Welcome to the wartime TMI challenge

Is there a word for the despair one feels at no longer knowing who or what to believe?

It gets worse with every conflict: social media. A platform initially designed for sharing college memories and life milestones became a place for arresting my sense of truth.

Over the years, I’ve come to follow more and more people with worldviews and backgrounds that drastically differ from mine. I like it; it keeps me centered. It makes me feel just uncomfortable enough to keep on my toes, just insecure enough that I’m constantly sharpening my own truth.

At the beginning of this latest Gaza conflict I ditched traditional news sources, opting for scanning headlines with an occasional click, and instead followed dozens of new people on social media: Gazans, Arabs from around the world, journalists from a spectrum of news sources (mostly based in Gaza), and others. I had already been following extreme right and left wing Israeli voices for years.

Problem #1: It turns out, when you’re reading everything with a grain of salt, you end up absorbing some pretty bad-tasting discomfort.

The discomfort has turned into pain over the last weeks. And its sting gets sharper as I’ve watched a sudden rise in non-political friends fill my Facebook newsfeed with urgent, sensationalist, pleading headline after headline after headline (which I made a policy a couple weeks back to never ever click).

Problem #2: Everyone is sharing the same thing, regurgitating it to the same audience.

And people get fed their own homegrown-grade of bombastic propaganda. There seems to be no place to go to seek facts if you are following remotely. We can’t trust anyone else, so we can only continue to share our own hearsay.

Problem #3: Everything… but everything… sounds like propaganda now.

Every time I open Twitter – which is less often these days – I’m greeted with DEAD CHILDREN and antisemitic cartoons and RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF and NOWHERE TO GO and digit-heavy infographics and HUMAN SHIELDS and so on.

And no matter how much of a basis in truth and experience and fact each piece of content contains, whether you’d tag it ‘pro-Israel’ or ‘pro-Gazan’ or ‘pro-human’, the wrapping and the sharing and the repeating ends up downgrading its meaning.

A lot of talking, less listening.

I can only imagine how all this leads to misunderstandings of other realities for people not actively seeking truths outside their own.

Clearly, I asked for it. Maybe I’m listening too hard. And clearly, I live one of many many angles of truth here. So when seeking understanding of other truths, how far do I go? How sick do I make myself in the process? How morally compromised do I become? How depressed do I let it make me? The actions taken to erase my name, the actions taken in my name to save my name, the danger, the sadness, the collateral damage, the short term strategy, the long term goals…

Problem #4: Because each of our experiences is by definition one-of-a-kind, every person reading this will read it differently, to his/her own tune, to his/her own meaning.

Are we ever really hearing each other then?

All I have left to say is… if being a member of a population at war doesn’t enable me to learn anything new, to think harder, I consider myself a failed human.

War time in Israel

It’s different this time. I guess it’s always different. It’s different this time because I don’t have enough fingers to count how many people I know, by first or second degree, who are called up, serving or waiting to serve in Gaza.

And whereas in the past I figured the odds were too out there, I guess this time… it’s all just too close to home.

I don’t have a lot to say. The heart is heavy, the stomach is lead. The beep beep beeeep of the hourly news is louder than before. The prime minister sounds different.

We’re meant to go about our day, otherwise the terrorists win, but that is a really unnatural sensation.

We smile, we softly laugh. Occasionally, we lift our heads at the sound of a phantom siren. We hug our kids even tighter in the evening. We hear explosions from 90 minutes away. We go to work in the morning.

We read the names of the dead sons and really, there is no sigh of relief when you don’t recognize the name.

Because even though it’s not your own friend or brother or cousin or coworker… it’s someone else’s.

 

Meat counter convo liz: So I guess I’m that person now

Standing at the meat counter in the local supermarket.

Guy to meat counter girl: “Yeah, everything is crazy, how are you doing?”

Meat counter girl: “It’s so scary!”

Me: “Hey, at least we know exactly when it’ll hit, it’s been evenings and that’s it.”

Guy: “It’ll be quiet till tonight, till they’ve eaten and organized after Ramadam fast.”

Me: orders chicken

Guy: [in english] “Maybe I’ll just go back”

Me: [taken by surprise] politely smiles

Guy: “You’re from the States?”

Me: “Yeah. You?”

Guy: “Yeah. I dunno. What is this? I think it’s time to just go back.”

Me: “What are you nuts?!”

Guy: “What do you mean, this life isn’t normal. This isn’t normal.”

Me: “What do you mean – America is crazy! Did you hear what just happened on July 4 weekend in Chicago?!”

Guy: “No…”

Me: “There were 82 people shot! 14 died!”

Guy: “Muslims?!”

Me: “No, nothing like that! Anybody! That’s the thing! Here we know our enemy, there it could be any crazy guy off the street!”

Guy: “Yeah, but this…”

Me: “No way, you couldn’t pay me… I’d rather know who my enemy is, we can prepare… There, everything is crime, anyone can take out a gun…”

And while we agreed in the end that perhaps, if we were to leave, Australia would be a fine choice…

…I couldn’t believe, with 100% meaning everything I said, without thinking about what I was saying, I had just been that person.

 

 

We’re waiting for you.

Day 7.

I believe you are alive. I believe you’ll be ok.

I hope you do, too.

We’re waiting for you.

We’re doing the age-old Israeli dance – living a disrupted, regular life.

Go to work, go to school, put the kids to bed, kiss each other goodnight. While we hope for you.

We think about you. Throughout the day. While getting dressed. On the drive to work. While mindlessly refreshing the news. While preparing dinner. While shutting down for the night.

We think about your parents. We can’t imagine, but we itch to do something that might help. We pray. We wait for updates. We hope for Tzahal.

We’re waiting for you.

 

Not normal (part 2)

Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16

It’s day 3. When it comes to processing, sometimes it takes a while. I think the closer to home it is, the slower it goes.

To put it another way: maybe it’s a bit too twisted that I’m reading the insanity playing out in Iraq in an effort to not read the no-news from back home.

I don’t want to go to bed a third time not knowing what comes next, but I don’t want to be awake to experience the pounding in my chest.

In another weird twist, I’m listening to my dad’s radio show in the background in order to establish some level of normalcy. Father’s day, I guess.

A friend mentioned she’s surprised I hadn’t offered my thoughts. I guess I was blocking them. Soldiers… are close enough to home. Soldiers are barely not-teenagers.

Teenagers… well, teenagers are barely not-kids. So this is now a whole new level of sick.

And that’s what I feel at the moment… sick.

That’s all I got.