Maslow’s Wall

So, once upon a time, there was this guy, Abraham Maslow. I don’t really know that much about him, except that sounds like a pretty Jewish sounding name, and he developed this thing called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.


In his hierarchy, Maslow categorized human needs from the most basic to those that aren’t really “needs” at all but, for much of the world, a luxury. At the lowest level are “physiological” needs: breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, and some other icky stuff that you need to live. The second to the bottom are safety needs, including “security of body.” “Together, the safety and physiological levels of the hierarchy make up what is often referred to as the basic needs.”

The third level are love and belonging needs, and “at the fourth level in Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for appreciation and respect. When the needs at the bottom three levels have been satisfied, the esteem needs begin to play a more prominent role in motivating behavior.”

According to Maslow, the needs at the lower level of the pyramid must be filled before the needs at the top can be addressed.

Maslow suggested that needs at the base of the pyramid, which include such things as food, water, and sleep, must be met before people can move on to needs higher up on the hierarchy.

After fulfilling these fundamental needs, people move on to the need for SAFETY AND SECURITY, then belonging and love and then esteem.

While there seems to be some controversy more recently over what properly belongs at the very top of the pyramid, the bottom seems to be both fairly well-accepted and self-evident.

By now I’m sure you’re thinking, OK, what does all of this have to do with Israel? Why is this on the Israellycool blog?

I’m not a psychologist (actually I never even took psych 101). But I find that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helps explain a lot of human behavior, and also can help to organize and prioritize goals. And it most definitely has application in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The most common complaint about Israel’s security barrier and checkpoints is that they “humiliate” the Palestinian Arabs. Perhaps they do. They also undoubtedly impede travel. But they protect a far more basic need – the need for physical safety. Between the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000 and the building of the wall in 2004, more than 900 people were murdered by terrorism, with thousands more injured. The security barrier (a/k/a the “apartheid wall”), which stopped would-be murderers from committing attacks and effectively ended the second intifada, has saved probably hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives.

Portion of security fence near MeitarFor too many people, including too many liberal American Jews, it isn’t self-evident that the need for physical safety trumps the need to not be humiliated. But Maslow’s hierarchy shows that the security barrier, which protects people from injury and death, is justified even if that protection comes at the expense of convenience or personal pride.

American Jews who demand that Israel dismantle the checkpoints and the security barrier are prioritizing the emotional needs of Palestinian Arabs at the expense of the physical safety needs of Israelis – both Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis. This apathy towards Israelis’ basic needs, ostensibly in the name of social justice, or worse yet, Jewish values, is warped and immoral. There is nothing Jewish or moral about sparing one person’s humiliation at the expense of bodily injury or death to another. In fact, doing so actually goes against Jewish principles.

For the past four months, Israelis have been getting stabbed, shot, and run over by cars. Once again, Israelis’ safety needs, the second most basic category of needs identified Maslow, are not being met. The Israeli government and the IDF have been working hard to correct this problem. Since this stabbing intifada began, liberals around the world have rushed in, once again, to complain about Palestinian “humiliation” and “desperation.” There is just no way that people who are worried about being stabbed, shot, or run over can concern themselves with someone’s complaint that he or she is being “humiliated.” Nor should they.



A Zionist in exile, Mirabelle has, in past lives, been a lawyer, a skier, and a chef. Outside of Israel, her favorite place in the world is Sun Valley, Idaho.