My son was in the supermarket and he ran into a colleague, a fellow teacher from the school they both teach at. They exchanged pleasantries and each went back to his shopping. A couple of minutes after he got home, Facebook sent a notice to my son suggesting this teacher as a friend. My son explained to me that Google has a way of recognizing that the phones were in close proximity for a length of time. Add to that the information they pluck from cyberspace that these two people work at the same school, and voilà, a virtual friendship is born.
It’s kind of paradoxical that a nation blessed by its enemy for the modesty and privacy it modeled to the world, to the extent that it became a daily blessing, is the same nation to pioneer the technology that enables this kind of invasion of privacy. I no sooner go online to search for a dress or hotel rates for a Shabbat away when, within nanoseconds, any page I open has ads for dresses and hotel rates that are not to be missed or believed. Information about everything we do, whom we do it with and how we feel about it is collected, recorded and reacted to in ways George Orwell could never have fathomed or believed.
And yet. And yet.
A friend from high school sent me a friend request on Facebook. I accepted. He posted pictures of April snow in Toronto. I wrote back that it was 80 degrees in Israel. This was apparently an inflammatory political statement. He answered that Israel is the second most hated country in the world for all the atrocities it is committing. Just for the record we both went to a Zionistic Hebrew school – half the teachers were Israeli. I unfriended him on Facebook. I then sent him a personal message explaining that I can’t be friends on Facebook with someone who vociferously hates Israel. He sent me links to propaganda articles against Israel. I sent him articles with the facts. We volleyed back and forth for a while until it was time for bed.
The exchange, however, elucidated for me an ongoing debate I have with a friend in England I speak to a couple of times a year. Her husband is blatantly anti-Israel and she, though less so, is far from sympathetic. She, by the way, went to the same school. In defense of my alma mater, lest you think it failed, I must say that many of my classmates made aliyah or spent many years in Israel.
If all the non-Jewish newspapers (and even some of the Jewish ones) condemn Israel, then who is to blame Jews with a spurious connection to their Judaism and who have never even visited Israel (or did so before it became a “conquering regime”) from reviling Israel? When papers report that the IDF shot 19 Palestinians in a peaceful demonstration against their blowing up a tunnel linking Gaza and Israel, omitting details such as the fact that the Palestinians shot were known terrorists trying to infiltrate Israel to carry out terrorist attacks under the smokescreen (literally they were burning tires) of a loud and violent demonstration, or that the tunnel in question was used to smuggle weapons into Israel for the express purpose of killing Israelis; when papers report that Palestinians are dying because they are being denied health care in Israel omitting that the Palestinians in question are under the purview of the Palestinian authority and are not eligible for health care in Israel (although many receive it), who can blame them?
But they should remember that this is not new. They should remember the blood libels in Europe; the false reports that initiated pogroms or the German propaganda leading up to the Holocaust claiming Jews were a liability to society. The only democracy in the Middle East, advancing the quality of life in all fields is constantly under attack for defending itself against aggression and terrorism. Being maligned in the international press isn’t such a tragedy, what is tragic is the fact that Jews believe these lies and spew negative rhetoric against the only refuge they have should the malodorous winds of anti-Semitism blow in their direction.
But what can be done? Everything gets mixed up in cyberspace – truth and lies. Even if every person reading this article would tomorrow engage a non-religious colleague or neighbor in conversation and present them with the facts, would it even help? Would they believe it? Would it make a difference or would they remain entrenched in their miasma of lies? Jews, after all, have always been compassionate to a fault.
My son told me about another story he read in a Haggadah. Through Divine Providence, a man and his blockmates were given permission to have a Seder of sorts in one of the concentration camps. When they got to the line Next Year in Jerusalem, the man turned to his friend and said. “Really? How can we even imagine such a thing?”
The next Pesach, the man celebrated the Seder in Jerusalem, walking in the first footprints of Geulah.
Nothing is hopeless. Malicious journalists can attempt to rewrite the past and they can misrepresent the present, but Hashem promised the future to us. We can’t make everyone see the truth, but we can’t remain silent either because when redemption comes, no Jew should be left behind.
L’Shanah Habah b’Yerusahlaym Habenuya.