Chava Berman Borowsky

Israeli TV in the shadow of war

Psychopaths don’t stop being psychopaths just because there’s a war going on. Selfless heroes become even greater selfless heroes when there’s a war going on. And conspiracy theorists have a thousand times more fodder to fuel their imaginations when there’s a war going on.

The three most popular investigative TV series in Israel are חשיפה, עובדה, and המתחזים

In the latest chapter of המתחזים we meet Liraz who met a nice charming guy named Moshe on a dating app. He very soon moves in with her and promises her that he’ll always be by her side to protect her. He professes his love and tells her that they’ll soon be married. On Oct. 7th he sends her messages telling her that he’s in the communal dining room at Kibbutz Be’eri fighting off terrorists. He reassures her that everything will be OK and that after an intense exchange of fire he’s safe and he’s coming home. She’s overjoyed that he’s still alive, safe and sound.

Only that Moshe isn’t his real name, he was never near Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7th, and also the job that he goes to every day at the hospital is a farce. As soon as he’s dropped off for his daily shift at the hospital he enters the hospital and then immediately leaves to the apartment of his second girlfriend who he’s dating simultaneously.

Eye witness testimonies from people in the same location on that fateful day verify that Moshe was never near Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7th and also that soldiers completing a mission don’t use their phones. A police report is filed and it’s discovered that Moshe isn’t his real name and that he’s already scammed multiple women before.

In one of the recent episodes of עובדה we meet two Hatzolah ambulance drivers, both named Avi. Avi and Avi are religious Jews from Jerusalem who decide that despite the very real danger they’re driving right into the war zone. Because it’s Shabbat they don’t open their radio and don’t have any official understanding of what’s going on. They receive a call telling them “Come back, it’s too dangerous. I won’t forgive myself if anything happens to you.” The Avi who’s at the wheel of the ambulance exchanges a few words. “We’re saving lives. God is with us. Please send more ambulances.” Instead of them coming back, four more ambulances are sent. 

They weave through corpses on the street and only pick up those that they have a chance of saving. There’s only one corpse that they decide to pick up. They see a stranded car at the side of the road where it’s clear that one soldier was overpowered by a few terrorists. Avi didn’t want the sight to bring down the morale of other soldiers and so he made the decision to remove him.

On one of their trips to drop off an injured soldier, a different lightly injured soldier who had his wound treated requests that they take him back into the battle zone. They see him standing in the back of the ambulance with a pointed gun. Avi and Avi tell him that they’ve been driving in and out of this particular street and that there’s no terrorists here so he doesn’t need to stand guard with his gun. The soldier then points to a tree and replies, “Do you see this tree? I was ambushed by terrorists from this tree three hours ago.”

Only at 11:00 PM do they light their first cigarette after Shabbat and open the radio. The entire day they were acting on auto-pilot and now when they have time to breathe at last, they’re unable to process what they’ve just been through. The entire ride home to Jerusalem they play just one song on repeat. מאבא לא שואלים שאלות.

And now we arrive at the conspiracy theorists. A fallen hero who gave his life protecting party goers at the Nova Festival is a policeman named Alon Bard. A picture of him in a blue shirt standing in very close proximity to armed terrorists gives rise to a conspiracy called The Blue Shirt Conspiracy which claims that Oct. 7th was an inside job orchestrated by the Shabak.

On the TV show חשיפה cyber journalists uncover the man behind the profile אמת who’s spreading the misinformation. He takes down the profile, but the damage has already been done. His tweets are screenshot and spread like wildfire. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What lends credence to his wild theories is a clip on TikTok with millions of views by a former military female observer of the Gaza border who claims that a bird can’t fly within 500 meters of the gates without the military knowing about it. A psychologist comes on the show and explains to us why these absurd theories are gaining traction. Human beings detest not understanding things. Because of the difficulty comprehending how such an attack was allowed to occur, people will look for any explanation that they can make sense of. 

Fortunately there were a few people who initially believed the blue shirt conspiracy who retracted once they grasped that they were unintentionally aiding and abetting the enemy. But like every conspiracy theory in existence, once the damage is done it’s too late. Especially with social media it’s akin to gathering all the feathers from a pillow which are now floating in the outside air. 

For the time being every mainstream Israeli channel is mostly just covering different aspects of the war. There are thousands of stories to be told and not enough air time to share everyone’s story. Like the story I saw just now of the little 12 year old boy who touched so many hearts at the private screenings of the 47 minute Hamas horror film. His father jumped on a grenade to save him and his brother and he made his way with his younger brother to the main house where he took shelter with his mom in the mamad. It was disturbing to him that his story wasn’t told the way he experienced it and he chose on his own to share his story with the world in the way that he remembered it. 

When Liraz shares her story, when Aviv and Avi share their story, and when the widow of Alon Bard shares her story, what they’re doing is taking back that tiny little control they have in such a powerless world. The power of creating the narrative. Choosing whether to be heroes or victims, resilient or despondent, hopeful or despairing, and courageous or cowards. Every story deserves to be heard and validated. It’s the most notable method we can utilize in order to learn how to appreciate one another.

About the Author
Chava Berman Borowsky grew up in Los Angeles, CA in an Orthodox community in the La Brea Fairfax neighborhood. She moved to Israel in 2008 and has since lived in Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Holon, and Ashdod. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, painting, and writing.
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