Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
As missiles are being fired to and from Israel, there is a war going on in social networks: Hamas representators are posting false pictures and videos, which have been exposed as lies on Facebook walls and Twitter accountes.
For your information, here are some examples of Hamas' online lies.
Since Wednesday 703 missiles were fired to Israel.
Please, help Israel and share the truth, so that people who do not read Jewish Journal can also get a better picture of everything that is going on here:
Yesterday, a picture of this bleeding baby girl was published on Twitter, presenting her as an injured Palestinian. Truth is (and a glance at the Hebrew letters on the shirt of the person carrying her), this infant is Israeli, which was hurt in yet another Hamas attack:
A couple of days ago, Hamas posted this heartbreaking image of a dead child in Gaza yesterday. Turns out the original picture was taken in Syria and posted three weeks ago:
A summary of Hamas' online lies:
This short clip is from 2008, yet just as relevant today:
12.10.13 at 12:55 pm | What you are about to read sounds like a big. . .
12.9.13 at 12:35 pm | Mourning Paul and Seffy, lighting up Africa,. . .
12.6.13 at 12:23 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
12.2.13 at 12:33 pm | International success, music, extreme sport, a. . .
11.29.13 at 11:58 am | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
11.26.13 at 1:09 pm | Netanyahu goes meatless, the IDF goes green,. . .
12.6.13 at 12:23 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . . (34)
12.10.13 at 12:55 pm | What you are about to read sounds like a big. . . (32)
11.15.12 at 10:32 am | It is a solid fact that Operation Pillar of. . . (29)
November 16, 2012 | 9:36 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I can describe the reality here, I can ask you to imagine what it's like, but no matter what I will say, it will be very hard for anyone who's not here to comprehend. In the past three days, 350 missiles have been fired to Israeli cities, most of them to southern cities. In the past 12 years, more than 12000 have been fired to Israel. As we speak, rockets and missiles are fired to Southern and Central Israel, and to Gaza. Civilians from both sides are being killed, and it is scary. It is very important to say that Iron Dome does NOT block every missile fired to our direction, not even close. Israel is under the attack of a terror organization called Hamas, and is now defending itself and the lives of Israeli citizens. What I believe will give you the best understanding of the situation here, are live testimonies from Israelis, who kindly agreed to let me translate and publish their Facebook statuses and chats with me:
Etty Daniel Levi lives in Ra'anana, which is still considered a "safe zone". Earlier today, she was listening to the radio, and wrote down her thoughts: " Just so we could make things clear- as I was driving today, listening to the radio, the broadcaster told the listeners about 15 (!!) times in ten minutes that there is an alert in 6 different cities in southern Israel, with the music playing in the background. In between songs he was reminding the listeners about how you should react when the alert sounds in your area. This is not right, and that's reality. My heart goes to the people in southern Israel and the IDF soldiers protecting all of us. Be safe everyone!"
Noam Avimor is originally from central Israel, but this October she moved down south to attend Be'er Sheva University. This week was the first time she heard the alarm notifying the missiles arrival: "The first time, I was caught unprepared. The alarm woke me up and I did not know what to do. It isn't something you can get used to. Everywhere you go you need to check for available shelters; you need to remember not to listen to loud music while walking down the street, and go to sleep with nice clothes, just in case…On Wednesday we were sitting in the classroom when an announcement came out, telling us that school is off and that we should go back to our homes. I ran to the bus station, which was packed with people trying to get on. About 30 minutes after we boarded the bus, the rain of rockets started to pour. Some friends of mine, who left a little later, had to get off the bus for a cover several times on their way home. On the way home, my battery ended, and my phone was shut down, People were worried like hell…"
Avital Sykora lives in Jerusalem, where an alarm was first heard just several hours ago. Yesterday, she posted: "Reading an article to try and figure out what my best options are for a bomb shelter, should the need arise. This is the reality we live in." Today's message was a bit different: "So now I know how to get in to my building's shelter. Holy fucking shit, shaking like all hell, heart beating a mile a minute. People saying explosion heard in the distance."
A 14 year old girl from Ashdod asked me to tell her story, without publishing her name. Her house is at the rocket range and for the past week she and her family were living in their shelter. This is her reality: "When I hear the alarms I get scared right away, because I don't know if it would fall far from us or right where we are. After a week living like this, we went to my grandmother who lives in central Israel. We went there to feel a bit safer, but now, it is hard to say what "safe" really is…We didn't want the life of fear to take over, but anything can happen. It's boring, staying inside all the time, and I wish this will end soon"
Amit Alexander Lev is a Tel-Aviv resident. Yesterday night, when the alarm was heard for the first time, he had no idea what to do: "I was in a photo exhibition in a bar, when someone said that it was announced on the radio that there's an alarm. I went outside, and heard the sound of an explosion. Everyone looked at each other, and we had no idea what to do next. I don't like this situation, and hate to think it might get worse, and that more people, from both sides, will be killed."
Gali Zemach is 14 years old girl from Kadesh Barmea: "I live in the south, but on the other side of the south, so we barely hear the alarm. However, the school I go to is at the fire range, and it is closed since Thursday. My friends from school experience this life on a daily basis for years now. It is something they are used to, and last week they tried to teach me how to keep calm. It's very stressful and scary, but I learned that I must stay calm. I think it is terrible that for some people, this is routine. I can speak to a friend on the phone, then she can tell me, in her most relaxed voice, that she needs to go to the shelter, and she'll call me back in a few- just like that…The world needs to understand that Israel did not initiate this, and not started shooting for fun. People in the south are suffering for a long time now. Missiles and rockets are part of their lives, and no one should live like this."
Amos Holin, from Herzliya in central Israel, is due to go visit soldiers is their bases in the next couple of days, and deliver them snacks, soft drinks and cigarettes: "When I was a soldier during Cast Lead operation, people came to me and did the same. It warmed my heart during very hard and confusing times, when I finally realized that I am fighting for the people of Israel, and that they support me and stand behind me at all times. Now, when I am a released soldier, it is very important to me to do the same, and show my honest gratitude for the IDF."
To end this post, here are videos that caught my eye, and explain, very simply, our reality:
Israel Under Fire: Life in the South
Prager University: The Middle East Problem
Thanks again for your support. SHARE THE TRUTH
November 15, 2012 | 10:32 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
It is a solid fact that Operation Pillar of Defense did not come out of the blue. It came as a response to a massive, continuous attack on Israeli cities, fired from the Hamas terror organization sitting in Gaza. I know it, because I live in Israel. You know it, because you read the Jewish Journal, which provides a full scan on everything that's going on. But what does the rest of the world know? An overview of popular news websites in English, presents the readers several versions of the past week in Israel. When I browsed the web to see how my reality looks to foreign readers, I was shocked to see articles that were very far from presenting what journalists swore to present: a balanced, objective story.
In case you forgot, last Saturday, a missile fired from Gaza hit an IDF vehicle, and wounded four soldiers. As a response, the IDF fired back at facilities owned by the Hamas, from which the attack came. The response was carefully aimed. Hamas refused to let go, and started a massive attack on Israeli southern cities. For a week, missiles were fired to civilian places, meant to hurt as many Israelis as possible. In this time, more than 1 million Israelis lived under constant fear, and at some point, could not leave their shelters. Yesterday was the first day with Israeli casualties, both civilians and soldiers, and the situation just keeps getting worse. The IDF tried to maintain a low profile, until yesterday, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu formally declared a special operation, meant to completely stop the attack on Israeli civilians. To be fully honest, Palestinians were also killed. However, as Netanyahu said well, their attacks are meant to kill innocent people, while ours are meant to protect our people and kill terrorists. The terrorists controlling Gaza are hiding inside schools and hospitals, and are using civilians as targets, which makes civilians casualties inevitable. This story as a whole did not appear in any of the news sites I looked into. Some presented a slightly unbalanced story, and some made me scream at the screen. People who have no idea what's really happening, and rely on a single information source, read a very wrong story, and therefore get a very wrong idea on the situation here.
Take CNN, for example, the first article describing what happened was published on November 10th. The headline, which is the very first thing readers see, and what sets the tone of the article, is saying: "Violence flares as Israelis, Palestinians trade fire." This immediately makes the reader sympathize with the terrorists, who, for some reason, are presented here as "Palestinians,” and not as what they really are, which is a small, extreme group within them. Then, the article presents the course of events which led to the fire exchange, where the IDF vehicle was involved. However, with the use of numbers, they present a touching David and Goliath story, in which a small occasion, where only four Israelis were injured, dragged a massive attack on unprotected Palestinians, who gathered in a funeral.
After Operation Pillar of Defense started, CNN posted an article with the title: "Rockets, airstrikes reignite Mideast conflict." The very strange thing about this story is that they have completely forgotten the past couple of days. In the story, they describe the Israeli attack on Palestinian civilians, right after killing the chief of Hamas' military wing (and not a word about Hamas being a terror organization…). Then, they said that "Palestinian leaders immediately condemned the attacks as an escalation." - Almost as if no fire was shot from Gaza prior to this. Only later on in the article, it says that Israel's Iron Dome air defense system intercepted 28 rockets launched at Israel on Wednesday, but once again, it seems like nothing really hit Israeli ground, and all is safe and sound, which is, once again, not true.
On CBS News, the first cover also appeared on November 10th, with an article titled: "After attack on jeep, Israeli army kills 4 in Gaza." – this also presents the readers with what might be a wrong picture. It doesn't say who attacked whom, and leaves the readers with a blur. Many versions of the story can pop up to the head of the reader, before starting to read. One of them is that the IDF had no idea who attacked the vehicle, and decided to kill civilians in Gaza, "just in case." Later on, the picture clears up, and presents the versions of both the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. It seems like they made this perfect journalistic work, but a closer look reveals a trick which is almost unnoticeable, but easily enters the sub-conscious of every reader: the Palestinian version if described as one coming from "Officials and eye witnesses," while the Israeli version is coming from "Israel's military." You tell me which one sounds more reliable and less biased….Moreover, there is a long description of the Palestinians killed, "civilians between the ages of 16 and 18 and that among the 25 wounded were some children.” It also mentioned that there were no Israelis killed, thanks to the protection of Iron Dome, but doesn't say that Iron Dome did not block all missiles, not even most of them, and did not say a word on the Israeli life in the shadow of death.
The article after the Operation began, reading: "Hamas militant chief killed in Israeli airstrikes," is starting off with the very true saying, according to which Israel "carried out a blistering offensive of more than 20 airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday." This story, unlike the last one, shows more details on the missiles fired to Israel, and presents a respond of sort to the last article.
I've looked into many news sites, and I can go on and analyze forever, but since I don't want to wear you out, I encourage you to look into news websites as well, and take to close look at the coverage. Then, remember which sites are more reliable (such as Fox in my opinion), and which are less. Until then, please help and support Israel. In times like this, it is very important for us to unite as one big family and be there for each other. SHARE THE TRUTH.
For constant updates: https://www.facebook.com/IsraelUnderFireLive?fref=ts
November 14, 2012 | 9:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
A Turkish court began a trial in absentia for four Israeli military commanders responsible for the raid on the Marmara ship. On May 31st, 2010, a ship named Mavi Marmara sailed from Turkey in the direction of Israel, Their intention was to anchor in Gaza Strip, to which they claimed to have brought humanitarian aid. The Gaza Strip was and still is under a legal Israeli blockade, due to terror activity there, led by the Hamas, and the people on board of the Marmara knew that very well. When they came near the Strip, the IDF sent them a warning not to sail into waters near Gaza, and directed them to Haifa port, yet they kept on going. When they got even closer, Israeli Navy commandos boarded the ship, and in this encounter, nine Turkish citizens died and ten Israeli soldiers were injured.
This story got wide media coverage, while the IDF and the activists on the ship both presented two very different versions of the story. The United Nations’ Palmer Committee found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel. A special committee was founded in Israel, with the participation of seven foreign, neutral observers. The committee found nothing illegal or immoral in the IDF's actions, yet claimed that the activists on the ship did use excessive violence. None of those findings helped Israel's image in the public eye. The activists on the ship managed to sell their innocent image to the public, and with the smart use of Photoshop, released fabricated pictures of the struggle to the press, where their weapons were removed. Even though there was no humanitarian aid found on board, their image in the public and media eyes was of humanitarian activists being brutally attacked while trying to help.
This incident caused an irreconcilable fracture between Israel and Turkey, and was followed by a row of diplomatic incidents and feuds. It wasn't long before Israelis were officially recommended to stay away from their number one vacation destination. It took the two states two years to try and rebuild their friendship, and lately, it seems as if things are starting to look better. That is until last week, when the absentia trial for the Marmara incident started. This 'show trial' accuses Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as former navy Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, ex-military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin and former air force Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, causing bodily harm, deprivation of freedom, plundering, damage to property and illegal confiscation of property. Some 490 people who were aboard the ship during the raid, including activists and journalists, are scheduled to testify. The prosecution demands 18 thousand years in prison for the defendants.
It is almost redundant to say that Israel tends to take no part in this trial. Moreover, it was publicly condemned and cleverly ridiculed. Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Agence France Presse, "This is not a trial but a show trial and has nothing to do with law and justice. The government of Turkey, if it really wanted to do something about this issue, would engage with Israel. The so-called accused have not been notified or informed in any way that they are going to face charges or what the nature of the charges is. They haven't been given even a symbolic chance to have legal representation." Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Agence France Presse, "This is not a trial but a show trial and has nothing to do with law and justice." He added, "The government of Turkey, if it really wanted to do something about this issue, would engage with Israel." The detail that really attracted my attention in this whole story was the small fact that the trial will be officially recorded by television cameras, and will later be broadcast. This, along with Palmor's statements, really proves the real intention behind this not-so-innocent scheme: This whole story, from beginning to end, is a show meant to hurt Israel's image in the world. Unfortunately, this scheme is going well. Very well. The anti-Israel activists that were on the ship, along with the government of Turkey, are doing a damn good job in crushing Israel's image to dust. This is not a question of justice, because justice is on our side. Everyone who read the story carefully could have noticed the truth. They did not do a very good job in proving logically the IDF attacked innocent people. All they did was to address the media first and provide the next day's headlines. While Israel did everything right in handling the activists on the ship, it did everything wrong in dealing with the media.
This story proves, maybe more than anything, that what runs our world today is the media. Whoever got his hand on top in media coverage will be on top in the public eye, and therefore- on the winning side. Nowadays, we don't care about looking carefully into things. We need information fast and in short sentences. We need rely on headlines to provide us with all the information we need, and most of the time it doesn't match the content, which does not always match the truth. The way we get our information in the 21st century, gets us very far from the truth. While justice was on Israel’s side in the Marmara case, our lack of media awareness, combined with their initial intention to get the media attention, painted the world in their colors and shades. Some say it is too late now to try and change the public opinion on this story, but I say it is never too late. This "show trial" brought this story back to life, and it gives us the opportunity to bring our side of the story to the surface. Be on the side of justice and reach the media. Share the truth.
November 12, 2012 | 9:43 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This weekend, once again, the people of Southern Israel were under attack. Missiles fired from Gaza exploded in the middle of cities, and people were wounded, both physically and mentally. This weekend was also the formal beginning of winter time here. After an everlasting summer, the rain started to pour and the smell of winter filled the air. The people of the south did not smell the rain. Instead, they smelled smoke, and the mold-scent of the inside of shelters.
While the people of the south stayed inside the shelters, we, who live in central and northern Israel, stayed inside our blankets. This is the reality in Israel- some are under attack, while the rest read about it in the newspaper. This reality, however, is not new to us: In the 1991 Gulf war, the sky above Tel Aviv and central Israel was covered in red, while the southern and northern skies were all blue. In 2000, during the second Intifada, I was not allowed to go on a bus, or sit in a restaurant, because of the fear they might explode. At the same time, my northern friends were drinking chocolate milk at their favorite restaurant. In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, my southern friends and I could both lie near the pool and enjoy the summer, while our northern friends lived inside their shelters.
It's a bit weird, isn't it? How such a small country can be so disconnected and run a very different daily routine...I do not remember the last time the entire state of Israel was under an attack at the same time. But the thing about us is that even though the reality is different in the different areas, the rest of us never close our hearts and arms. The gap between one reality to another just makes us grow stronger against the ones who want to destroy our lives as individual and spirit as a nation. Every time one area is struck, the people who live there know they have a place to go. In every single strike, some of those who were under attack found shelter in a safe place. Strangers opened their hearts and houses and hosted with kindness those whose houses were brutally destroyed by terrorists.
Those terrorists think they can wear us out, burn out our flame. But while they can destroy houses, and scare children, they cannot destroy Israel's most powerful weapon- solidarity. I don’t know every single state in the world, but I have a very good reason to believe Israel is the most solid place on earth. True, we have no idea how to stand properly in lines, and we can sometimes be a bit hot-headed when we think someone is trying to rip us off. However, when needed, we unite into one powerful wall of people that no one can break, especially when it comes to security. When one is unsafe, another will reach out. That's just how it is, and how it will always be. At times, it is easy to be angry with those who continue to live their lives while others cannot, but in our case, it is a proven fact that this gap between one city to another is an advantage in our war against our enemies. The fact that there are people who still enjoy the first rain proves we cannot be broken. We will never give up on our spirit, and will never leave a fellow Israeli without a safe haven in times of need. This reality, under which the people of the south are living, should not exist. I have no idea why it still does, but I am sure our decision makers will soon know what to do. Terror must be stopped, and the only way to do so is to unite against it. Until the heads of the states of the world will find a way to do so, it is up to us, the people, to maintain our flame and to not let our wall break.
November 11, 2012 | 11:01 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Douglas, Isle of Man-based Odyssey Moon Ltd. and Israeli-based NSL Satellites Ltd., in partnership with NanoRacks LLC of the U.S., together launched a number of educational microgravity experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). Three of them are the outcomes of developments made by students from three Israeli high schools. In the past year, the students went through a unique class about space environment, life on the international space station and the legacy of the first Israeli Astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who was killed while on board the Colombia space shuttle. The students pitched many suggestions for experiments in space to a special committee, and only three were elected to actually be performed. One experiment will look at how cancer cells develop in microgravity, another will determine the direction of the sprouts/roots growth of radish seeds under microgravity, and the third will examine the hardening of an epoxy resin sample to test the characteristics of the mix in microgravity conditions. Two experiments were already launched from Cape Canaveral. The third one is due to launch in January.
* One morning, two years ago, Rachel Held-Evans decided to live one year according to the rules of the bible. That decision resulted in one of today's best sellers: Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master . In this book, Held-Evans describes her biblical-style life, including living in a tent during the Time of the Month, no getting anywhere near a television or a computer, avoiding gossip and more. Before becoming a famous publishing author, Held-Evans was a blogger, living in the lap of the Evangelical Church. That lifestyle made her want to examine why people choose to educate their children, especially daughters, to live according to biblical rules.
* A surprise visitor in Israel! Tennis champion, Serena Williams landed in Israel last week, after visiting South Africa and Nigeria with her sister, Venus. The two stayed in Africa for several days, where they played some exhibition games, and inspired African women and emphasized the role of women in African development. On Monday, Williams landed in Eilat, Israel's most southern city, where she played some tennis, but mostly rested and took a short break from her hectic schedule.
* A.B. Yehoshua, one of Israel's most important authors, won the Prix Médicis étranger, a French literary award for a translated work for his novel The Retrospective. The novel explores the relationship between life and art through the eyes of a film director, his screenwriter, and their muse: "An aging film director named Yair Moses has been invited to the Spanish pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela for a retrospective of his early work. As he and Ruth, his leading actress and longtime muse, settle into their hotel, Moses notices the painting over his bed, Caritas Romana, depicting a classical legend of a starving old prisoner man nursing at the breast of his daughter. For the first time in decades, he recalls the infamous scene from one of his early films which led to his estrangement from his difficult but brilliant screenwriter, Trigano, Ruth’s former lover. Throughout the retrospective, Moses is unsettled, straddling the past and the present, and upon his return to Israel, he decides to travel to the south to find the elusive Trigano and propose a new collaboration. But the screenwriter demands a price for such a reconciliation, one that will have strange and lasting consequences". The book was published in Hebrew in 2011 and was translated to several languages, including French. It will be released in English in March of 2013.
* A collection of rare posters stolen by the Nazis in 1938, including advertisement and propaganda from the 19th century, is being sold by the owner's son. Hans Sachs was a holocaust survivor, who escaped to the U.S. after being held in a concentration camp. He is thought to have collected up to 12,500 posters. But only 4,529 have been identified, according to media reports. The German Historical Museum displayed a few posters at any one time, after they became part of its collection following the fall of the Berlin Wall. After years of legal battles in a German court, Sachs Jr. earned back the legal rights for the collection, and is now looking for a buyer. The collection's worth is estimated between 4.5 million to 16 million euros ($5.75 to $20.44 million).
* An innocent shipment of sunflower seeds turned to have not so much of an innocent content. A species of dangerous fire ants was found the shipment, during a routine inspection of the Agriculture Ministry. The infested shipment was detained and quarantined while a specimen was sent to Tel Aviv University for identification. As you probably know, a bite of a fire ant is very dangerous and can sometimes even kill. Thank God it was discovered soon enough…
* For a while now there are rumors that Israel and Turkey are giving their friendship another chance. After a row of diplomatic feuds, it seemed like it can't go any lower, but right in the middle of the peace-making, Turkey took a turn which will put the alliance between the two states yet to another test. Last week, a "show trial" started in Turkey, where four former IDF commanders, including former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, were accused of serious crimes in the 2010 killing of nine Turks on the Marmara ship. If you need a reminder, in May 2010, an IDF naval unit was sent to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists on board. The Turks later presented the case to the media and public, making it seem as if they were carrying humanitarian aid and was attacked for no reason. Of course, it was as far from the truth as Pluto is far from the sun. I guess it is almost pointless to say Israel took no part in this trial, and even condemned it. More on that story later this week...
* Until Israeli and Turkish officials will shake hands, first steps are being made in the cultural department. Turkey's best-known alternative rock band, Baba Zula, will play its first-ever concert in Israel at Tel Aviv's Barby Club on November 9. Baba Zula was established in Istanbul in 1996 and made it big in 2005. Baba Zula seeks to merge psychedelic and Turkish folk music. The band's rock is also influenced by reggae, dubbed electronic music, '60s rock, as well as gypsy and Turkish music.
November 9, 2012 | 12:31 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Beaufort is a 2007 Israeli war film, directed by Joseph Cedar, who stands behind many great Israeli films. The film was co-written by Cedar and Ron Leshem, and is based on Leshem's novel of the same name.
Beaufort takes place in the year 2000, and tells the story of an IDF unit stationed at the Beaufort post in Southern Lebanon during the South Lebanon conflict. That year was when the IDF withdrawn from the Israeli Security Zone in southern Lebanon. The film was directed by Joseph Cedar and was co-written by Cedar and Ron Leshem, based on Leshem's novel of the same name. The film is about an IDF unit stationed at the Beaufort post in Southern Lebanon during the South Lebanon conflict, and their commander, Liraz Librati, who was the last commander of the Beaufort castle before the Israeli withdrawal in 2000. It chronicles the daily routine of a group of soldiers positioned at the 12th century Crusader stronghold of Beaufort Castle, their feelings and their fears, and explores their moral dilemmas in the days preceding the withdrawal and end of the 18-year South Lebanon conflict.
The film basically presents one of Israel's milestones, and most of all, gives the viewer a glance at the life of an IDF soldier. It is considered one of Israel's best films, and its creators and cast won several awards, including the Silver Bear award in the Berlin International Film Festival for Cedar, a nomination for the Academy Awards as Best Foreign Picture, and four Ophir Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Artistic Design and Best Soundtrack, and
November 8, 2012 | 9:27 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
For the past few weeks my mind has been preoccupied. An event that occurred in my home town got me thinking on how mean can people be? And moreover- how mean can young people be? What makes a kid or a teenager, who didn't even get the chance to experience real life, own a heart of stone?
Two weeks ago, I got a phone call. On the other end of the line was the head of the municipal student council, which I am in touch with due to my work as a local reporter. "I just heard something and I wanted to know if it's true," she said. "I heard that a 16 year old girl from one of the high schools in town tried to commit suicide." She then told me that according to the story, being passed from mouth to ear, the girl got drunk one night about a year ago, and had a sexual encounter with two older kids. That night was filmed by one of them, and now he decided to share everything with his friends. The girl was then teased by her peers, and tried to end her life by swallowing pills. At the last minute, she was rushed to the hospital and was saved. The following day, what started as a rumor amongst friends, turned out to be truth and was covered by all newspapers.
I must admit when it came to cyber bullying, I was naïve enough to believe this was a phenomenon which is mostly fictional on such a destructive level. I was exposed to it mainly on American films and television series. A few weeks ago, I read the story of Amanda Todd, which was the sad approval of the worst outcome of cyber bullying. I wish this proof never existed, because when I saw it on the screen I could doubt its existence in real life. After all, television always takes everything out of proportion. Later I found out just how common this vicious act of teasing is in the United States. I read about more stories of such, with the worst kind of ending, and heard from my American friends about this phenomenon, which takes place mainly in high schools. Everyone who is a bit different, in any way, is doomed to a fate of bullying by his classmates. At that point, it seemed to me like an all-American phenomenon. It's not like I thought Israeli kids never take part or suffer from cyber bullying, but I realized the Israeli cyber bullying is on a much smaller scale.
The American approach towards high school is much different than the Israeli one. In the US, high school is a major part of one's life, and this four-year long experience can alter a person's life. In Israel, it is a lesser deal. For the Israeli students, high school is just another passing phase in life. It can have a positive tone for some, and a negative for others, but in no way it has any similarity to the American high school experience. Because of that, I believed cyber bullying, or any kind of bullying, is creating a destructive path mainly in the States. As it turns out, there are mean people everywhere, and have such a little clue of the power of their words. It is not an American phenomenon, it is a global phenomenon, which grows bigger and bigger as the World Wide Web develops. Nowadays, the "grownups" have very little control over their children’s online social lives, and many parents and teachers fail in tracking the online abuse before it is too late. Teenagers' and children's sense of sensitivity is very blunt. They feel like they can do whatever they want, and say anything that comes to mind. When they see someone or something different, they react, while being fully aware or their harsh words. We live by certain standards, and they know exactly when someone takes a wrong turn. Their mean words sting and burn and scar for life, and for some of their peers, this is too much to take. While there are young people who have the skin of an elephant, some are not capable of taking everything in. They sink and drown and feel too embarrassed and too scared to turn to an adult. As they keep taking punches, their peers continue their brutal attack, wearing out their "victim", until they win.
Only then, when it is too late to do anything, they realize their actions, and the school system and families step in. Talks, lectures, sometimes criminal charges- the system does anything it its power to bring justice, retroactively. I keep thinking how many lives could have been saved if mean words would be handled by the system as seriously as physical violence. Words are harsh, and when they are carved on a virtual wall for everyone to see, they are destructive. I probably would never be able to understand how people can be so mean. How can 16 year olds make their peer be willing to take her own life, when there is so much ahead of her? What is it about people that can make them show no solidarity or respect, and not fully realize their actions?
Words can kill, especially now, in the cyber age. It is so easy for a rumor to get out of hand, or an embarrassing video to spread throughout the world in a matter of minutes. There should be zero tolerance around children and teens for aiming mean words at someone else, and handling this should not be after an action that cannot be rewound has occurred. This phenomenon is spreading fast, leaving bodies behind. It is growing bigger and bigger and soon, it might become too big to handle. Now is the time to put an end to cyber bullying, which cannot be detected inside the schools. It is time for parents and teachers to be aware of the young people's after school online activity, and take more interest in the youngsters’ feelings and behavior outside of class. Now is the time for the educational system and parents, all around the world, to take another step forward in fighting cyber bullying. IT CAN BE STOPPED.