Benji Lovitt
Because the Middle East is Funny

Can we please not call this an Intifada just yet?

For years after Michael Jordan became the greatest basketball player in the world, the media sought to anoint the heir to this throne. “Is this the next Jordan? Is that the next Jordan?” Sometimes before the prospect had even played a game in the NBA. Eventually the alternate opinions spoke up, saying: “Enough. Let the next legendary player evolve naturally and *become* great; he can’t be crowned before he’s done a thing.” People’s impatience, tendency to rush to judgment, and desire to “be first to report” something just couldn’t be stopped. (I make sense of the world through sports analogies. Strange segue coming in 3….2….)

In recent weeks, the violence in Jerusalem has hit levels unreached in recent years. Several people, usually individuals rather than journalists (although I am already seeing that change in recent days), have proclaimed in places such as Facebook, “it’s begun”, “it’s here”, “it’s the Third Intifada”. Not to compare ourselves to the media outlets who we rake over the coals for their shoddy reporting (you know the ones) but can we please hold ourselves to a higher standard and wait to see what this turns into before being so eager to label it as the Third Intifada?

Let’s call the violence and murders what they are: tragic, disgusting, horrifying, and more. But language matters and labeling has consequences. I’ve had plenty of great first dates. They felt like they could have led to marriage. They didn’t. Most people are comfortable suggesting “taking it one date at a time, not looking too far into the future.” Can anyone say with certainty what will be (in dating or in the Middle East)? Not the Prime Minister, not the head of the Shin Bet, certainly not you and me.

Proclaiming this as the start of the Third Intifada means we have decided there is zero chance this can be stopped/quieted down/ended anytime soon. Are we sure? Are we comfortable sending the message to worldwide Jewry and others that they should stop coming immediately? Because if history is any indication, that’s the message that will be heard, loud and clear. Do we want Israelis to lose all hope for the immediate future? Do we want people on the other side, from the hopeful to those who want us dead, thinking that we are hunkering down and entering battle mode? I am not suggesting what measures we do or do not take with regards to security; I am suggesting efforts be focused on taking the appropriate measures, not getting into a conflict of interpretation and bad guessing games as to “what the other party is thinking”. Messages are not always received in the way humans intend to send them.

We can call events what they are, make the necessary accommodations, plan, grieve, prepare, and have whatever emotional response each of us wants, without rushing to label something which could, for all we know, end tomorrow, next week, or next month. Maybe it won’t. I fear it won’t. But can we please wait to see?

Here’s hoping for quiet. (By the way, the NBA is still waiting.)

About the Author
Since making aliyah in 2006, Benji Lovitt has performed stand-up comedy and educational programs for groups including Jewish Federations, Chabads, synagogues, Masa Israel Journey, and Birthright Israel. His perspectives on aliyah and Israeli society have been featured on Israeli TV and radio and in publications such as USA Today, Time Magazine, the BBC, and more. Benji has worked as a cross-cultural trainer with groups including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Masa Israel and is a popular presenter on the Limmud International circuit. During 2014's Operation Protective Edge, his humorous observations on the war led to his being called in Israel "the only reason to go on Facebook.”