In the past couple of years, I often wrote about the “unaware public.” This is a group of people, the majority of the world’s population, actually, who is politically uninvolved with the conflicted Middle East, and does not find particular interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This group was faceless to me, until last week.
The “unaware public” were whom I always believed to be the target audience of BDS and other anti-Israel groups. Since they are unaware of the truth, and justifiably have no time to sit, read and fully understand the complicated reality here in Israel, their entire knowledge is based on what they hear from others. Abroad, mostly in Europe and in North America, the louder voice is of the anti-Israel groups, who “simplify” the conflict by presenting lies disguised as solid facts. They outnumber the voice of reason and most importantly, they have a major impact on mainstream media.
When reading mainstream media in Europe and in North America, it is easy to see Israel as a military-controlled country, in which the main sport is torturing innocent Palestinians. Goes without saying is that this image is being brought to the average media consumer in a more subtle way, under the mainstream perception that media equals objectiveness. The media framing of Israel is something I often write about, with the purpose of spreading the message to the “unaware public.” Ever since I started writing this blog, I have yet to encounter this public. Those who usually engage with me, take an active part of the “media war” surrounding the conflict and share their knowledge or spread more lies in an attempt to convince others to “pick their side.”
This changed last week, on my first visit to the U.S ever since I started writing Israelife, two years ago. During my visit, in Florida and in NYC, I was asked a lot where I was from. Upon hearing my reply, some said “Oh! Very nice!” (Had never heard of this country,) others replied with “Wow, this is one long flight!” (Know where Israel is and either don’t follow the news or don’t want to start a conversation.) It was the third type of reply that made my visit more worthwhile than expected.
-“Can I ask you something?” – “Sure!” – “Is it safe for me to go there?” My companion and I were asked this question several times on our short visit. The people who asked this question were very serious and eagerly waited for our reply. Some were young Jewish college graduates who were “waiting for the right time to go on Birthright,” and wanted to know if they should “wait a while until it is “safer.” Others were just intrigued and wanted to know if what they read or see on the news is reality. One person even shared his thoughts with us and said he had no idea what’s really going on in Israel, but had a feeling the news reports “aren’t completely honest and balanced.”
Surprisingly, the “safe for me” part did not only regard the belief Israel is a war zone. One of the people who asked this question was a young gay man who had heard that Israel is a Jewish state and wanted to know if there is a religious regime that may hunt him down should he chooses to visit. We then introduced him to the city of Tel-Aviv, one of the “Gay Capitals” of the world. He told us he heard of it, but wasn’t sure until that very moment.
Last week, my most recent visit to the U.S, was the first time I met the “unaware public.” On this trip, not only I put a face to this public, but I also truly felt honored to be an “aware” Israeli. For the first time, I witnessed my words sinking in, educating people who had only the media as a well- framed window to the outside world.