Miriam Herschlag
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Blogging in the ‘Discomfort Zone’

Marking three noisy years of a platform that is shaping the conversation on Israel and the Jewish world

Lately, a fake debate has been underway across the web about the future of blogging. The rumpus was sparked by news that after 15 years of daily blogging, Andrew Sullivan, who built a massive following snitching and snarking on Time, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and his solo show, The Dish, is calling it quits. Despite Mr. Sullivan’s explanation that he just wants to stop over-sharing and curl up with a good, long book, cyber pundits raced to declare the demise of this unique digital form. If the uber blogger himself is exiting the blogosphere, then the gig must be up.

Well, from here on the deck of The Times of Israel’s Blogship Enterprise, I say to all these hand wringers: Get a grip. If you surf over to our neck of the Web, you’ll find a lively, thriving platform of remarkable diversity.

In its 36 months on line, The Times of Israel’s blog platform has offered readers more than 22 thousand posts by nearly four thousand writers. A look at this vast pool of content and diverse collection of voices tells us what blogging is at its best: an extraordinary opportunity to engage meaningfully.

Whatever it may be elsewhere, here on The Times of Israel, blogging is a chance to hear and be heard; it’s a digital soapbox from which to address matters of great importance to the Jewish world, Israel and the region; and an intimate space in which to share moments of personal reflection.

It’s a platform that allows us to “connect!” as Margaret exhorts poor detached Henry in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End, to “connect the prose and the passion!”

And yes, passion can be difficult to control. We learned that blogs can dispense with superego’s filters and strip down to the id’s “cauldron full of seething excitations,” especially when the crisis dial is set to high, as it was in the summer of ’14. As a result, The Times of Israel took steps to sharpen the line between our blogs and the news operation that is at the heart of our mission, and to bar content we find to be unacceptable.

To be sure, our spectrum of what’s acceptable may be wider than some would like. The conversation on The Blogs is deliberately noisy. At a time of great polarization on Israel and Judaism, The Times of Israel has chosen the cacophony of disagreement over the harmony of the echo chamber. Welcome, my friends, to the Discomfort Zone.

The TOI blog platform is growing and evolving, and changes are in the offing to ensure that more great writing reaches more readers, but as we mark our three-year anniversary, it’s a moment for gratitude: And so, a shout-out first to you, our readers, who have enriched the conversation by responding thoughtfully and sharing links to pieces that touched you.

And a colossal thank you to our intrepid bloggers, who have offered up posts by turns inspiring, outrageous, challenging, entertaining and humbling, including these — some of the most widely read in The Times of Israel’s 36 months:

Eitan-Chitayat-big-copy-mediumThank you to Eitan Chitayat of Tel Aviv, who exploded onto the site this past August with what became the most widely shared Times of Israel post ever: Shalom Motherf****r

Coming at the height of the Israel-Gaza clash, Operation Protective Edge, the post fired a nuclear, expletive-tipped missive at social media “friends” who painted Israel as the aggressor with no right to self-defense.

And Eitan’s post was not the only one that went viral at that time. Many of the most widely read posts ever are from June-August 2014, reflecting the sky-high readership numbers during that tense and tragic period.

Blake-Ezra-mediumThank you to Blake Ezra in London, who, in Dear World, despaired over the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the U.K., and touched a nerve with a vast number of readers.


Mordecai-Finley-mediumThank you to Mordecai Finley, rabbi of Ohr HaTorah Synagogue in Los Angeles, who took the route of measured reason, and reached many thousands of ears with A letter to friends who want to understand what is happening in Gaza.

Elliott-Hamilton-mediumThank you to Elliott Hamilton, for his twin “Open Letters,” one to President Barack Obama about the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, and one to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.


new-SarahTS-mediumThank you to The Times of Israel’s own Social Media Editor Sarah Tuttle-Singer, who, as always, captured the moment — in this case the tragedy — with This is what really happened in Jerusalem, about a car attack that killed a three-month-old baby girl. (Sarah’s July 2013 post on Babies left in cars remains one of our all-time most-read pieces.)

Sherri-Mandell3-mediumThank you to Sherri Mandell, who, as the mother of a child murdered by terrorists in 2001, is all too versed in tragedy, and, in What they didn’t tell you about Dahlia, honored Dahlia Lemkus, a young woman slain in another car attack


 Bethany-S-Mandel-mediumThank you to Bethany Mandel, who opted to respond  on The Times of Israel to the voyeurism scandal involving Barry Freundel, the rabbi who converted her. Bethany then laid out A bill of rights for Jewish converts, a post that was widely shared and became so influential that the Rabbinical Council of America appointed her to the Committee To Review the Conversion Process set up in the wake of the scandal.

Noam ChenThank you to photographer Noam Chen, whose stunning essays, including Twenty photos of Jerusalem as you’ve never seen it, have shown Israel in a luminous light.


Hila-Hershkoviz-1Thank you to Hila Hershkovitz, who got everyone talking about the issue of Jewish race and ethnicity in Ashkenazi Jews are not white.


Thank you, thank you, thank you to the thousands of other bloggers who are sharing their passionate prose and enriching the conversation.

And to those who wish to come aboard — you are welcome to come join the conversation!

About the Author
Opinion and Blogs editor at The Times of Israel (Cover photo needlework by Yocheved Herschlag Muffs.)
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