Every Israeli kid is raised with the bedtime story of “A Tale of Five Balloons” or as it is called in Hebrew “Ma’aseh Be’Chamisha Balonim“. The story unfolds a tale of five kids who receive balloons in different colors and how each of them grasps to their own balloon tightly.
Twenty-Six years after the story was first published, in 2000, Miriam Ruth, the author, replied in an interview that “the balloons describe our dreams and how they shutter. Only one balloon was left, the red, but the wind carried it away. It still floats somewhere. Wherever the wind carries me, there I will go.”
Growing up in Israel we had our own special meaning for the blue balloon. Each year on October 16th, Israeli households would hang out a blue balloon as a reminder for the action that is still needed in order to retrieve Lt. Col. Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force Weapon System Officer (WSO) declared MIA in 1986 over Lebanon.
During one of the first ground offensives currently held in Gaza, the IDF and forensics authorities in Israel were unable to identify Sgt. Oron Shaul’s body or rather its remains. As a result, Shaul, 21, from Poriyah, was reported as missing in action, presumed dead. The family previously announced they regard their son to be alive still.
However, today (Friday) the IDF announced Shaul’s death although his body is yet to be recovered. The lack of a body might be regarded as a reason for a tiny glimpse of hope Oron will reappear eventually. Yet, not only does the Shaul family has to deal with the uncertainty of his fate, they also have to deal with the cruelty of the psychological warfare, led with full force, by Hamas, online.
Earlier this week, Israeli hackers struck a Hamas created Facebook page. Once you open a Facebook fan or business page it has to be categorized. Hamas chose to categorize Oron’s page as a comedian. Posting on behalf of Abu-Obeidah, the spokesperson for the Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, a video the page’s owners posted depicts Shaul while he is speaking to his family in Arabic, letting them know he is alive and is given a good treatment by his captives. Opening this page was not just another prank pulled by careless juveniles. It was an intended act to demoralize Israelis. One proof of that is that the page includes Shaul’s military ID number. Information one has to seek intentionally.
Shaul was allegedly captured this past Sunday, when an Armed Personnel Carrier was hit by an RPG in the Shuja’iya neighborhood of Gaza City, leading to the death of 6 soldiers and an uncertainty as to the fate of Shaul. Still, Hamas doesn’t hesitate to announce their achievement in kidnapping him and holding him alive as a bargain chip for a future prisoners swap.
While an endless cry is heard as to the injustice of Israel’s actions in Gaza in the humanitarian aspect, throughout the international media, the example of such a heinous psychological warfare taken by Hamas is only the tip of the iceberg.
The crowd that has taken to the streets to cheer Hamas in different Arab villages throughout the West Bank and inside the Green Line, especially in the wider East Jerusalem area, were following the Hamas announcement they captured Shaul. This was only a glimpse of the support Hamas gains in its fight with Israel conducted over social media platforms, a fight that has become ugly and vicious.
The previously mentioned Facebook page, initially depicted Shaul’s picture with a title in Arabic as well as in English, while on its cover photo appeared his military ID number. While the page gained almost 5000 followers, it was hacked by Israelis who were responsible for the change in the page’s profile and cover photos. Both photos were changed in support of Israel. For half an hour an Anonymous figure with the Israeli Flag and a cover photo of “I Love Israel” were displayed next to the Arabic title of the page.
While a few Israelis left their comments on different posts desplayed by the page, its Palestinian owners regained control of the page within the hour. However, hacking the page as well as removing it completely within a day of its opening, as a result of a worldwide effort of reporting it as a breach of Facebook’s Community Standards, are both great achievements. Achievements that demonstrate the strength of the Jewish people, even outside the battle field, when we unite.
These successful results were only achievable since random people, many students included, called their friends worldwide to report this page.
The Israeli hack of Shaul’s Hamas created page was much more successful than the hack by some Palestinian counterparts that has taken place last week. The Palestinian attack led to warnings on Israeli tech sites, teaching their Hebrew readers how to safeguard their Facebook pages, in advance, for future encounters.
The page that was removed was only one out of a few pages, groups and events opened on Facebook celebrating the alleged capture of Shaul as a victory of Hamas and a proof to its superiority over Israel.
Observing the situation from DC, some of my friends who are most passionate pro-Israel advocates had a hard time to understand the reality of life Israelis are facing. It is not just the ongoing worries over the lives of our dearest sons, brothers, fathers and boyfriends who are fighting an existential war in Gaza. It is a fight on our morale and strength as a society, in which Hamas does not hesitate to use the harshest means as part of its efforts to weaken Israel from within.
Fortunately, the Shaul family, as well as the rest of the casualties’ families and those who are wounded, don’t have to deal with their grief and worries on their own. As I write from the diaspora, I cannot be prouder to have grown up in Israel and to have dealt with all the challenges it entailes. In these moments were the whole nation is so strong and unified, even in the face of the psychological warfare Hamas and its affiliates are running, which stops at nothing, I am certain we are here to stay. This society, which is standing up to its own fate, will not subdue to the fate represented by the red balloon in Ruth’s story. We will not let the winds of hate in the Middle-East blow us away from our homeland.