Ariella Cohen

Details Count

I am an extremely detail oriented person. Sometimes to a fault. That’s not to say that I never miss anything, but details matter to me. A lot. I’ve therefore been bothered over the last few weeks by incorrect information and numbers that are being used in social media posts by well-meaning people.

I am mostly referencing inaccuracies in the numbers of Israelis murdered in the war and the hostages. Within the first couple of days after the war began, the number 1400+ was put out on the news as the number of people murdered in the October 7th attack. We watched that number grow. Slowly and painfully. The first number I heard immediately after Shabbat was in the 200s, but over the following days it kept going up as more and more bodies were found. (With the little information that I had early on, I wasn’t sure if the almost hourly increase in numbers was more people being killed or more bodies being found.) A little while later, it was stated that the original count of 1400+ was no longer accurate. It was actually 1200+. (Some of the bodies originally counted turned out to be of terrorists.)

Unfortunately, that number continues to grow.

It increases as the angels of Zaka, the IDF, and archaeologists do the incredibly grueling work of identifying bodies and DNA testing bone fragments to at least have the closure that missing people have died. Even if there are not enough remnants to bury the bodies. This is still going on over SIX weeks later. Archaeologists had to be brought in to to help identify the remains. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the fact that all that is left of way too many of our people- including young children- are mere bone fragments that are too small to even be buried. If we’re trying to see the positive in this very far from positive situation, I guess we could be grateful that at least they were able to be identified and give some level of twisted closure to the families.

The number continues to increase as more and more of our soldiers are killed in battle in Gaza. Possibly the most holy way to die, but that obviously doesn’t take away from the loss that is becoming more and more difficult to bare.

The number continues to increase as civilians and soldiers protecting civilians are killed on our streets that used to feel safe.

The number continues to increase as we get news of hostages that have been killed in Gaza, either found by the IDF during the ground invasion or sickeningly shown on video by Hamas.

Every single one of the individuals is a world lost. Every single one. A whole world. They deserve to be part of an accurate count. I hope for the day when the ‘+’ symbol will no longer be needed in the count of those murdered in this war. When every single missing person and hostage is accounted for. When every single family has closure on the whereabouts of their loved ones. Even if it’s not the outcome they were hoping for. When we as a greater Jewish family know where our people are. Even if we cry finding out.

As I already alluded to, the number of hostages is also not the same as it was originally thought to be. Five have come home alive (physically- I cannot speak to their mental state) thus far (not enough,) and at least three more are known to have been killed in captivity (too many.) A young girl who was believed to be dead is now believed to be a hostage. I have no idea how Israel figures out who is categorized as missing and who is believed to be a hostage, but somehow they do.

A hostage supposedly gave birth to a baby. I say supposedly because as far as I know this was not proven. I did not see any confirmation on the news. It was assumed based on the fact that one of the hostages was 9 months pregnant when she was taken. I don’t know that we should be publicizing the fact that a baby was born in captivity if we don’t have actual confirmation.

The (sane) world was horrified a couple of weeks ago when Hamas blamed Israel for bombing a hospital in Gaza and killing 500 people. Because it wasn’t true. Not only was it not Israel’s fault, but way less than 500 people died. Accuracy matters.

This is one small way in which we can easily combat Hamas. If we are speaking publicly all over social media about how a certain number of people have been killed and taken hostage, we need to be careful about making sure that number is correct. Just because a public figure posted something pro-Israel on Instagram, that doesn’t mean that the numbers they are using have been fact checked and/or are up to date. Sharing these posts might be spreading misinformation, even if that’s not the goal.

In addition to some out of date numbers being posted, I have seen multiple posts over the past six weeks which were factually inaccurate. I know because I was part of the group being referenced, and my personal experience did not align with what the post claimed. There have been statistics shared about groups of people such as “all Israelis.” “All Israelis” includes millions of people of all different types and religions- including some who only became Israeli two weeks ago- so making a blanket statement in reference to such a large group is probably never a good idea. Even if it’s pro-Jewish.

Overestimating numbers is only giving the people on the other side more bait with which to fight us. That’s not to say that generalizing is a bad thing. Using an approximate number is fine as long as it is stated to be approximate. But don’t state an exact number if it’s not correct. By no means am I equating this to the hospital bombing in Gaza, but I am making a comparison. Because overestimating can have the potential to be dangerous. So why do it?

I understand that if somebody posts something that you want to share, it’s easy to assume that they did the fact checking before posting on social media. But that’s not always the case. Do the small errors really matter? Do most people even notice them? Probably not. But that doesn’t take away from the danger of spreading false information. Even if it’s not on purpose. And even if it’s for a good cause.

Obviously these are all well-meaning people here, so I’m not attempting to call out any individuals. I just want to spread awareness that even positive posts on social media are not always accurate (even if it’s posted by people on “our side.”) Especially at a time like this, we need to do our very best not to veer away from the truth. And to be as accurate as possible when publicizing numbers and statistics.

We need to continue sharing stories and numbers and information on social media because it’s a crucial step in winning the cyber war that we are fighting. But we also need them to be completely true, at least as of the day that they are posted and shared.

As I already mentioned, maybe I care too much about details. But in this particular case, I’d prefer that to not caring enough.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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