November 18, 2012 by Benji
Watching this war unfold in Israel and Gaza over the last few months has been extremely difficult. With a sister and countless other relatives and friends living in Israel, I pray for the people living there every time I hear that another rocket has been directed at yet another civilian target from Gaza.
Unlike the previous wars and Intifadas where information came in the form of news reports, letters or emails, today we live in the age of Social Media. I, like many people follow both the IDF twitter feed and their Facebook page. Over the past few years I have seen beautiful pictures of Chayalim (Israeli Soldiers) graduating boot camp, using new interesting equipment and technology, hiking, and wishing me a Shabbat Shalom. It may sounds silly, but seeing these images on a regular basis made me feel more connected to the State of Israel and the soldiers who protect it. It’s one of the major reasons IDF uses social media; it helps connect people all over the world to its cause. They, along with other Pro-Israel accounts post visuals using photos and text that are easily shareable online and connect with the people seeing them.
During the summer Olympics the IDF posted a photo that stated “While you watched the Olympics this weekend, 7 rockets hit Israel”. The photo was shared almost 50,000 times. There is a current photo that shows the distance the rockets from Gaza can reach, and what that distance is relative to their being launched from Manhattan. The simplicity makes things very real.
In general, the mainstream media doesn’t cover what is going on in Israel in a fair and balanced manner. Israeli’s are consistently under attack without a word mentioned around the world, however, when they eventually retaliate, they are condemned for “their aggression”.
Social media has changed the playing field. IDF and other organizations now have the ability to share content in real time. It’s amazing how many people share and vocalize their opinions about what’s going on in Israel using Facebook and Twitter channels. I must admit, most of my friends are pro-Israel and I see a very biased view on the situation; I am sure if I was a Muslim-Arab, my newsfeeds would look very different.
This brings me to some guidelines of using social media in this war:
1) Just as the IDF can produce images and posts, terrorist organizations do the same – but their numbers of supporters are far greater than ours. They brag about bombs and missiles, and lie without abash to make their point. For example, Al Qassam Brigade’s twitter account posted a heart wrenching photo of a man holding an injured child, a photo that actually came from Syria a little over a month ago not from Gaza.
2) There has been a request that people refrain from posting on social media the locations that rockets hit. Remember that this is a war, and Terrorists have the same monitoring software available to them as we do. By posting “OMG rockets just missed X” you are putting Israel at risk; as the terrorists can instantly adjust their targets in real time. In the first few days of Operation Pillar of Defense, posts stating that this came from the IDF were all over the place, and then came the “are these real?” posts. I did some digging, the post is real, but came from the office, Pikod Haoref (The IDF Home Front Command). It’s actually referring to soldiers not posting information; but realistically its not a bad idea to listen to them and withhold specific details on the landing sites of rockets that reach the ground. Check out www.facebook.com/pikudhaoref for more information.
3) While Terrorists are our enemies who must and will be killed, we as Jews do not celebrate in their deaths, which with a keyboard can be easy at times. On Wednesday, 11/14/2012, when Ahmed al-Jabari was killed by the IDF, a video of the assassination by surgical car bomb was circulated by the IDF. Shortly thereafter a second video was circulated by a Palestinian on the ground. It was extremely graphic and showed images of the torched car and dead body in the street. However, it was the crass and hateful comments posted by fellow Jews that I found most upsetting. It may sound hypocritical as we want to support our country, but we must keep in mind that just like we are the children of God, so are those evil and misguided souls of terrorists. Their lives are just as precious and important to God as ours. This is why the IDF is so careful not to kill civilians when it’s avoidable. Remember, every Passover we pour out some wine during the Seder to show God we are not a people that celebrate the death of our enemies, and appreciate his loss , that someone had to die for our freedom.
Another way to think about it; when we refer to Israel and the nation of Israel as Kadosh, normally translated as Holy, this is a mistranslation. It means Different. We are not better than non-Jews, we are not better than our enemies, we are different. The difference isn’t in our blood, it’s in our actions. We don’t celebrate bloodshed; we celebrate in victory/safety. It is a minor difference in semantics. But the attitude is monumentally different (Kadosh). They dance and brag at our deaths, even using their own civilians as human shields! We protect civilians and we mourn the death of every man.
Please remember as you are checking in on friends and family in Israel, as well as commenting, posting, or tweeting, that celebrating our victories, defending ourselves and winning this war is a must. But talking about the enemy as if they are less than human takes away from our own spiritual fitness.
We have some dark days coming ahead. I fear there will be many lives lost. I hope and pray that lives which can be saved are; and that those living in Israel suffer as little as possible, and that God watches over the Chayalim he trusted to protect Israel.