Julie Gray

Breaking News: It’s All Israel’s Fault.

Oh, my friends. My friends, my family, my Facebook friends. I am tired. Like so many other Israelis I am tired. Of running, of fear, of despair, of reading the names of each IDF soldier and feeling my heart burst open for each one. So young.

I am tired of arguing. I am tired of receiving emails and Facebook messages and comments both from people I know and people who are veritable strangers, schooling me on this conflict in Israel from where they sit thousands of miles away.

Sometimes I can find humor in it –  (A Simple Guide for Talking to your Jewish and Israeli Friends) – but really I am just coping. I want to scream SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP who are you?!

Who ARE you?

I’m an American. I’m used to the idea that people dislike Americans. That’s what we are told in America. Except – it isn’t really true. I have never experienced that abroad. Sure, maybe people think we are hypocritical, stupid, fat and fatuous – and they could be right about some of these things. But never, as an American, have I been pilloried personally for the actions of my government or army. I have never had vicious attacks about WHY the US sends drones into this place or that and kills “enemy combatants” indiscriminately. Entire wedding parties. Whoops. I have never been personally hectored for the resultant “collateral damage”. Or the human rights abuses at Guantanamo. Or Abu Ghraib. Never. Even though, in not a single one of these actions was the US actually directly threatened. Not once. Nobody ever accused my country of war crimes in a Facebook message and asked me to explain these actions.

Yet as an Israeli, I post a 60-second video taken in Petah Tiqva of the Iron Dome doing it’s job, and the sound of the siren and I get this comment: Why don’t you show the other side?! 

In an effort to redirect the curious, uninformed and biased, I created a Facebook page called Truth & Beauty in Wartime which is edited by a number of contributors to represent a diversity of opinions, views, and sources. Some are left, some are right, some are personal accounts, some are totally off topic.  It’s like a gazette. If people want to comment there, to debate, to question – that’s fine. Do it there, not on my personal Facebook page.

But this has not slowed the remarks I get when I am merely having a conversation with a friend on Facebook. Today somebody I know – a colleague from Los Angeles – suggested I relax and “have a ham sandwich” when I suggested that his sense of “humor” about this situation was rubbing me the wrong way. He had asked why I referred to a picture of an Arab man as Arab not Israeli-Arab.  I just can’t find that remark funny – or well intentioned at this time.

I was invited to speak on a nationally broadcast radio program in the US about my life in Israel, my writing groups, etc. I specifically told the host I did not want to discuss the current conflict, because a) I knew the talk could become heated very quickly and b) I am not qualified to do so; I am not a journalist. The interview began with a lengthy news clip from MSNBC about civilians deaths in Gaza and I was asked to remark upon that. First question. How do I feel about civilian deaths in Gaza. Um – bad? Horrible? What was the host trying to evoke from me? I tried to comport myself with grace and I hope I did but it remained the central topic for 3/4 of the interview.

A few days, ago, in deep frustration, I wrote an article called Be a Conscientious Objector in a Social Media War.  It is sadly self-evident that social media cannot be reined in when we feel frightened or angry. It is the pitchfork and torch of today. We can post so quickly, without checking the source, without wondering if the photo is doctored (it probably was), without being analytic or critical of what we are seeing and reading – and repeating.

I know am not alone in this. If you are Jewish or gd forbid Israeli and you say anything – ANYTHING about what is going on or your experience of it on social media, you will be on the receiving end of everything from hate to patronization to well intentioned baloney usually written from very far away whilst the author is comfortably sipping a Starbucks and not in the least worried about when the next siren will come.

So just get off social media, right? And I do – I take breaks. But that leaves me isolated. To be sure, I have a lot of Facebook friends who are very reasonable and kind and simply ask how I am. I am told to “stay safe” (ha) every day. No, it’s not all bad. That ham sandwich remark got to me today. I don’t think it’s that I have lost my sense of humor, it’s that that remark is minimally unfunny and could even be construed as anti-semitic. I don’t think the person who said it really meant that, right? Did he? I am not left wing, I am not right wing – I have BOTH wings, I like to say. Ha.

In my hopeful naivety, I reject anti-semitism as a reality and yet its rise in Europe is undeniable.  Why is every single Israeli a target for the frustrations of the world? Why is the world SO obsessed with Israel? What is that all about? I can’t wrap my mind around it. 700 civilians were killed in two days in Syria two weekends ago. Nothing. The world says nothing. Actually I found that this blog post offers some refreshingly well reasoned, thoughtful ideas about that.

That’s all I ask – I don’t have to agree with an opinion, but at least if it’s presented in a reasonable way, that I can respect. Every day I hope and pray this war will be over. That no more will have to die. That we can find a long term solution in this, the mother of all ballagans. The greatest minds on the planet have not been able to solve this ongoing conflict so I can’t imagine a great idea will pop into my head anytime soon.

But my two cents? Is that thoughtful, respectful dialogue is a mandatory component. Which is pretty tough to do when you’re scared and running all the time. When you look for cover as you walk to get groceries. But I’m doing it. As my heart pounds, I am doing it. I vet what I am reading or seeing. I guide discussions away from my personal page and onto a page for the purpose of discussion and edification. I try very hard to avoid arguments and instead ask for reason, perspective, compassion and understanding.

So – why is it so hard to be more civil as we discuss these things when you are living in complete safety and comfort? What is the stressor that makes so many attack Israel, generally from a place of zero to little information on the history of this country and of this region, and with such self-righteous vehemence? I don’t get it.

They tell you there is a lot to adjust to when you are an olim. It’s true. But I never saw this one coming.

A Simple Guide to Talking to Your Jewish and Israeli Friends

Truth & Beauty in Wartime: Israel, Palestine & Peace

About the Author
Writer, editor and content creator Julie Gray lives in Northern Israel with her life partner, Gidon Lev. Let's Make Things Better, co-authored by Gidon and Julie will be available in Fall 2024 (Hachette/Pan MacMillan).
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