The True Shanda

Blogging about blogging is not something I usually have time for, but sometimes you have no choice.

My social-media feed today is being flooded by Rav Zev Shandalov’s “Why I Will No Longer Blog in The Times of Israel.” I don’t know if he’ll still view it, so maybe he’ll miss this too, but Rav Zev is not my intended audience.

I want instead to address the subject of his ire, The Times of Israel’s editorial policy. Rav Zev refrains from ad-hominem attacks, but those who share his piece often do not, even going so far as to tag the people they’d like to call out.

So what angers Rav Zev so much? The following lines:

Murdered in her bed: Teenage girl killed in terror attack Terrorist breaks into Kiryat Arba home, stabs teenage girl dozens of times, killing her. Member of local security team also wounded.

In the words of Rav Zev:

I read and re-read those words, and my blood began to boil. How dare the Times of Israel make the location of this girl’s murder a part of the story!? It was as if the fact that she was in the “West Bank” almost made the murder understandable. It was as if the Times of Israel was saying that we can “understand” (MY words, not theirs) why this happened.

Oh wait a second, I got that wrong. That header was from Arutz 7, also known as Israel National News, comfortably ensconced on the right wing of the spectrum. When they tell you where the attack took place, we can rely on them. We don’t need Talmudic exegesis of why the subheadline does say where it happened, or why there’s no mention of the nationality of attacker or victim. Not one time in the article do the terms Jew, Arab, Muslim, Palestinian or Israeli come up. Why is that? Is Arutz 7 afraid to face the truth? What are they trying to cover up?

The answer, of course, is nothing. They’re reporting the story the way they usually do. As was Times of Israel, when it wrote:

Israeli girl, 13, stabbed to death by Palestinian in her West Bank bedroom

Hallel Yaffa Ariel killed by terrorist who entered her home in Kiryat Arba; civilian guard also injured responding to incident; attacker killed.

So why is the latter so offensive, so outrageous, so unconscionable that Rav Zev will never write for ToI again? Is it the unpardonable term “West Bank”? I doubt it, since the Bible uses that term (I Chron. 26:30).

Moreover, Rav Zev says quite clearly that it’s identifying the place at all which disgusts him: “How dare the Times of Israel make the location of this girl’s murder a part of the story!”

Perhaps his introduction can be edifying:

Rather, I wish to take umbrage with many editorial decisions that have been made at Times of Israel, since I began posting my blog in July of 2013.Over the years, I fully understood that the site was not in concert with what I believed. It did not and does not share my values or my outlook on the State of Israel. I continued to post on their site, though, since it would give my writing exposure and readership. (There isn’t a writer around who doesn’t want his or her writing to get to the largest possible audience.)

I also knew full well about their editorial positions and chose to ignore them or (on some occasions) call them out on them. The one time that they censored one of my articles (which in and of itself PROVED the point of the post!) I just went ahead and posted it on Facebook.

Herein lies the problem: Rav Zev feels he did ToI a favor by posting on “a ‘left-wing, kumbaya, let’s not offend the world, occupation-is-the-reason-for-all-the-world’s-ills’ kind of site.” But since he knows their true nature, he knows what they mean when they have the gall to identify the location of this heinous act of butchery.

The most important fact of this incident is the stunning, incalculable, cruel tragedy of a girl going from her bat mitzva party one year to her funeral the next. But the true shanda is that we have become so convinced of the inhumanity of our fellow citizens that we see their every act, every word, every gesture as calculated and compassionless. Now more than ever we need fora where we can come together to weep, to grieve, to talk… even, especially, if we’re not all saying the same thing.

About the Author
Yoseif Bloch is a rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah and served as a congregational rabbi in Canada. He currently works as an editor, translator and publisher. As a blogger and podcaster, he is known as Rabbi Joe in Jerusalem.
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