Later on today I will be on a plane to Israel. It has been and interesting experience informing friends and family of this adventure. Interesting because of the reactions and responses I receive. The responses when I say that I will be spending the next year in Israel are, for the majority, the same and as a result have caused me to do a lot of thinking. I hear a lot of “Are you sure you want to go there now?” or “Isn’t it too dangerous?”. It is easy to see that they do not understand why on Earth I want to go there. All the same, they put on an enthusiastic face and act supportive. Each time it’s almost an awkward interaction both for myself and the other.
I think that the reason for this awkwardness is confusion about Israel and the Middle East in general. I have found that in my generation of twenty-something year old Americans there is a significant lack of knowledge and understanding of what Israel is and what is going on there. From my experiences and past conversations I have come to the realization that Israel might as well be as far away as the planet Mars for some people. What makes it worse is it is not a subject that is heavily focused on in public schools, so unfortunately theses youths do not even have that to call upon when the name Israel comes into discussion. There are those who have no idea really what the problem is over there, even fewer would be able to tell you where this small country is located on the globe.
For me this is particularly frustrating. My frustration began a couple months ago after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens near the West Bank in Israel; when things between Israel and Gaza started to escalate and attract a huge chunk of the media’s attention. I was taken aback by the posts and Youtube videos I was reading and seeing on Facebook. People whom I have never seen post anything but selfies and what they ate for dinner were suddenly so concerned with what Israel was doing. One called Israel “Monsters of the 21st century”, displaying graphic pictures of the casualties created by the Israelis. Some were sharing videos depicting bombs dropping and Palestinian children dying to my Facebook page after I had posted a news clip in support of Israel. I recall one instance where an old friend commented on a video I posted of a CNN reporter discussing the current conflict, he said that he could not finish watching the clip, that it was nonsense, and those reporters are just puppets on a string. Of course loss of life on either side of the conflict is absolutely tragic. And I agree wholeheartedly that it is important to question everything, and that the mainstream media is often far from the truth, but that is exactly the point! What that boy failed to realize was that you must keep that in mind for anything you hear, not only if it counters your beliefs. When there is such a wealth of news and information coming from sources whose validity is difficult to certify, one must be heedful of what they choose to accept as fact and reality.
So why is that people who normally show no interest in worldly affairs, especially those not directly affecting themselves, suddenly have very strong opinions on such a complicated conflict? What sparked this concern? Where have these concerned citizens of the world been this whole time while thousands of innocent people are being slaughtered by their own government in Syria? While Christians are being persecuted. Or the countless other injustices done to innocent men, women, and children by their governments that are also happening now? A couple things come to mind. The first being the influence and use of media, the second being anti-semitism.
The media is a weapon and a force not to be underestimated. This battlefield of its own is now a very important element to war. People have constant access and exposure to the internet; the newest updates are close to instantaneous. The news in not only featured on television; people share videos and articles, and post their opinions on all of the social networking sites. It is nearly impossible not to hear or read something about the most popular political happening or celebrity death. The media has the capacity to form the public’s opinion on any given topic by what information they chose to broadcast, or rather, what they chose not to divulge to their audience. As well as celebrities that like to voice their opinions, they can really make an impression on their followers. When the public is being shown rockets being exchanged and children dying, it is easy to understand why they chose the side they do. They are not seeing the entire picture.
So it makes sense that the media is the reason Israel has been the one everyone is pointing their finger at. Is the public not seeing the endless stream of rockets being sent from hospitals, private homes, and even schools in Gaza that are targeting innocent Israeli civilians? Are they not seeing the terror tunnels designed by the Palestinians that lead to civilian populated areas like kibbutzim? I am not here to try and pretend that this conflict is an easy one to understand or that the truth is transparent. Nor I am I trying to justify actions on either side’s behalf. I am simply curious as to where these tenacious opinions and feelings against Israel, a Jewish state, originated.
Is it a coincidence that at the same time this is all going on, outbursts of anti-semitism are appearing all over the globe? Ever since Operation Protective Edge has been put into action there has been a rise in hate crimes against Jews all over the world. In France, as a result of a pro-Palestine rally, Jewish businesses were vandalized and looted, cars burned, as well as an attack on Synagogue. One Roger Cuikerman, head of the French Representative Council Of Jewish Institution recalled this from the rally to a French radio station: “They are not screaming, ‘Death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris. They are screaming, ‘Death to the Jews”. Swastikas have been spray painted on synagogues in Florida, cars of Jewish residents vandalized. A few weeks ago, jewish children riding the bus home in Australia were scared for their lives when a group of teenage boys came onto the bus threatening to slit their throats.
So here is the big question: are these people anti-Israel or are they really anti-Jewish?
I can only hope that the world has made much more progress than it is showing. It is so important now to think for ourselves, educate ourselves, and look at the evidence.. And then decide what is really going on here. Hate is a very powerful thing, and when it goes hand in hand with ignorance, the damage the two can do together…well just pick up a history book. Let’s not allow history to repeat itself.
Am Yisrael Chai.