Morbid Jealousy-And Conjugal Murder in Israel

Article excerpt

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of women murdered by their spouses in Israel. Morbid jealousy has been diagnosed in over one-third of these murders (1).

The terms "morbid jealousy," "pathological jealousy," "sexual jealousy," "psychotic jealousy," "conjugal paranoia" and "Othello syndrome" all have been proposed to describe delusions of infidelity.

When it occurs in pure form it may be regarded as a special variety of paranoia, the so-called Kraepelin's "true paranoia" (2). This jealousy is encapsulated (limited to one delusion only, while all other cognitive functions remain unharmed).

The feeling of jealousy could be compared to an iceberg whose base might be wide and spread, yet it is unknown and unidentified clinically. In fact, this hidden jealousy is examined and diagnosed only when it comes to the surface, and expressed in violent and aggressive behavior towards the spouse.

Morbid jealousy appears to be a crossculturally universal trait, but with variability between and within cultures. The special characteristics of Israeli society could partially account for the rise in the number of women murdered in Israel in the 1990s.

Israeli society has been in the first place in the world in the number of immigrants absorbed in the last decade. In fact, it is the only society, in the 20th century, whose population has grown by 25% through immigration in 10 years only.

The highest rate of murder cases in the family among Jews is in families coming from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. Among the Ethiopians the rate of murder cases is 10 times their percentage in the overall population.

What are the reasons for these high numbers ?

The process of adjustment and absorption in a new culture is a very difficult one. The difficulties which most new immigrants have to cope with may intensify the violence which used to exist in their country of origin.

2. Ethiopian Jews live in closed communities, following the social norms and customs of a patriarchal tribe as they existed in Ethiopia. The family unit is as patriarchal as it was in Ethiopia, with large gaps in status between the man and the woman.

3. The tendency to suspicion, which is more prevalent in totalitarian societies, still exists in the families of immigrants coming from the former Soviet Union.

4. Among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, alcohol is an important factor which accounts for increased aggressiveness within the family.

The data referring to the murder of Moslem women by their spouses are inaccurate as many of these murders are reported as accidents or suicides. …