On Becoming a Facebook Diplomat

In August of 2008 we moved to a new apartment. The last things to leave the old apartment were Natan (my son) and I, along with my personal computer. Exhausted from packing boxes and directing movers, I checked my email and then gave Natan a chance to check his Facebook account. Surfing the ‘net was a well-deserved break for both of us.

As Natan caught up with his Facebook friends, he said to me, for about the hundredth time, “Eema, why don’t you let me set you up with a Facebook account? You’d have a blast!”

For some reason, my usual knee-jerk “no” didn’t kick in. Maybe it was because we were about to start afresh in a new apartment. Setting up a Facebook account seemed like a young and carefree thing to do: a little daring, and altogether fitting in with the promise of this pristine beginning and all it entailed. I said, “Why not?” and then, “Okay. Sure.”

And so it was that I entered the world of Facebook.

I went through the excitement of finding friends I hadn’t seen in three decades. I played Pathwords and Bejeweled Blitz. I took all the silly newbie quizzes and copied and pasted a gazillion versions of the same bucket list to all my friends.

My husband saw how much fun I was having and got his own Facebook account. Eight years older than I, my husband found that most of his classmates were not that into social networking. We noticed a virtual cut-off point that seemed to end somewhere between my husband’s generation and my own. That meant that Dov ended up having a much more lackluster Facebook experience compared to my own. I sympathized, but felt secretly proud of belonging to a hipper generation.

Dov is a news junkie and instead of playing Bejeweled Blitz and forwarding bucket lists, he shared news articles, most of them about the Middle East conflict, a subject near and dear to his heart. While I shared his feelings on the issue of Mideast politics, I disagreed that Facebook was the appropriate place to discuss these things.

Facebook was supposed to be FUN. All those news articles hubby posted seemed like so much spam. Dov just didn’t get what Facebook was all about. I was embarrassed.

I talked to him about his propensity for posting the news instead of the quiz results from, “What kind of dinosaur are you?” and “How well do you know Varda?”

But Dov is STUBBORN. He gave it to me straight: “I don’t care what people think. I don’t care whether or not they read what I post. I don’t care if they all unfriend me.”

That didn’t really make sense to me: why post stuff going into a vacuum? I was sure nobody was reading the stuff he posted. Comments on his posts were few and far between.

Every once in a while, I’d broach the subject again, never making any inroads on Dov’s intractable position on the proper use of Facebook. Short of pretending I didn’t know my own husband, there was nothing I could do about him insisting on being a drag on Facebook.

And so the perceived stalemate between husband and wife continued until the day after my 49th birthday. That would be May 31st, 2010, the date of the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla incident.

I went to bed on May 30th, basking in the warm glow of birthday wishes from Facebook friends and woke up to a world turned upside down.

As usual, Israel had dropped the ball and was crucified by the media, which distorted and misreported events beyond all reasonable proportion.

What was reported: a flotilla consisting of peace-loving activists bringing supplies to starving, occupied Gazans was brutally attacked by Israel and prevented from bringing its supplies to the needy.

What actually happened: anti-Israel extremists including Turkish jihadists organized a flotilla to violate Israel’s LEGAL maritime blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza. When Israeli naval officers were forced to board the ship armed with paint balls (!), the passengers attacked them with metal bars, knives, and guns. Nine Jihadi TERRORISTS were killed.

The ready outpouring of hate against Israel flowed like wine at a bacchanalia on the Facebook walls of those I’d formerly thought of as reasonable and decent people. The public, like Satan’s child feeding off the teats of the devil himself, indulged their bloodlust for Israel by devouring the media’s wild, damning adjectives and Reuter’s photos cropped to tell something other than the truth. Israel held back as usual, only responding to accusations after the fact, though it was clear that the situation called for a more proactive response.

I sprang into action and posted every factual article I could find on the subject of the flotilla, pointing out discrepancies between mainstream media reports and actual events, adding clarifying comments where appropriate. I became something of an automaton, glued to my screen, seeking out new information to post. Everything else: quizzes, games, and HOUSEWORK, was relegated to the back seat of my life.

I watched to see which friends would stay true and which would defect. One or two friends did unfriend me. I could tell that some of them had stopped following my newsfeed. But I was surprised to find new friend requests, many of them from non-Jews.

Sometimes feeling a bit guilty at co-opting Facebook for my own purposes and taking away the fun for what I thought of as a noble purpose, I’d put it out there in my status. “Am I posting too many serious news articles? Does it feel like spam?”

A couple of friends ventured to say, “Well, it does seem a tad over the top, Varda.”

But other friends said, “Don’t stop! We depend on you to tell us the truth.”

One friend put it a bit more crudely putting his imprimatur on my posting activities this way, “You don’t post crap.”

In those early days after the Mava Marmara incident, MK’s such as Danny Ayalon praised the public for using social media to combat the delegitimization of Israel. We were asked to continue. I felt proud: almost like a soldier protecting Israel’s honor.

Today, a year and a half later, I am still busily posting away on all the news that’s fit to print about Israel. Tail between my legs, I am happy to concede that Dov was right and I was wrong. Facebook is fun, but the social networking site is also an important tool in the public relations war against the delegitimization of Israel.

Since the Mavi Marmara’s illegal voyage, I have continued in my role as Facebook diplomat, speaking out on all issues related to Israel on my Facebook wall, spreading the word to report anti-Israel Facebook pages with names like “I Hate Israel” and posting factual articles about Israel and the Middle East conflict. I try to be selective about what I post, and attempt to provide an, “Only the facts, Ma’am,” approach.

I spend hours reading, rejecting, and selecting articles to post each day. In spite of my pro-Israel activism, I still manage to have fun on Facebook with more frivolous and mundane activities.

Sometimes a friend will make a general comment about the need to avoid politics and religion in friendly discourse and I’ll feel a nagging sensation, as if I’d been targeted in some subtle way. Or I will engage someone with views opposite to my own and that Facebook wall’s host will become annoyed with me.

On the other hand, not long ago, a friend referred to my Facebook presence as “V-TV.” His actual words were, “I need me some V-TV.”

At times I feel a bit torn. I’d like to be carefree like my other friends. I’d like to go back to those days of joining Facebook groups entitled, “Raisins, stay the f**k out of my cookies!” But there’s no turning back—I’ve taken a leaf from my husband’s book—when something as important as Israel is at stake, there can be neither escape into the mundane nor any shirking of one’s duty. All’s fair, as the saying goes, in love and war. Make no mistake: this is both.

About the Author
Varda Epstein is a blogger and Communications Writer for