The Co-Creation of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis:  Notes from the Archives

Avi Berman, Miriam Berger and Joshua Lavie

“Group Analysis in the Land of Milk and Honey”

Edited by Yael Doron and Robi Friedman

The history of professional group practice in Israel predates the founding of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis. Sensitivity training groups were imported from the West Coast of the United States, and they flourished with a generation of flower children. More restrained, European fun came from Bion’s British tradition, which was, ironically, introduced by Itamar Rogovsky and his colleagues from applied psychoanalysis in Argentina. “T Groups” were established in universities, business organizations, and, finally, in the military. In such groups, we experienced for the very first time what it was like to share our emotions and thoughts with other adults who were strangers to each other. Sometimes we managed to talk about our personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and, in turn, to hear the confessions of others. We were often moved by these exchanges.

Those of us who became familiar with Bion’s study group legacy were confronted with the challenging and sometimes frightening role of the “leader”. We experienced resistances that are still remembered to this day. We learned how to respond to the appeals of individual members of groups: by offering them interpretation of group dynamics. At the same time, we were in the midst of training in mental health professions. We came from different disciplines (psychologists, social workers and psychotherapists), which focused mainly on the dyadic relationship between therapist and patient. With very few exceptions, our previous trainings did not teach us about the effectiveness of group therapy, or make it possible for us to trust it. Moreover, the leaders of our supervision groups seemed not to understand group processes. We contained this negativity silently, mainly because we were still interns.

In the entire country, we were just a few dozen professionals who believed in the group as a therapeutic modality. Most of us knew each other. Our paths crossed again and again through learning, teaching and work. While our knowledge of individual psychotherapy deepened, we felt the absence of training in group therapy. We felt that as a body of knowledge and practice, group therapy should have its own professional place, similar to the way that psychoanalysis had a professional home.

As early as 1965 Foulkes had visited Israel, and stayed for two months (Lavie, 2003). Coordinated by Ada Abraham in Jerusalem, this visit was sponsored by UNESCO, and included lectures and supervision sessions for senior professionals. In fact, a lecture given by Foulkes at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is currently used in our training program. Ada founded in Jerusalem her own Institute of Group Analysis, based on the activities of the Group Analytic Society in London, but this Institute did not survive beyond setting up an introductory Course.

In 1978, two years after the death of Foulkes, several senior group analysts came to Israel in order to train and supervise therapists who wanted to work with groups.  Accepting an invitation from Dr Sam Davidson, the Director of Shalvata Mental Health Centre, and with Vivienne Cohen’s assistance, Arnon Ben-Tovim, Earl Hopper, Lionel Kreeger, Malcolm Pines and Meg Sharpe presented lectures, and gave seminars and supervision. These colleagues also helped with some of the work with traumatized victims of the Yom Kippur War and of recent terrorist attacks. This special event, which lasted only a fortnight, was highly valued, and from time to time thereafter several group analysts from London worked at Shalvata with Dr Davidson.

The 1980’s was a productive decade for Israeli group psychotherapy. A few of us participated in the training programs organized by Benni and Bella Rippa, which focused on the theory of Pichon-Riviēre and his idea of “The Operative Group”. In 1984, they began to teach the theory of Group Analysis as well. Later, Beni Rippa supported the initiative to create the Israel Institute for Group Analysis, and he is now an Honorary Member of the Institute. At about the same time Hanni Biran founded a training program for group therapists in the school of psychotherapy at Tel Aviv University.  Dr. M. Ben-Yakar and Dr. G. Sheved, backed by the administrative abilities of Dr. N. Mi-Bashan, started a training program for group therapists, which was active for eleven years. The two year training included practice groups, theory and operative groups. Many of us worked as teachers in a group leadership training programme in Tel Aviv University, led by Miriam Golan and Ariela Friedman.

In 1990, a group analytic workshop took place at Abarbanel Mental Health Centre, initiated by Dr Alex Aviv, Bracha Hadar, Shimon Kornitzer, Irit Raveh and Dr Henry Shor, as well as Brenda Fogel from London. The aim of the workshop was to explore the possibility of starting an Introductory Course of Group Analysis in Israel, in affiliation with the Institute of Group Analysis in London. On the basis of the success of this workshop, an Introductory Course was organized in 1991-1992. Brenda Fogel was its convener. The other staff members were Robin Cooper, Levana Marshall and Marlene Spero. Vivienne Cohen, who immigrated to Israel at that time, served as their consultant.

This Introductory Course gave birth to the idea of a Diploma Course, and Brenda Fogel was its inspiration. Most of the teachers in programs for group conductors and group therapy, some of whom had already begun to discuss the possibility of starting a formal training in group psychotherapy, wished to participate in the Course. The opportunity to belong to an Institute of Group Analysis in Israel, and to establish a training program for group analysis, evoked our passion and enthusiasm.  Admission criteria for the new Course were formulated, including a graduate degree and documented experience in group therapy and teaching.

In January 1995 forty colleagues, most of whom had participated in the Introductory Course, met in Bet Levinstein for the new Diploma Course. The plan was for it to be conducted in a setting of “blocks” of five to six long weekends a year. Brenda Fogel chaired a staff team from the IGA in London, consisting of Robin Cooper, Sheila Ernst and Earl Hopper. A Local Organizing Committee, chaired by Shimon Kornitzer, coordinated the arrangements between students and teachers. Each weekend block included participation and regular sessions of group-analytic small groups, large groups, supervision groups and theory seminars. Seniority did not excuse an applicant from fulfilling the requirement for participation in group therapy.  Thus, we set a positive example that continues to influence the training norms of group therapists in Israel to this day.

These group analytic groups were a very special experience for us: we opened up to them, and they opened up to us. A unique relationship both among ourselves and between us and our English group conductors, was generated. We mumbled in English, which gradually improved.  We delved into the personal and collective dynamics of our experience in groups. We became familiar with Foulkes’ writings, memorizing his long sentences, which contained insights, both familiar and new, both minor and important. His ideas about the primacy of the group and about the mutual influence of people in the group, e.g. the matrix, mirroring, resonance, exchange, etc, established our unique professional identity. A spirit of innovation and hope surged in our hearts. These were also times of hope for peace in the Middle East. Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement, and dialogue about a new Middle East was an element in the emerging matrix. We hoped that one day we would establish an Institute of Group Analysis in Israel.

Our joy lasted for about a year. The teaching staff called a meeting and informed us that they were obliged to change certain aspects of the setting of the course. We had to pay more in fees and expenses. Without adequate and proper consultation, several participants were added to the course, some of whom did not meet the existing criteria for acceptance. These new participants included Jews and Arabs. We had virtually no alternative but to accept these overwhelming changes, because we wanted to continue the course. However, soon after this, another meeting was called, during which we learned that the course fees failed to meet yet a new financial budget required by the “Overseas Training Committee” of the IGA in London. We realized that our teaching staff were themselves under pressure from the London IGA. In fact, they were in crisis. Some of us learned that there was a serious health problem in the family of one of the members of staff. In spite of our not having much information about this (and perhaps even because we did not have much information) we reacted with anger, disappointment and anxiety. With the support of most of the participants on the course, some of us initiated a letter, which was sent to the “Castle” (perhaps “Palace” would be more apposite) in London. We asked for an intervention from the IGA in London.

The intervention arrived in the form of a delegation of three people who came to talk to us. However, what might have restored our hopes, turned out to be the end of them. We were informed that the IGA had not approved the Course in the first place, Brenda Fogel had not been authorized to start it, and therefore, the IGA had decided to close it down. During this meeting our teachers remained silent. We could not understand why the Course was closed rather than reorganized and re-authorized. Nor could we understand why our leaders were so “abstinent”. Later, we learned that they, too, were “stunned”, and some of them had not known that the Course had not been authorized. The delegation caught the next flight back to London. At the same time, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated.  We were speechless and helpless.

There are greater disasters than this, but we were definitely traumatized by what we experienced as an aggressive, one-sided decision, without dialogue and the offer of negotiation. We were abandoned, both as professional colleagues and as patients. We were extremely disappointed in the organization, which we had admired and perhaps idealized. We felt that the IGA had violated its own Ethical Code of Conduct. We experienced a failure of appropriate dependency.

Although we were shocked by these events, we began to work through this traumatic experience. As part of the attempts to process what had happened, Bracha Hadar and Gila Ofer, in a paper presented to the Group Analytic Society Conference in 2001 in Budapest, compared what had happened on the Course to the events of the British Palestine Mandate, in which there were pronounced ambivalence towards Israel and anti-Jewish feelings. After receiving editorial comments from Malcolm Pines, Earl Hopper and anonymous reviewers, this paper was published in Group Analysis in the same year.

After about a year’s time,  several students and teachers decided that they could not accept the violent closing of the qualifying course course. Monica Tanai went to London in order to meet Levana Marshall to consider alternative possibilities. In turn, Levana discussed this with Robin Cooper, who indicated that he could not bear the IGA’s decision. He contacted us and offered to come to Israel and conduct a therapy group in Israel in order to process the rupture. Soon after this he was joined by Bryan Boswood.  Robin and Bryan travelled together, once every two months, for about eighteen months, and conducted a block of therapy sessions during weekends. They met in Eric Moss’ and Joshua Lavie’s offices in Tel Aviv. To us, they represented the ethical and professional spirit of group analysis, which sought ways to repair the harm caused by unilaterally stopping the Course.

Avi Berman, who participated in these sessions, and who was a member of the Management Committee of the Israeli Association of Group Psychotherapy, initiated a proposal to found an independent Israeli Institute of Group Analysis, based on the certification standards and guidelines of the European Group Analytic Training Institutes Network (EGATIN). The new Institute would seek the academic and clinical services of senior European, but not necessarily English, staff who would monitor our certification processes.  This was accepted unanimously by the Committee. Haim Weinberg, the Chairman of the Committee, proposed that the Association could provide the funds for the founding of the Institute. We were moved by a spirit of friendship, entrepreneurship and cooperation.

A steering committee was established, chaired by Avi Berman, who later became the first chairman of the Institute. The Committee included Miriam Berger, Robi Friedman, Joshua Lavie,  Suzi Shoshani and  Haim Weinberg. Anca Ditroi and Diana Topilsky were members of the steering committee for a period of time . Avi, Robi and Miriam flew to London to interview candidates who might form the staff of teachers and conductors of the new Institute. All the members of the Course that had been cancelled were invited to come to the Institute in order to complete their training. Thirty three of the original forty four participants returned. Bryan Boswood was appointed to convene a staff team comprised of Robin Cooper, Levana Marshall and Veronica Muntz (SGAZ Zurich). They became our teachers, supervisors and therapists.

A short time later we invited professionals in Israel to join a second course for senior colleagues. Robi Friedman was the coordinator of this second course. Tom Hamrogue (IGA London) became the convener of its staff team, which included Beatrice Hook (IGA London), Felix Mendelssohn (IGA Vienna), and Gabrielle Rifkind (IGA London).


Thus, “The Israeli Institute of Group Analysis” was founded.

Our first years were creative but also tumultuous. Two events are particularly memorable. The first occurred in the midst of the terrorist attacks on civilians in the cities of Israel, including Tel Aviv (2001-2002). When the Gulf War started in January 2003, the British Foreign Office advised British citizens not to travel to Israel, and the members of the teaching staff decided not to attend the next block. However, we did not want the sessions to be interrupted.  The trauma of closing of the Diploma Course was still alive in our memories. In an atmosphere of pain and fear, it seemed to us that our gathering together at the usual designated time and place was necessary for our emotional containment. The management committee decided to hold the block as planned, but it would be self-conducted. In the event, the small therapy groups and the supervision groups were leaderless, and the large group was conducted by members who volunteered for the task. In the large group sessions members expressed their ambivalence about the Committee’s decision to hold the block as planned despite the absence of our staff. It was essential for us to process the tension between our European staff, who expected us to cancel the block, and the Committee, who decided to hold the block. This work was very meaningful for all of us.

The second memorable event was associated with the departure in 2004 of ten participants from the second course upon the completion of their training. They were part of the staff of the Tel Aviv University training program for group conductors. Their departure was caused by a fierce dispute regarding the nature of the training in the IIGA. They took exception to the requirements of EGATIN that the composition of group analytic small  groups must be heterogeneous, and  that each group must be  conducted  by a single conductor. However, the Tel Aviv training program allowed homogenous groups to be co-conducted. Heated and tense discussions over these issues led to a proposal  to allow  the  staff members  from this Tel Aviv University Course  to be exempted from these EGATIN requirements according to a “Grandfather Clause”. Despite the approval of this exception in an assembly of members, these ten participants felt insulted, and left the Course after the blocks ended. The IIGA lost good people who continue to be missed.

We have continued to work through the traumatogenic processes that were associated with the foundation of the IIGA. For example, in one way or another these events have often been discussed in the large groups which are an important part of the meetings of our institute. We have begun to make creative use of these painful experiences. These processes take a very long time.

The IIGA continued to develop. Its first graduates became certified group analysts, after completing all the training requirements, and after their final paper (written in English) was read and approved by readers abroad. The IIGA designed its own training program, appointing teachers, recruiting students and managing a new course of studies.

Between 2005 and 2010 the Institute was co-chaired by Miriam Berger and Suzi  Shoshani. The idea that the position of Chairperson could be shared by two people was innovative in psychoanalytic Institutes and group-analytic Institutes. Not only was the position shared by two chairpersons, but they were also women. There were some concerns that without a hierarchy with a single elected chairperson, difficulties in the management of the Institute might emerge. However the co-chairpersonship proved to be  effective and beneficial. The IIGA strengthened its foundations, consolidated  its independent course of studies,  and   established  its independent  institutional identity. .

These tasks, which demanded a huge amount of work, were guided by a vision to create a   new training course that would reflect both the spirit of Group Analysis and the realities of Israeli society. The resources available were mainly our optimism, creativity and daily work. Miriam and Suzi’s labor of love was supported by an encouraging and committed management Committee.

In 2006, Pnina Rappaport and Suzi Shoshani co-chaired a conference that was organized and conducted through cooperation with IIGA in which  Jews and Arabs met and worked together in order to develop creative tools to deal with conflicts. It was called “Imagine”.  Prof. Vivian Marcow from Lesley University, USA, facilitated the participation of Palestinian colleagues from Al Kuds University in Jerusalem.  The conference was also supported by the Foundation of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. The 350 participants included a group of 60 Palestinians, some of whom were citizens of the Gaza Strip. Building on this successful Conference, Pnina and Suzy developed a one year training program. Many members of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis, together with Arab professionals from El Kuds University, volunteered to develop this program.

In 2009, as part of our desire to expand our connections and to become part of the international professional community, the Institute organized its first international conference in Ein Gedi, named ‘kNOw hard feelings’, co-chaired by Miriam and Suzi. Colleagues from Israel, Europe and other countries participated in the Conference, which laid the ground for fruitful professional relationships with international colleagues,  and started a tradition of similar  workshops.   In 2013, the Institute held a second international conference, held in Gonen, and called “INtouchable”. There were 130 participants, 30 of whom from abroad. In 2015, the Institute organized another international conference, called ‘The Road not Taken’. Pnina Rappaport was the chairwoman of its scientific committee. In 2012, Robi Friedman and Marit Joffe-Milstein organized a Conference ‘Away from the Gates of Auschwitz’ in Shfeya, Israel.  Joining with Dr Regine Scholz and Marita Barthel Rosing, Robi and Marit continued their cooperation, and organized two more Israel-German group analytic “Dialogue” conferences, in Nachsholim in 2013, and in Ginosar in 2014, with guests from many countries.

During this period of time, the management committee of the Institute designed a new training program for group analysts. Nurit Goren initiated and developed this programme, and was appointed as its first convener. Suzi Shoshani was appointed its next convener and Einav Karniel-Lauer its third convener, each of them managing two consecutive courses of 4 years.

From 2010 to 2013, Robi Friedman was elected the chairman of the Institute.  During his tenure, the involvement of the members in various committees increased, and our new graduates joined the staff of the Institute, taking various roles. These processes involved passing the baton of leadership from the founders to the successors. In 2013, Marit Joffe-Milstein, who graduated from the first independent diploma course, and Friedman were elected co-Chairs of the Institute.  When Robi’s tenure ended, Marit was elected the sole chairwoman of the IIGA. In October 2014, the training program of the IIGA started its fifth class of students

Today, group analysis in Israel deals with the mutual influence among the various and diverse approaches of psychotherapy and group work in Israel. Our accumulated knowledge is increasingly recognized and absorbed into psychotherapy programs in universities and in clinics. The IIGA has also started to accept requests for training the staff of outpatient and inpatient clinics in Group Analysis. The IIGA’s group analysts also bring the spirit of group analysis to psychoanalytic Institutes, especially to the Tel Aviv Institute of Psychoanalysis, of which four of them are members.
It seems to us that our long journey and the place that we have reached today can be illustrated, both essentially and symbolically, by the fact that in 2011 Robi Friedman was elected President of the International Group Analytic Society. The writing and publication of Group Analysis in the Land of Milk and Honey, co-edited by Robi Friedman and Yael Doron, should also be seen in this context.  Certainly, this book was forged out of the  dramatic processes of  rupture and repair that characterized the conception and birth of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis. It combines the  spirit  of group analysis and the Israeli  desire   to  learn  and  to  contribute  new perspectives  to the growing body of knowledge  in Group Analysis, and represents the diverse professional and national cultures that have been brought together into the dynamic matrix of the Institute and in the foundation matrix of Israel. The clinical and theoretical ideas presented in this book reflect our wish to contribute to the healing process of personal and social trauma in which we are immersed.  Israel and our Institute need the core knowledge and core values of Group Analysis. As in many cases in which dreams ‘come true’, this book offers a productive space for reflecting on the dynamics of our very existence and on the possibilities of a new identity both for Group Analysis and for Israel itself. The similarities between the creation of the IIGA and the constitution of the State of Israel warrant a separate discussion.


We would like to extend our gratitude to the many contributors to the life of our Institute:

The professional guides in our Journey, who we loved and cherished were Earl Hopper, Beatrice Hook, Levana Marshall, Felix de Mendelssohn, Veronika Munz, and Gabrielle Rikfind.  Others from Europe also came six times a year, both in good and bad times:   Bryan Boswood, Robin Cooper, Sheila Ernst and Tom Hamrogue. Although they are no longer with us, they  will be remembered forever by our founding generations.


The volunteers of the IIGA, who invested their energy and love into the management of the Institute and into the creation of its training programme, were Shlomit Alon, Smadar Ashuach, Mira Bar, Dorit Barnea, Miriam Berger, Avi Berman, Rachel Chehanowski, Mishael Chirurg, Anca Ditroi, Ruthie Duek, Hernan Favelukes, Robi Friedman, Nurit Goren, Marit Joffe-Milstein, Sara Kalai, Einav Karniel-Lauer, Joshua Lavie, Yael Lavie, Uri Levin, Orna Levin-Meged, Dana Lieberman, Eric Moss, Orit Mass-Goldman, Gila Ofer, Suzi Shoshani, Aliza Rosen, Batya Rosenthal, Pnina Rappaport, Monica Tanai, Diana Topilsky, Haim Weinberg and Hagit Zohn.


Hadar, B., & Ofer, G. (2001) The social unconscious reflected in politics, organizations and          groups: A case of overseas group analysis training. Group Analysis, 34(3): 375-385.

Lavie, J. (2003). Foulkes in Israel. Mikbatz – the Israeli Journal of Group Psychotherapy. Vol       9/2






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