Despair and Deliverance

Private Salvation in Contemporary Israel

By Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi

Subjects: Israel Studies
Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies
Paperback : 9780791410004, 221 pages, July 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409992, 221 pages, July 1992

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Prologue: Miracles of Self-Transformation

1. Beyond the Pale: New Religions in Israel

2. Back to the Fold: Road to Judaism

3. The Triumph of the Occult

4. The Liberated Self: Developing a Psychotherapy Subculture in Israel

5. Crisis and the Search for Salvation

6. Forming and Preserving the New Self





The author examines the varieties of religious and secular salvation that have recently appeared in Israel as evidence for Israelis' willingness to embrace private salvation in the face of immense cultural upheavals. Drawing on interviews, field observations, clinical data, and media reports collected over ten years, he surveys four roads to private salvation: the return to Judaism, new religions (sects or cults), psychotherapy movements such as est, and occultism. These dramatic forms of conversion are unique to Israeli society within the last decade, and Beit-Hallahmi provides a social history and social psychology of this transformation.

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi is in the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa, Israel. The author of several books, he is co-editor with Zvi Sobel of Tradition, Innovation, Conflict: Jewishness and Judaism in Contemporary Israel, also published by SUNY Press.


"It addresses an issue of great importance for many different kinds of people today. It is clear, scholarly, thoughtful and without jargon. This is a study, not just of several minor religious movements, but also an analysis of the social, psychological and moral 'deep-structures' of life in Israel today, with some highly pertinent comparisons to the United States. " — Peter Homans, The Divinity School, The University of Chicago

"Beit-Hallahmi tells a story that is especially fascinating for Israel on crises in Judaism and Zionism and the relationship between the two. Return to orthodox Judaism and the turn to other religions and cults are presented as symptomatology that can be examined only in the author's sophisticated analytic framework. Although a psychologist, Beit-Hallahmi presents his material in the context of a historical-sociological-political analysis that is breathtaking. " — Gordon Fellman, Brandeis University