Ilan, Prof. Eliezer
Immigrated to Palestine 1937
Died in Jerusalem 1982
For 30 years directed the child guidance clinic in Jerusalem
Our father – Professor Eliezer Ilan (1915 – 1982)
Our father, Eliezer Ilan (previous name Mandelbaum) was born in the winter of 1915 in Dresden 1915, first and only son after five daughters. The Mandelbaum family had emigrated from Krakow, Poland, to Germany. His father, Avraham Mandelbaum, was an orthodox Jew, and he had studied in a yeshiva before their emigration. He had been an active member of the Jewish community. When our father was born, in the midst of the First World War, his father was serving in Kaiser Wilhelm’s army, for Germany. The family had a shop for womens’ lingerie, but the shop was not profitable enough and our father’s mother, our grandmother, would have to travel far and wide to fairs in order to peddle her wares.
Our father hardly knew his father, who returned ill from the war, and died when our father was only four years old. Thus, he grew up in a household with six women, his mother and five sisters, the youngest of whom was six years older than him.
When he was thirteen, his mother sent him to live in Frankfort with his oldest sister and her husband, with the thought that this would be a good place for him to have the best of both religious and secular education.
His life in Frankfort, in the severe, ultra religious school, was not easy. At some stage he discovered Zionism, and also rejected religion, to the dismay of his sister and brother in law. At the age of 17 he left their house and went to live in the “Zionist Pioneer House”, where he quickly became a youth leader in the Werkleute (practical people) Youth Movement , an experience which influenced his life deeply. In response to his mother’s vigorous pleadings he did not abandon his secondary school studies as he had planned (“What is needed in Eretz Yisrael are not professors but manual laborers”) but in fact graduated from highschool with honours and was granted a scholarship to the university, a scholarship of which he never took advantage). In 1933 the Nazis rose to power, and our father went to live in the Chalutz House in Berlin. There, together with his friends from the youth movement, he began to study carpentry in order to prepare himself for productive work in Israel, then Eretz Yisrael. He also became a youth leader in the Chalutz House and did some travelling, lecturing on subjects connected to the Zionist movement. His life was very stressful. He fell ill with a stomach ulcer from which he suffered all his life. He was hospitalized at this time and thus was unable to go to Eretz Yisrael with his friends in 1935. It was these friends who founded Kibbutz Hazorea which has a high functioning carpentry plant until this very day. He did not join them but retained a friendly connection with them all his life.
After his hospitalization, father returned to the Chalutz House in Frankfort. He was a youth leader there and then became the director of the House. At the same time he began going to lectures in education and philosophy in the Shimshon Rafael Hirsch School for Jewish Studies, an institution where the first buds of training for reform rabbis began. After all the Jewish academics were fired from the regular universities by the Nazis, this school became the Jewish university with renowned members of staff such as Martin Buber. One of his classmates was Joseph Burg who eventually became Israel’s Minister of the Interior.
It was becoming clearer every day that the Jews had to leave Germany.
Father was offered a stipend to study for the Reform Rabbinate in Cincinatti, Ohio, but he refused the offer, steadfast in his decision to go to Eretz Yisrael. He remained in Germany under Nazi rule, trying to get a grant to go there.
Finally, with the help of the Schocken Fund, he received a grant to study in the “Yellin Seminary for Hebrew Teachers”, today, the Beit Hakerem Seminary. On the basis of this grant he received a certificate which made it possible for him to “make Aliya”‘ and he arrived in 1937. He received a warm welcome from his friends in Kibbutz Hazorea and began to work there in the carpentry shop. After several months he realized that his health problems would not permit him to persevere in this work, and he decided to realize his wish to become a teacher and educator. Carpentry remained a hobby for the rest of his life; he built furniture with “yeckish” exactitude, furniture which we still use.
He was required to take matriculation examinations in Bible and other Jewish subjects, without any concessions for newcomers; it was unthinkable that a Hebrew teacher not have a thorough knowledge of Bible and Hebrew Literature. When he completed the examinations, he began studying in the Beit Hakerem Seminary, headed by Ben Zion Dinur. At this time he also married, for the first time; he and his wife lived in the dormitories belonging to an institution called “The Children of Teheran, an institution for children who had had terrible experiences during the Holocaust, coming from Poland on their own, a terrible journey through Russia and then Teheran, finally arriving in Eretz Yisrael. Working with these children was a shattering experience for him and it left its mark on him as an educator and a therapist for children and youth. He recorded some of these experiences later. Two case studies appear in his book which came out in Hebrew: Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents.
His marriage did not thrive. He and his wife separated after three years, without any children.
While still in Germany, in the Chalutz House, he came across Freud’s Introduction to Psychoanalysis. The book aroused his enthusiasm and he decided to pursue the subject more deeply and to integrate it into his educational work.
The combination of education and psychology fascinated him: thus while still studying at the Seminary, he started to undergo psychoanalytic training with Dr. Eitingon, Freud’s student who had made Aliya and founded the Israel Psychoanalytic Association in Jerusalem. Eitingon was very interested in promoting psychoanalysis in the world of education. Our father’s training also included being supervised in his therapeutic work by a psychoanalyst.
When he completed his studies, he began working as a therapeutic teacher in the Bnei Brit Institution in Jerusalem, working there with the Teheran children – and at the same time, he began doing therapy with adults.
At this time, the State of Israel was born and the War of Independence broke out. He served in the war in Jerusalem, first as a combat paramedic; he took place in the capture of the train station and Abu Tor, and later he was recruited as an army psychologist. During the war he met his second wife, our mother, Chana Bar; they married when he was in uniform. At that time, he was also one of the many, encouraged by Ben Gurion, to change his name to a Hebrew one, from Mandelbaum to Ilan.
In the early fifties he began studying for his M.A. in psychology. He did not have a B.A. but the combination of his studies at the Berlin school, the psychoanalytic institute and the Beit Midrash for Jewish Studies was recognized as equivalent of a B.A. At this time he began working at the Child Guidance Center at Hachish St. in Jerusalem which was directed at the time by Dr. Shmuel Nagler; when Shmuel moved to Haifa our father was appointed director in his place, a post which he held for thirty years until he retired; after he died the Child Guidance Center was named after him; this was initiated by his successor, Yoram Bar Giora.
At the same time that he began running the Center, he also began teaching in the Psychology Department at the Hebrew University; he also worked as a consultant for Bnei Brit Institution and had a private practice. He worked privately with adult patients; at the Center he worked with children and adolescents; in this way he avoided conflicts of interests between his public work and his private work.
From the beginning, he was an active member of the Psychoanalytic Institute, filling various roles, including serving as chairman for several years. In the course of his work he was sent by the World Health Organization to specialized courses in England and France ; he also took place at conferences in England and the U.S., and at the beginning of the 70s, he completed his Ph.D, which he had not had the opportunity to do before.
Several years before his death, he was granted a professorship at the Hebrew University. During his lifetime he published many professional articles and two books.
First and foremost, our father was interested in people, in a remote,scientific fashion, but as a human being concerned with the wishes and suffering of the person who sat opposite him, with a sincere wish to help him.
He had a rare ability for asking people the most direct and intimate questions (not only his professional clients but anyone whose distress he felt) and to listen to them with genuine interest and depth.
People felt this, giving him their trust, telling him their most painful and secret feelings. He did not disappoint them. As far as we know, he never exploited these abilities in any negative way. He had strong moral values and any effort to manipulate people aroused his anger and disgust. He had a good sense of humor, but it was always kind and attentive and never hurtful. And he had great self control: We hardly remember his ever losing his temper.
He had many friends, friends from his youth in Germany and friends he made later in Jerusalem. He had no arrogance, he never looked for a quarrel nor was he interested in receiving honours; he avoided any kind of publicity.
Father had a lot of influence in the family, both near and far relatives. He was deeply interested in all of them, always trying his best to help them in their life struggles in any way he could. He had a very strong relationship both with our mother and with us. At home we spoke about everything very openly and there were no taboo subjects. In spite of his dedication to his work, he was a person of broad interests and knowledge, besides being a devoted family man. We spent many ours together discussing, among other things, history and philosophy, and we had many holidays together, both in Israel and abroad, which were unforgettable.
In spite of not being an observant Jew, he had a warm spot for religion and tradition. Every Friday night in our home there was Kiddush and we sang Sabbath songs. When we were children he read us bible tales and when we grew older he read the Ethics of the Fathers with us and discussed the texts. His expertise in the Bible as well as his deep knowledge of general philosophy was amazing, but his true gift was his ability to integrate the best of all these sources and to convey his knowledge and his ideas to us in an open and generous way. For years he went to the synagogue “Emet veemuna on the holidays; it was a synagogue belonging to the moderate Zionist religious movement, having been attended over the years by Martin Buber and Professor Ernst Simon from Brith Shalom. As he grew older he grew even more interested in religion, taking an interest in Kabalah and the Book of the Zohar.
He was a committed and orthodox psychoanalyst all his life. He admired Freud and treated his patient in accordance with his teachings. Freud’s picture hung above his desk and also in the Clinic. About Freud he was extreme: other versions of psychoanalysis seemed to him to miss the true essence; he saw them as trying to take a shortcut and he disliked this very much. The worst thing he could say about a colleague was that he was a behaviourist – that is to say, ignorant and a charlatan…
His work was the center of his life and he treated it with devotion and extreme responsibility. He was totally honest. He radiated great openness, sincerity, a desire to understand and to help. He set us a model, loving and being loved by the family, colleagues and patients.
He was self disciplined in all aspects of his life. He would get up every morning at six a.m. in order to exercise including standing on his head which he had learned in the 50s from Moshe Feldenkreiz who had also taught Ben Gurion.
Father died a sudden death from heart failure while he was doing his morning exercises. He was 67, still with all his mental powers, still doing important work. He had retired from his work in the Clinic but he was still working full swing. He left a gap in many peoples’ lives – family members, friends, colleagues, students and patients.
After his death, the clinic which he directed held an annual memorial day in the form of a scientific conference for more than twenty years. The centre of this conference was a professional lecture and it was attended over the years by hundreds of people, colleagues, present and past staff of his clinic including young people who never knew him personally, and of course, his family, the two of us and our mother.
May he not be forgotten.
Recording of Ilan’s speach at the farewell party to his honour.
Child Therapy and Education
Ilan, E. (1963) The problem of motivation in the educator’s vocational choice. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, XVIII, 266-285.
Ilan, E., Alexander, A.(1965) Eyelash and Eyebrow pulling (trichotillomania). The Israeli Annals of Psychiatry and Related Disciplines, 3, 232-306.
Ilan, E., Jarus,A., Meijer, A.(1970) The child and family in ambulatory treatment. In: Jarus, A.,Marcus, J., Oren,J., Rapaport, C. (eds) Children and Families in Israel. New York: Gordon and Breach, 499-512.
Ilan, E. (1973) The Impact of a father’s suicide on his latency son . In: Anthony, E. J. and Koupernik, C. (eds )Yearbook of the International Association for Child Psychiatry and Allied Professions. Vol. II, The Child in His Family. New York: Wiley, 299-306.
Ilan, E. (1973) Another View. In: Winnik, H. Z., Moses, R. and Ostow, M. (eds) Psychological Bases of War. Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., Jerusalem: Israel Press, 169-172.
Ilan, E. (1976) Some problems in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy with young male adolescents. The Israeli Annals of Psychiatry and Related Disciplines, 14, 132-144.
Ilan, E. (1977) The effect of interpretation in psychoanalytic treatment in the light of an integrated model of internal objects. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 58, 183-194.
Ilan, E. (1977) The treatment of a refugee child in a home for disturbed children and a follow-up 30 years later. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 32, 453-478.
Ilan, E. (1983) Therapeutic approaches in the light of an integrated view of internalized processes. The Israeli Annals of Psychiatry and Related Disciplines, 20, 63-80.
Ilan, E. (1984) Child Therapy and Education: An Object Relations Approach. Jerusalem, The Magnus Press, The Hebrew University.