPD) away from losing your license

In my forensic/expert witness practice I have encountered the most fascinating, colorful and intriguing cases where BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) clients have gotten their (otherwise solid, competent and ethical) therapists to behave in ways they regularly wouldn’t such as giving them money, regularly texting with them at 1 or 2 in the morning, doing drugs with them, moving in with them, wearing their clothes, even adopting them, and, of course, having sex with them.

This dynamic is often present in the BDP’s personal, intimate, familial and vocational life and can also occur with psychotherapists or counselors.

Without a doubt, it is a therapist’s responsibility to maintain clinically appropriate boundaries with all clients. However, that is not always easy when it comes to BPD clients, especially for therapists who are either new to the profession or not experienced with these clientele. Clients with BPD are extremely unstable and are so desperate for connection that their fierce need can draw a therapist in. At the same time, many BPD clients have learned not to trust those very attachments they demand and crave. Thus, therapists can find themselves caught in their BPD clients’ conflicting desires. Therapists and others the borderline is in contact with will often accommodate, give in, support, yield to no-end in order to avoid the “borderline” rage.

Sailing the Gorgeous Bahamas with Eitan as the Coronavirus panic-pandemic broke out

Mid-March 2020 was a perfect time to fly to the Bahamas for another long weekend of sailing with Eitan on a 40 ft catamaran, this time around the Bahamas Islands. It was an odd time on the planet, as the worries and concerns around coronavirus pandemic had not taken hold yet. Eitan got a few days off from his 1st mate position on a giant 130 ft. mega yacht that was docked at Nassau.

As we tend to do on such trips, we took our time sailing in the clear/shallow water all around the gorgeous Bahama islands while enjoying peaceful weather, great conversations, sweet long silent periods, and variety of colorful tropical fish and spring-time bird flocks.

Re-entering the world via flights to Florida and back home to California was like entering a war zone of Humanity vs. Coronavirus, or more accurately entering a brave new world where humans are forced to encounter the inevitable and most denied facts of life: Death (especially of old people) is part of life not necessary always to be feared, combated and avoided but also to be… celebrated.

Project Insights: Launching a New Community Platform to Share Personal Stories and Gain Life-Changing Insights

My new adventure as of mid 2020, Project Insights, is an online forum in which I invite you to reflect and share about an ‘Aha’ moment you have encountered along the way and to read about insightful experiences of others. By sharing, reading, and contemplating these meaningful moments in our lives, I hope to support the deepening of our personal and social reflective practices as well as to promote intercultural dialogue about the subtexts that impact our choices and help define our human experience. Engaging with this virtual community, I hope, will help you examine your life choices, cultural assumptions, belief systems and biases.

The first topic explored on Project Insights involves experiences with the Corona Virus:  If the Coronavirus could speak to you… what would it say? What would You say to it? What gift could Coronavirus offer you / the world? There are 12 different themes that are dear to my heart around which I will invite you to share your stories. These themes include: Regretting not doing the right thing; Looking at death straight in the eye; On being sane in an insane place. I hope you will join me.

Rethinking Coronavirus

My view of the coronavirus (in mid-2020) was met by strong, even aggressive, responses from friends and community members in the US and elsewhere. The reality surrounding Covid-19 clearly touched a nerve worldwide. The anthropologist in me has found people’s responses to the corona virus fascinating. On a personal level, however, I have found myself often quite isolated in my point of view. Sometimes even downright lonely.

It is intriguing to me that the whole world appears to have been relating to the coronavirus and the responses to it with such uniformity across cultures, languages and generations: the virus appearing as a threat, an invisible, deadly and ferocious invader that needs to be stopped through the use of vaccines, masks, social distancing, shelter-in-place etc.

One of the basic facts related to Covid 19 that to my amazement has not been prominently presented is that while generally speaking the coronavirus mostly kills medically vulnerable people, on the whole, it is deadly to medically frail elderly people. Modern day western culture holds a problematic attitude toward death and dying. It is perceived as a failure that should be avoided at all costs. Literally. Sadly, most old people in the US and other western nations die in hospitals or senior homes after the medical “industry” ferociously fought to prolong their life by all available means, without improving the quality of their life. And all this while profiting greatly.

As I traveled the world, I have been fascinated by the way in which indigenous cultures hold their elders with reverie for their wisdom, experience and guidance while at the same time they have various rituals that allow older people to die naturally, with dignity, in the comfort of their communities. This attitude is vital for the place the elderly take within the culture and is essential for the survival of the tribe.

I strongly believe that it is important for us to continue to respect and honor older people as we welcome their wisdom, guidance and leadership. I also believe that we should let the elderly who are highly frail, those who are intensely suffering and severely ill, die in peace and with dignity within their community. Hopefully, in the arms of their loved ones. It is time for us to grow up and accept death as part of life, as a transition to be honored and, yes, as a time to be celebrated!

Alone in my thinking 
Of death, seen as inevitable
Something occurring naturally, a part of
Life to accept

For each of us, death will come
And we must embrace our lives
While we can

And when dying,
be allowed to light candles of dignity,
and have peace,
like a white blanket, envelop us,
surrounded by the gentleness of our loved ones.

Flying High – Next Phase in Life

Selling the Zur Institute, Inc. after a quarter century of intense, challenging and highly rewarding engagement, opened up a huge psychic space and time for the ‘new’.  Then, launching Project Insights has been a creative challenge and exercise in the rare commodity of… patience.

I have been training for a potential dream-challenge of posting a stake in the South Pole as well as hike, kayak, camp there and hang out with the penguins for my 70th birthday.  Obviously, with the current (mid 2020) COVID-19 hysteria it is hard to know when this plan will materialize.

Exploring boundaries has taken another dimension for me these days.  This time, it is to the limitless  expanse  of the heavens and the incredible, awe inspiring view from far-above.   I started taking pilot lessons as I am exploring getting a pilot license to fly small planes high and to exotic faraway places.  Hard to know where it may lead.

To gaze upwards towards the heavens
From far below
To view an endless sky 
Horizons painted in swatches of pink and orange
My soul charts a new journey 
Hovering about the earth in a plane
A pilot set to soar above the clouds

Sailing at the Sea of Cortez & Spending time at the Yucatan in the Midst of the Coronavirus Crisis

In Sept. 2021 Jennifer and I joined Eitan and his friend, Amanda, for a fantastic sailing week on a 46ft catamaran on the Sea of Cortez (Mexico). It was a wonderful break from a tormented and hostile divided world around the complex coronavirus related issues of life-death-health-fear-trust-responsibility and much more. Sailing, swimming, snorkeling and some hikes in the powerful-arid-rocky landscape cleared my heads and refreshed my spirit as I was looking for ways to find meaning and joy in a tormented world.

In December of 2021 we ‘needed’ to get out of town again and after a lovely Chanukah party we headed, this time, to the east side of Mexico, the Yucatan, with our 2 boys and Amanda. It was a lovely experience to hang out at the resort town Playa Del Carmen, and on the gorgeous island of Isla Mujeres and visit the amazing Chichen Itza Ruins during Christmas time.  Unlike many parts of the world tormented by COVID-19, the Yucatan was friendly, vibrant, musical, colorful, hospitable and truly celebratory.

My Professional Life in Post ZI Era: Teaching & Forensic

2020 and 2021 years were distinct as they were the beginning of a new ‘Post Zur Institute’ (ZI) era (sale went through in Ap./2020) and a divided world struggling to comprehend and attend to the coronavirus threat.  Free of ZI, I turned my professional focus to teaching ethics and consulting & expert witness forensic work

I quickly and gradually more joyously, adjusted to the new ‘coved-19 reality’ and have been intensely teaching remotely via zoom.  Teaching from my study at home (with running shorts and flip flops) was odd and freeing at the same time.  I recall the moment when I cracked a joke in a live zoom webinar but had NO idea if any of the 600+ attendees laughed or grimaced.  My two main focuses of teaching ethics at these times have been a. Debunking myths and commonly held beliefs in psychotherapy and b20+ ways to avoid being sanctioned or disciplined by mental health licensing boards.

My consulting & expert witness work has also flourished in the post ZI era.  I have asked to provide expert opinions on highly complex, interesting and intriguing psychotherapy licensing boards and civil lawsuits cases in several states across the US.  A couple of ethicists and attorneys have referred to the cases they retained me as an expert as “Even Dr. Zur”😋 reflecting on the informed-importance I place on context in standard of care matters rather than on “risk-management.” In June 2021 I had the honor of receiving an authorization from the Minnesota Supreme Court to prepare an amicus brief regarding the standard of care for psychotherapy and counseling.

Professional Honors & Nominations

In 2021, I was highly honored for my expertise in psychotherapy ethics, when asked to submit an amicus brief (amicus curiae) to the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding psychotherapy and mental health standards.  This is in addition to being nominated in 2008 as a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) Div. 42 of Independent Practice, as well as the publication in 2007 of my book, Boundaries In Psychotherapy one of the most comprehensive books on therapeutic boundaries published by, no other than, American Psychological Association, APA Books.  I have authored and edited 5 books and hundreds of professional articles on a variety of psychological topics.

(Intro:) Exciting & Challenging 2022 Visit to Israel

My 3 weeks visit to Israel in May 2022 was diverse, challenging, longer and more unique than in the past. It included riding in Negev Desert on 250cc off-road motorcycles with 3 nephews, I attended ‘Memorial Day’ for those who died in wars and being reminded of my own intense-profound war experience, and enjoyed a high school reunion for the first time in… 54 years.

Re-Living the 1973 War on Memorial Day in 2022
Exciting Off-Road Motorcycles trip in the Desert
High School 54 year Reunion
Surreal Experience of Teaching on Zoom Across the World

Re-Living my 1973 War experience on Memorial Day in 2022

Visiting Israel during memorial-day for the fallen soldiers has added an interesting and intense aspect of the visit.  I joined my best friend Eitan to his military units annual memorial-day ceremony at Tel-Saki on the Golan Hight where his small unit was surprised attacked in the 1973 war and found itself surrounded by hundreds of Syrian’s tanks and soldiers.  The ritual included the parents and siblings and the photos of the soldiers who died right there.  Some members of the unit, got severely injured and 50+ years later are still  heavily disabled.  I chose to walk into one of the dark underground tunnels in Tel-Saki in an attempt to remember and re-live my battle experience in the 73 war in the Egyptian front across the Suez Canal.  As expected, walking into the dark, long and narrow tunnel, I encountered strong bodily memories of tunnel fighting, of keeping the non-stop the intense fire upfront/ahead while stepping on enemy soldiers’ dead bodies.  It was, definitely, an intense experience, but fortunately did not activated any of my PTSD, on which I ‘worked’ for many years, after I finally realizes the stupidity of the belief I was indoctrinated with, that “Israeli paratroopers do not get PTSD”.

In Remembering, I forget sometimes. What war was like but then am reminded under these tunnels of Tel-Saki of the dead who whisper their memories, sketch their stories in my mind.

Exciting Off-Road Motorcycles trip in the Desert (2022)

I went on a challenging and equally exciting adventure in the Negev Desert on 250cc off-road motorcycles, with my 3 nephews: Tal, Leor,  Shai and Tal’s Son, Ben (16). I was determined to enjoy the awesome (challenging) beauty of the dessert, its rough terrains, and the (unavoidable) falls off the bike, and keep away from the hospital, where I ended up in my last motorcycles adventure 2 years prior.  We embarked on our trip in Mitzpe Ramon and made our way in the Israeli “Grand Canyon” where we spent 4 days in awsome, challenging and varied terrains, meandering up hills and steep river banks made of rocky and sandy surfaces.  Inevitably, I did take some hard falls off the bike but luckily did not break any bones or infect my body with bacteria as I did last time. The journey indeed felt epic.

Climbing up a staircase of stones on a motorcycle I took in majestic sights, surrounded by the desert in its glorious mixture of silence and story hidden below the pedals I pressed.

54th year (first) High School Reunion (2022)

A surprisingly unique event took place during this visit when David Eldar invited me to the 54th year reunion of our mathematic/electronic class of “Irioni D” high school in Tel Aviv.  Having graduated in 1968, this was our first reunion, and it was attended by over 20 graduates.  Typically me, I did not remember anyone.  Typical of me, they all remembered me raising havoc and giving trouble to teachers and administrators.  The only one I did vividly remember was Uri Gothalf, our fantastic math teacher, who was also a star basketball player in Israel.  I have lots of fond memories of playing a lot of (rough-Israeli) basketball with him and learning a lot of high level math (and basketball) from him.

A surreal Experience Teaching on Zoom Across the World (2022)

I was schedule to teach ethics class on zoom for psychologists in California while in Israel. Many friends and colleagues stated the obvious to me: “What is so special about teaching from Israel, it’s the same Internet and same Zoom”.  Yes, it is the “same” indeed, yet it felt surreal to me: sitting in front of a screen in the Middle East and teaching ethics to psychologists in the USA, half way around the world. A sure reflection of modern times.

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My 72 y.o. Birthday

We celebrated my seventy second birthday in May 2022 by gathering in our back yard and inviting people to share memories, stories, narratives, and anecdotes about me or to share a poem or song. About 25 people joined the hearty celebration, catered beautifully, by King Falafel and with celebratory, funny and, of course, embarrassing, stories and creatively funny original poems.

Teaching a Live, In-Person, Workshops Again – May/2022

After 2.5 years of corona virus hysteria and multiple remote teaching, primarily via zoom, the Lutheran Community Services Northwest, in Portland, OR invited me to teach live, in-person, seminar on TeleMental Health and Digital Ethics. It was an exciting hearty event where in-person exchanges, hugs, laughs, and even present exchange took place…  again.

Challenging Encounter with Fear, Mastery and . . . PIRANHAS on the Amazon River

In 2022 at 72 years old, I have decided to confront fear, challenge, and adventure by going to Brazil and spend time in gorgeous, adventurous Rio de Janeiro, on the magnificent enormous Amazon River and encounter unique personal challenge with the legendary dangerous awesome Piranhas.

I travelled in this 3 weeks adventure with my beloved nephew, Tal (52) and a young friend Jenn Gaskell (32) a Scottish doctorate-mathematician, and ultra marathon runner.

A short video of our delightful time in Rio, Santarem and the gorgeous Amazon

Rio
The city that never sleeps
Majestic, draped in a rainbow of colors
The heartbeat of life
The soul of Brazil

Rio

Rio

A short video of my amazing encounter with the awesome piranhas and the rational for this rather ‘crazy adventure’

Piranha’s song for my 73rd birthday

Piranha
Our first encounter
Your sharp famous teeth
a reminder of your legendary power
My eagerness to engage

Therapeutic Ethics in the Movies

In 2022, I rekindled my passion for presenting ethical issues with the aid of clips from popular movies and TV series.  It turned out to be very effective, popular, educational, and, yes, a truly fun way to discuss complex therapeutic ethical, standard of care and boundary considerations.  I developed a continuously growing web site that presents 17 ethical aspects Psychotherapy & Psychotherapeutic Ethics in Popular Movies & TV series where people (you) can (still) contribute their movies ideas and suggestions.

At the same time, I have also developed keynote presentations and courses on Therapeutic Ethics in the Movies that I presented in person, online, in the US and . . . in Israel. They all include dozens of short movies’ and TV series’ vignettes offering looks at a variety of ethical complexities in psychotherapy and counseling.

Growing Old, Facing Death, Walking on the Ice…

Towards the end of 2022 at 72 years old, I developed several undiagnosed mystery medical complexities, such as walking pneumonia and an enlarged heart. That have slowed me down physically and emotionally, luckily, not spiritually or intellectually. It brought up, again, the question of when is the right time to walk on the ice or the time for the (polar) bears to eat me (so the young ones can hunt, eat the bear, survive & live longer).

Having the warm-loving-immense support of Jenji, my kids and my nephew, Tal, has meant the world to me. Additionally, being part of community, such as weekly ‘Walks & Talks’ with my best friends, teaching ethics, and developing my interactive, hopefully, helpful website, have also provided me with a meaningful life and reasons to live . . . for now. . .

Riding in the Negev Desert and Visiting Petra Jordan

Family Bonds across Borders: the Negev Desert, Israel & Petra, Jordan, 2023

Dangerously steep rocky cliffs brought us together: my 2 sons, my 3 nephews, and I, rode our motorcycles off-road in the Israeli Negev Desert, to find much more than a wild, majestic landscape. It was amazing to experience the 6 of us getting along seamlessly, helping each other master the raggedy difficult terrain challenges, and share both joys and responsibilities required by riding an inhospitable, dangerous, rough surface.

This fulfilled a long lasting dream I held together with so many of my generation growing up in Israel. Finally, at age 72, I explored the vast miraculous Wadi Ram and magical Petra. The reality of these monumental sites was far more fascinating than my visions were. It was mind boggling to stand among these striking structures, formed by nature over 200,000 years ago, to meander through such magnificent temples, hand-carved in the 4th century BC, and to share it all with the next generation of men in my blood line.  Petra was a big part of ‘hero mythology’ and such a dream for us as a youth in Israel, symbolized by the (historically banned)  HaSela Ha’Adom song by Rika Zarai (another version by Arik Lavi) Lyric: EnglishHebrew.

Between Religion and Ethics: Presenting in Israel 2023

An interesting and unusual audience combination of Israeli psychologists, some of whom also lead a traditionally religious Jewish life, presented me with a challenge I was happy to tackle on in my visit to Israel in 2023. My presentation Therapeutic Ethics in The Movies had to be reinvented in order to be sensitive to audience members who could be offended by nudity, language, and sexual references, to name but a few. I didn’t know what to expect from the English-speaking, largely traditional Jewish psychologist audience in Ra’ananah, Israel. The challenge doubled as I was not willing to dull my presentation in order to appease an audience. The result was the best of both worlds: my points were able to come across and be absorbed poignantly, while I did manage to evoke some strong reactions from the audience, which I always considered to be a bonus!   

A second presentation during the 2023 visit was on Myths We Live By in my sister’s kibbutz Nachson.  It was exciting and surprising presentation in… Hebrew on challenging topics such as victimization and abuse to an audience that experience both. It was interesting, respectful and intense presentation as the audience include holocaust survivors and victimized women.

Honoring the Transition – Come and Join Me in a Goodbye Celebration

You are invited to join me in celebrating my transition. I’d rather not have any crying or bemoaning what a perfect saint I am. Instead, we’ll sing songs, read poetry, play music, dance, speak from the heart, and much more…

I love my life, how I have lived, the choices I’ve made, even my conscious choice of words I used and phrases I refused to use—admittedly with very little regard to what many of you thought, felt or considered inappropriate, impolite, uncivil, or worse…!

For the most part I have lived my life as if every day is or may be my last day on earth. I’ve had numerous encounters with death throughout my life, most by choice and others by circumstance.  I never considered death a failure. My mother had a hand in teaching me that. A phrase she repeatedly told us was, “Trees die erect.” It summed up how she lived so perfectly that we had it etched on her gravestone.

I have a deep appreciation for your tolerance of me, even when you thought me offensive, insensitive, controlling, inconsiderate, full of myself or simply dumb. None of you slapped me when I stupidly declared, more than once, “Even when I am wrong, I am right.”

When I upset you, as I’m sure I often did, in my mind it was about ‘doing good’ or having, what Ilan repeatedly called ‘a teaching moment.’ Admittedly, even this gathering is a ‘teaching moment.’ 

So let’s celebrate, rejoice, and have fun – 

Ofer

You are invited to, privately, share your reaction/s to this ‘Invitation’ here.

Hi: I am not sure when my goodbye party will take place, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years or… Here is my ready to go invitation.  Your feedback or thoughts on the invitation is welcomed.

July/2023

OZ

An Eskimoe’s tale describes that when the elderly can no longer contribute to the village they are put out on the ice so the polar bears eat them and the young villagers hunt the bear and survive. In our modern world, where 50% of the medical costs accrue in the last couple of years of elderly life, the elderly eat the bear.

An Israeli Palestinian Solution is possible. 2023-2024

By an Israeli lieutenant & paratrooper who served in Gaza & left Israel for moral reasons

 

Competing historical ‘claims’ of who was first, Moses or Allah or who owns what, Muslims or Jews or who is ‘holier” should NOT be part of the current ‘cease fire’ negotiation. Israel gets its 1948 territory and the Palestinians get the entire West Bank (settlers are out) and Gaza (Hamas and all).

The biggest challenge and the real question for what is happening in the Middle East, Gaza and Israel these days, Oct. 2023 is to acknowledge the deep hatred on both sides and how to live next to each other, reluctantly accepting co-existence with each other.

I am Ofer Zur, a psychologist, an enmity and war expert, and a former lieutenant and paratrooper in the Israeli army who was wounded in the 1973 war.  I was born in Israel in 1950, and during my military service, was stationed in a refugee camp in Gaza back in 1970.  This experience led me to the conviction that I had to leave Israel, which I did. (See: I Was Her, Out-Of-Body Experience, On Leaving Israel).

I am watching with horror and deep sadness what is happening in Israel and Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023. Israel bombing Gaza and killing thousands of civilians (post 10/7/2023) does NOT eradicate Hamas, it gives it much MORE strength and popularity.

Knowing the region and the complexities of its people, I am proposing a solution for the situation. The main challenge for Israelis and Palestinians is, how to live or have a ceasefire with an enemy who wants to destroy you.

Here are my views and a long-term peace proposal for the region:

  1. Israel does NOT have a vote about whether, or not the Palestinians, including Hamas want to destroy it. The biggest challenge for Israelies would be how to live next to a hostile country bent on their destruction.
  2. Israelis should and must give the Palestinians their own state. No more occupation!!!!! No more hateful settlers!!! Unarmed-peaceful-respectful settlers can stay in the West Bank ONLY if they surrender and accept the Palestinian rule and full control of the West Bank, i.e. Palestine.
  3. A Palestinian state will include the West Bank and Gaza. They will be connected via tunnel, bridge or train – by appropriate means, satisfactory to both sides. The main reason for this is simply self-preservation for Israel. “Occupation destroys the occupier.” Gaza will have its own sea-port and both, West Bank and Gaza will have their own international airports. Some optimistically, but not very realistically, suggest, that in exchange to giving the Palestinians their own state, they will de-militarized both Gaza and West Bank.
  4. Israel with its superb military capacities CAN protect itself if it chooses to, (not make it ridiculously easy, as it did on Oct. 7, 2023).
  5. The hope is that in 2-3 generations (Yes, 2-3 generations, not 2-3 weeks or 2-3 months or even years), the situation will de-escalate, Israel will be forgiven, and incentive on both sides, for cooperation will have developed.
  6. Not much different that the Protestant and Cathelic in Ireland 1968 to 1998  30 years conflict. And hopefully similarly to how one of the worst conflict in human history between the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda where nearly one million, primarily Tutsi were killed was peacefully resolved. If Israel fully give the West Bank to the Palestinians it is likely to be a similar to the current situation between India and Pakistan that arose out of the 1947 partition of British India, which established a Muslim-majority Pakistan and a Hindu-majority India. They currently co-exist with tension and highly militarized border. Although both countries have maintained a fragile cease-fire since 2003, they regularly exchange fire across the contested border. Both sides accuse the other of violating the cease-fire and claim to be shooting in response to attacks. Fences make good neighbors! Israel may end up with friendly relationship with Palestine they way Israel has very friendly relationships with Jordan and Israel or may be more similar to the India and Pakistan tense but rather stable relationships. Either way is much better and more fair and more just of the current 1967-2023 situation.

The big-picture view and perspective:

Getting the 500,000+ religious settlers out of the West Bank is not easy but definitely doable because: They have no economic base – $ comes from outside. They have light weapons but are not highly trained in using them. They cannot really fend for themselves. They rely on the Israeli army to keep the highly guarded exclusive roads to Israel open. So it is doable to force them out from the West Bank (AKA, Palestine).

In the same way that Israel lives with its enemy relationships in the north, Lebanon and Syria, so will it learn to live with a hostile Palestine.

They bomb Israel, Israel bombs back. Then, in a couple of generations there will be peace, similar to Israel’s current peaceful relationships with Jordan, Egypt and… growing peace with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

I am hopeful…

Exciting Fiji Adventure with my Son in 2023/2024

Toward the end of 2023, my son, Eitan invited me to sail, hike, ATV, and explore magical caves, gorgeous water-falls and beautiful trails with him in Fiji, where he sailed his monohull sailboat across the challenging stormy Pacific from the US a year earlier.

It was hurricane season in Fiji and most boats were out of the water, few tourists were around, and there was plenty of humidity, beauty, heat, calmness and rain. Skies intermittently cleared enough, however, making way for dynamic and beautiful displays of the sun dipping below the horizon, and warm, breezy moonlit sky views.

In the heart of Fiji’s azure waters, my son, seasoned sailor and I, somewhat experienced (old) sailor, used downtime to prepare his vessel before he embarked on his next picturesque adventurous voyage west to… Navigating the vibrant volcanic reefs, we shared the calm of our cherished bond amidst the gentle lapping of reflective waves.

Fiji, on a sailboat
With my son
Feeling serene and loved,
The whole world made right by wonder

Azzia’s Monthly-Ritual-Visit to Sebastopol

Azzia (40) has been spending a one Shabbat (Saturday) monthly for years at Sebastopol, CA coming from her 1 hr. away home at Berkeley.   It is a nice, heart-warming ritual that helps us stay lovingly connected as well as informed of each other’s lives in our ‘walk & talk’ tradition and lunch with Jenji.

Azzia is ‘doing good’ (Zur’s dictatorial term) works in sales at SCS Global Services, an environmental standard holding company. She is also promoting to fifth degree black belt at Aiki Arts Center in Berkeley this spring.

Going for ‘Walks & Talks’ above our property on our Saturdays …. Updating each other of our lives and reminiscing on the single-father years when she was 4 and her and I moved to peaceful beautiful town of Sonoma for her to attend kindergarten.

I Was Deeply Touched by a Hearty Feedback

After my 2/11/24, 2 hrs, 2 CE, zoom presentation for the (American) Iranian Psychological Association on Ethical-Moral Junction in Psychotherapy and Mental Health Services I got the following hearty-moving feedback from an Iranian-American psychologist participant:

Dear Ofer,

Thank you so much for the great presentation. Your approach was a breath of fresh air as it was not the typical ethics workshop of “do this” and “don’t do that”!  As I told my colleagues, your approach of considering junctions of ethical and moral considerations was thoughtful, real, and applicable to everyday clinical dilemmas that we all experience.  

But aside from the workshop, I found myself really liking, in fact admiring, your philosophical stances and ways of thinking: values, critical thinking, analysis, openness to possibilities, living life bravely, honestly, and what seemed to me to be taking the juice out of life.  It was a pleasure being with you.  

If you are ever in my area, I would love to treat you to some delicious Persian food.

With warm regards,

H.

A beautiful note,
like a present
wrapped in kindness and warmth
had been sent,
reminded me of the importance
of considering ethical junctions
To receive such feedback had opened
a river of good nature,
a spring flowed within me,
a well of nurturing

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