Sometimes one line makes a film: last night on the flight back from JFK to Ben Gurion I watched the romantic drama The Longest Ride, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks.
It tells the story of two parallel pairs of star-crossed lovers. Within the fictional world the line “It’s a scary thing, how quickly the people closest to you can become strangers” refers specifically to lovers falling out of love. But it is also applicable to alienated family members or to good friends who, for no apparent reason, become distant.
For me those words express much more than communication problems between close family and friends, they describe the way I feel about my own community. The recent manifestations of hatred and violence toward minority groups and those who hold different opinions make me feel, for the first time in my life, estranged from my people.
It had never happened during the long years when I lived abroad, quite the contrary. My affinity to my country was so great that even the sight of a beautiful lake, or a lush forest, was enough to make me feel envious: “Why don’t t we have such abundance of water?”
I know that I am not the only one, my generation still feels personal involvement with the water level of Lake Kinneret. Traditionally our mood was affected by its distance from the Upper and Lower Red Lines.
Although those are only two minor water episodes, growing up in Israel in the late 50s, also meant that I believed that I knew my country and its people. Lately I no longer feel that way.
Many Israelis believe that the big change in Israel occurred when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, others claim that it had happened even earlier, as a result of the 1967 war. Personally I didn’t begin to comprehend the long lasting consequences of that murder, and that of the 48 years of occupation, until recently.
In 1987 Tom Wolfe had demonstrated, in The Bonfire of The Vanities, how the media invent news. One of the main reasons for my recent alienation is connected to the media, especially social media, as it tolerate and even promote prejudice, and hatred.
Talkbacks in response to online newspapers articles are notorious for being aggressive and nasty, and more extremes are different posts on Facebook. Even discussion among closed groups of friends tend to heat up resulting in verbose and vicious attacks.
Sadly, unlike old-fashioned newspapers, Facebook has no editorial board which could monitor its content. Moreover, even in extreme cases it still tends to resist requests to take off offensive and abusive posts.
The Longest Ride shows how through sacrifice and commitment lovers could overcome their destiny and restore happiness. In real life it is not that simple, sometimes lovers, family members and friends remain strangers to each other and never find a way to save the relationship.
The alienation caused by severed ties to the community is not that different from feeling detached from a family member or a friend. My generation was taught that “all of Israel are responsible for one another.” Sadly recently that lesson has become another meaningless slogan used by Kabbalah supporters to recruit new members.
It is indeed a scary thing to become a stranger in your own community.