Blogs – Web Logs – offer a unique window into the lives of Israelis.Once upon a time – actually, just a few short years ago – the ability to obtain a true sense of what was happening in Israel on a timely basis was extremely difficult for those living elsewhere.
Sources of information were limited to their local newspaper and television stations, which brought events in Israel through the lens of foreign correspondents. By the time Israeli publications could reach the U.S. by mail, the fast-moving pace of Middle East events often made their story obsolete.
The Internet changed all that, with the ability to be instantly updated on the news in Israel via Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post and other Israeli newspapers for regular news bulletins.
But these sources still primarily offered ‘The News’. Those without friends or family in Israel had no way of knowing how average Israelis were thinking, feeling and reacting to the events on the same day, within hours or minutes of events that happened in their country. It was still hard to understand what it truly felt like to live there, and get a sense of what was taking place behind the headlines.
A new phenomenon appeared on the Internet that has changed all that. The growing popularity of Blogs – Web Logs – now offers a window into the thoughts and feelings of Israelis. Through blogs, it is possible to get a sense not only of their political views, but their everyday lives, hopes, and dreams – a glimpse into the Israeli soul. Click on Blogs, to see ISRAEL21c’s links to Israeli Blogs.
Blogging – a new diary style of Internet communication is only a few years old, and most blogs have been around for less than a year. Blogs were something of an underground phenomenon, until the war in Iraq vaulted them into the public consciousness, with numerous articles on blogs and blogging appearing in the mainstream press, focusing on those that kept close track of the war.
Israel, where an unusually high percentage of the population is connected to the Internet, was a part of the trend from the earliest days. There are hundreds of blogs written in Hebrew from Israel, but there are also a number that are in English, some written by new immigrants, and others by native Israelis who want to communicate daily with the wider world. They are maintained by Israelis of varying ages, sexes, levels of religious observance, and geographic locations.
Take, for example, Imshin, a Tel Aviv working mother of two who modestly describes her writing as “the meaningless chatter of your regular split personality Israeli mother trying to make sense of current insanity.” In fact, her blog is full of important insights and keen observations. She has been blogging since June 2002.
Since Blogs are personal journals, one day Imshin may be offering her perspective on the Israeli elections, the next recounting her experiences in a Tel Aviv hair salon or recounting driving through a sandstorm to her vacation home in the Negev desert. Or, as she wrote just moments after the attack on a Netanya café earlier this month, what it is like for an Israeli just after a terror attack:
“During the one o’clock news they suddenly said they had received a report of a blast in busy Herzl Street in Netanya in a cafe in Haatzmaut Square. Another suicide terrorist attack. Knowing Dad often spends his mornings with his pals in such a cafe, I immediately called him up on his cell phone. He had left ten minutes before and he hadn’t heard any blast, but while we were talking an ambulance could be heard rushing past. Then the other phone in the office rang and I said to myself that will be (my husband). But it wasn’t. It was the girls. They’d just got home from school. Youngest wanted to tell me about a quarrel she’d got into about recycling the water bottles, Eldest wanted to tell me that they’d started preparations for the end of the year show they’re putting on. It was difficult making the switch, tearing myself away from the radio. I knew that Dad was fine and R.T. doesn’t have lunch there, as far as I know, therefore it was of course more important to listen to the stories the girls wanted to tell me about their day than to hear an update about the attack, but it was difficult to concentrate on what they were saying. I didn’t tell them about the attack. What for?”
Another popular Israeli blogger who calls himself “Israeli Guy,” , is actually named Gil Shterzer, who brags on his website that he has been “Blogging in broken English since April 14 2002”
Shterzer, specializes in political analysis and often translates choice bits from the Hebrew press that don’t make it into English, offering biting commentary.
For example, in an entry last week he wrote – with his comments in parentheses:
A customer in Bahrain was shocked to find an Israeli-made battery in his Apple computer. Gulf Daily News brings us this shocking and horrifying story.
“I was shocked when I found out. The ‘Made in Israel’ stamp was written in very small print which could hardly be seen.
“We don’t believe that too many computers with Israeli-made batteries have been sold in Bahrain because it is only one older model in particular that had them,” explained Mr Irfan.
He said that Arab Business Machines had sent them replacement batteries, which have already arrived. “Anyone who finds that their computer is powered by such a battery can come to us and we will change it for them free of charge,” said Mr Irfan. (thank god!)
The battery was discovered at a computer in a prominent advertising agency where one of the employees, a Sudanese national, was so upset about the issue that he took it up with Apple Centre and contacted the GDN.
“We were having trouble with our clock so we thought it might have been the battery,” said the employee, who would not be named.
“As it turned out this was not the problem (What do you mean it wasn’t the problem. Are you suggesting that this part made by infidels worked fine, that’s outrageous!) but we were surprised to find out that the computer contained a part made in Israel.
“But this raises interesting questions about how widespread it may be. We could have Israeli parts in our mobile phones, cameras and even our vehicles and not even know it.” (How can those people live with such horrifying uncertainty is beyond me).
And while we are talking about computers – Those guys will probably want to know that a lot of Intel technology was developed in Israel since Intel has been operating in Israel since 1974, and has 5,200 employees at its four main development centers in Jerusalem, Haifa, Kiryat Gat and Petah Tikva. They might also want to know that Israelis developed the latest series of Intel’s new series of mobile Centrino computer chips and products (Information courtesy of ISRAEL21c).
So if you are a worried Bahraini, just rip Intel’s chip out of your computer and you will be able to sleep calmly at nights knowing there are no ‘Evil Zionist’ parts in your computer.
Other Blogs offer unique perspectives on Israeli life. Renatinha, a Brazilian Hebrew University student, describes her blog “Balagan”, as “Insights from an Israeli girl with an international soul… Challenges, dreams and news from a new immigrant in Jerusalem.”
She calls her blog “Balagan, mess in Hebrew, is the way I practice the healthy habit of criticizing, discussing and complaining about everything!”
As the war with Iraq unfolded, she admitted in her blog that she and her college roommates were taking very few precautions and that their attitude towards the threat was rather lighthearted.
“No one is worried about any eventual Iraqi threat and I guess even if there’s someone worried, people are already finding funny ways to relief the tension with sense of humor. Today I saw a group of teenagers here in my street with their gas masks’ boxes. Nothing different if there wasn’t a detail: all the boxes were full of stickers… Garfields, Snoopies and even naked boys’ pictures. Simply hilarious!”
By contrast, readers of Brian Blum’s blog “This Normal Life”, learned how his careful preparations for a possible Iraqi attack put stress on his home – and his relationship with his wife.
“I’m not a perfectionist (well, at least not when it comes to household matters). But one infinitesimally small opening, letting in even a drop of chemically laden air would be too much. So I taped, and re-taped, and taped over the tape.
Then it was on to the door. Our friend Rivka had wisely advised us to first put tape on the wall, so you can remove and replace the plastic sheeting without ripping the paint off repeatedly.
Which got me thinking: if this war wasn?t the result of an international conspiracy of duct tape manufacturers as I have previously posited, then the Israeli House Painters Union has got to be behind it: they’re going to make a killing in post-war restorations. Hey U.N. – maybe you can send some of that humanitarian aid our way. This is breaking our budget!
As we worked our way through the room covering all possible orifices, I started to bark orders.
“Hand me that scissors.”
“Don’t cut so much off the plastic sheeting.”
“What’s the point of this anyway? I’m quitting.”
“Why did you do it like that?”
Building clearly brings out the worst in me. Jody took it all like a trooper. We were good little soldiers, obeying our orders from the Home Front Command. But who’s going to pay for the marriage counseling afterward?”
What makes Blogs more popular and dynamic than mere personal websites is the level of interaction they afford – for that reason, the technology they use is called “social software.” With room for comments and feedback, and constant cross – linking to one another various members of the “blogosphere” are continually engaging intense debates on almost every topic, including the Middle East. As events unfold daily, discussions take place among Israeli bloggers and with bloggers around the world, including those from Arab countries.
Naturally, in addition to the Israeli bloggers, there is an extremely large contingent of bloggers worldwide whose blogs reflect their intense interest in Israeli and Jewish affairs, exchange views and information, redefining the essence of what is considered the Jewish community.
Interestingly, the blogging phenomenon highlights some of the strong support that Israel receives in the United States and other countries outside the Jewish community. Many of the most consistent and vociferous pro-Israel bloggers are not Jewish. (At the same time, some blogs which are most critical of Israel are written by Jews.)
For Israel to properly present its story and make its case before world public opinion, human faces — not simply dry political arguments – are vital. Blogs bring Israeli faces – and Israeli voices – as close as the nearest computer.