Why We Laugh

It may seem strange to an outsider, but many of us in Israel have never laughed so hard as we have during this war. It is not that we are insensitive – quite the contrary – it is because we are all deeply effected. One would be hard pressed to find an Israeli who has not been touched by the war on a very personal level. More than 5 million Israelis have found themselves under daily missile attacks. The sounds of sirens and explosions have become a daily reality for us all. We are fighting a brutal enemy who, given the opportunity, would kill every man, woman and child in Israel. You can cut the stress with a knife. We all have brothers, friends, sons or fathers fighting in Gaza – and we are all acutely aware that many will not return home alive. I, myself, have already lost a friend and am bracing myself for more. War is not a joke. Why then do we laugh?

The most basic answer to that question is so that we don’t spend our days crying.  It os a testament to the strength of the Israeli people that we are able to fight terror with laughter – that even as we are all experiencing the worst, we can crack a joke, a smile and, if only briefly, find humor in the blackest of places. And this war never fails to give us good material. For example, in the early days of the fighting, Hamas hackers broke into the facebook page of Domino’s Pizza in order to threaten Israelis. Their plan backfired. Rather than frighten the Israeli public, they caused hundreds of us to post our messages to Hamas on the wall of the page. I, for example, posted the following: “If my rocket arrives after more than 30 minutes, is it free?”. Others asked whether or they could have pepperoni with thier missile (they could not).

Similarly, many laughs were had over the inability of Hamas to understand the definition of “cease fire” – after Hamas “prematurely fired their rocket” in numerous attempts to stop the fighting. We are well aware that these missiles are designed to kill and maim us – but we cannot let terror win, so we continue smiling and laughing. The social media comedy continues nonstop – a funny meme here, a one-liner there. What else can we do?

Many a local celebrity has managed to brighten an otherwise unbearable experience. Of particular note is fellow Times of Israel blogger and standup comedian, Benji Lovitt. His facebook statuses have turned him into something of an internet icon. I can certainly say that he has lightened many a black day for me. On Twitter, people have also gotten in on the action – from taking bets on how long the cease fire would last, to sex jokes concerning “his iron dome”. A personal favorite of mine is #HamasPlaylist, where people post parodies of famous songs that make fun of hamas. I myself have contributed a few to that particular hashtag. We are under attack, so forgive us if maybe we cross some lines!

As I write this, my smartphone beeps with a news update: yet another of our soldiers has been killed. My smile fades and tears come to the eyes. Many of my friends are in Gaza… I hope with all my heart it’s not one of them. And then, of course, I feel guilty. It doesn’t matter if he ‘s my friend. He’s my brother. This is very real to me. I’m not in a movie. And the only way to cope with it all is to laugh.

About the Author
Neil was born in New York City and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. After a brief stint volunteering with Sar El (Volunteers for Israel) during the 2nd Lebanon War, he decided to make Aliyah and draft to the IDF.