Veteran of an intangible war

My Facebook account has been relatively inactive for the last few weeks. That’s probably the first thing most of my friends and family would tell you if you asked them what’s new with Hila. After all, Hila is an ocean away, who knows what’s new with her?

My friends, acquaintances and colleagues have bared the brunt of the war. I had made it a point to bombard their news feeds with politically fueled posts since before Operation Protective Edge even had a name, and now they enjoy the silence in ways they probably never appreciated before. I have never been much of a political activist, when it came to war or anything else, for that matter. I enjoyed being informed, fighting from the inside, or fighting silently. Protesting on social networks certainly wasn’t my style until the events of this summer unfolded as they did. Early on it became clear to me that the majority of the war was taking place on social media, and at least in that venue, Israel was in dire straights. I decided to take up arms, and for every misinformed, biased or nonfactual bit of visual or literal information I came across, I erected my own iron dome of syllables, a barrage of word-rockets spread across my social media networks was launched as I knowingly switched my settings to “Public” for the first time.

Things went well at first, it seemed. But just as in all wars, as time dragged on the morale fell low, the responses decreased, and I realized that for the most part I had been preaching to the choir. I had to search for reasons to keep going.

The war’s gradual, drawn-out ending didn’t permit a grande finale as one would hope. I could not swoop in with anything clever, hopeful, or eyeopening for the few who might still have been paying attention. There would be no orchestra piece, and no final “ta dun!”, nor were we left with the suspenseful anticipation of a hopeful “to be continued…”, allowing us to await the sequel with heightened interest. Instead the war ended like a tired, trickling stream drying up under the blaze of a ferocious desert sun, its final hopes of reaching the river soaked up by the hungry sand. Just like the rest of Israel, my Facebook acquaintances thanked the universe for the war’s end. Thanks to my incessant campaign, they were likely as tired as I and my fellow citizens.

Now I have nothing left to write because we are at “peace”, or rather, back to the status quo. The fact that ISIS has us all but surrounded -and wherever they are not, Hamas and its sympathizers have been kind enough to compensate for their absence- does little to comfort us. On an inverted map Egypt’s border would be our only peninsula of peace, and even that cannot be certain as the results of that particular North African country’s Arab spring may change as the seasons tend to do. None of this is worth a social media battle, none of this is worth anyone’s time. There’s no chance that those half a world a way could connect to what it means to be surrounded by millions of people who would love to see your head in all kinds of positions and places other than attached to your body, where it belongs. If I stopped to think about it (which I try not to), it’s a terrifying thought.

I had originally wanted to apologize to my friends for bombarding their news feeds with political posts for weeks on end. I wanted to thank those who had endured my attacks for better or worse. However, I’ve begun to think they deserve an apology for my sudden silence instead. For only appearing to awaken from my apathetic slumber in time to join the pillow fight. For yielding, as if to say, “we’ve returned to normal, it’s okay now. Show’s over folks!” when in reality none of this is “normal”, and the show will very definitely go on. It’s just a matter of when and how.

The notion of an apology has become more complex than any sincere apology should ever be. After all, what is it that brought out the political activist in me? Had I not written -in accompaniment of my very first post at the start of the war- that I felt I had to tell my version of the story? What am I really apologizing for?

In 2012, during the last rocket barrage, I was not living in Israel. I could only speak of what I heard on the same news, and same papers, and same websites that everyone else had been reading and watching. To paraphrase something a famous person once said, “if you only read what everyone else is reading, you will only think what everyone else is thinking”. My opinion was of no consequence, so I remained silent. However, so long as I am here on the “front lines” (or as “front” as possible, without enlisting in the IDF or Hamas’ terror gang), I felt obligated to share an exclusive perspective that no one outside of this country could contest with. For that I cannot apologize.

As for my silence, I shouldn’t have to atone. I’m not on the border of Syria or Lebanon, and so I can’t possibly expose any pseudo-revelations. When it comes to it, I promise you will receive a literary missile for each literal counterpart that is launched in my general direction. I’m not a social media activist, and I never will be. I’m just a person that lived through something and wants to talk about it openly. My goal was never to change anyone’s opinion, but rather to cause them to reflect on their own.

To one of my e-adversaries I once said (or wrote, really) “If you want to know something, you have to looks at it from all angles, and if possible, from the inside as well.” Well, I’m on the inside, and I don’t have to be sorry for it.


About the Author
Hila Karmi holds a BA in English and an MSc. in Environmental Science. She has written many things.
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