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Doing normal on social media during war time

Selfie at the Western Wall, Jerusalem
Selfie at the Western Wall, JerusalemDafna Michaelson

As a war rages in Israel I go about my daily life in America. In the days before social media it may have been easy to forget that my family a world away was spending its time between bomb shelters and trying to live "normally." But with the widespread use of Facebook among my friends and family there is not a day that goes by that I don't see an article, blog entry, post about the minute to minute realities on the ground. Every time I open the app my heart sinks to my stomach. I don't want to post the fun things that are going on because they no longer seem relevant. I don't want to post my good hopes for Israel because they bring out the political worst in everyone. I scan, I read, I cry, I close the app and then I can't stop myself from opening it again.

I honestly don't know what the "right" thing to do here is. Let's start with my roots. I am an Israeli woman. I was born in Tel-Aviv right before the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Born to Americans I am also a "natural born citizen of the United States." My love for both countries is incredibly strong and deep. When I visit Israel I look at the women my age and try to imagine what my life would have been like had I been raised there. I was raised here, in the United States. I was raised with a deep love of Israel and a sense of responsibility for her well being. As my uncle, who lives in Israel along with most of my mother's family, began to fill out the 13 generations in Israel of family tree I eagerly visited the graves of my ancestors buried on the prominent Mount of Olives. I walk the land, I listen to the language, I feel the passion and I know I am home.

In America I also feel pride. As my family has served in the Israeli military my family has also served in the US Armed Forces. We are on our 4th generation of family members serving here. I fill with pride when I sing the Star-Spangled Banner and as I think about my life here I am grateful. Yet, I do fear. I argued with my husband yesterday about this and I said I don't fear here in the US but if that were true I would not fear posting the way I feel about Israel on social media.

A dear friend of mine has joined the #100daysofgratitude campaign so popular today. She is neither Jewish, Israeli nor American by birth, yet she posted her gratitude for living in peace while the Middle East is embroiled in battle. She then posted a video of the history of the region. I do not imagine that she was in any way ready for the onslaught of vitriol about to fill her comments feed. One side grateful for her sharing the history of the region the other side claiming that the content was fiction and bias. The tone of the conversation was violent as my friend continued to assert that she was just sharing the generally accepted historical details of the region.

As I viewed the comments I cringed. They began attacking her. Attacking a woman who is kind, loving, caring and not really attached one way or the other to the region.

I know we feel safe behind the veil of a computer screen to spew hateful speech in a way we would most likely not do in a face to face conversation, but why? Why does the need for respectful dialogue go right out the window on social media? And why does everybody have an opinion on the tiny state of Israel? Tiny. The whole country is the size of New Jersey. Tiny.

My naivety on the passion American's feel for this issue has thrown me off balance before.

Many years ago I explored a run for public office in Denver. I attended a meeting of the Denver Dems to vote on the Denver Democratic Party platform. I had assumed that I was the poster child of the Democratic Party, a young, educated, passionate woman who has fought for civil rights, women's medical and pay equality etc., a lifetime of public service, volunteerism and community engagement. From the floor a group proposed language that was very critical of Israel that it wanted included on the Denver Democratic Party platform. Denver...why would Denver need an opinion on Israel in it's party platform? And why, I felt, were they so misinformed?

There were others in the room who I knew from the community. They were older and carried more clout, why did they not stand up? Why did they not speak out? As I marveled at their silence I stood and spoke on behalf of Israel. A lone voice in a sea of silence. I knew at once I was not representative of the voice of the Democratic Party and while the language failed the same group tried again to pass the language on the Colorado State platform and again, it failed but my heart recoiled at the vitriolic nature of the debate and the relative silence of those I know who support the tiny democratic country.

I wrote a piece that I published within the Hadassah world following that Denver Dems meeting but I never posted it beyond that realm. It was safe to post there and to ask the question: "why?" I had learned that it was not safe to post anywhere else.

I want to post. I want to fly the flag of Israel on my profile picture but I don't want to fill my page with hatred and violent dialogue. And so I shy away. Afraid to speak my voice. Afraid to share my truth. Afraid to wave the flag of the country of my birth. I know I have friends who have an opposing view of my own, and students who I love that took my class and engaged with me in meaningful positive dialogue who know my roots and have posted hatred on my wall since the escalation. American students. Loved me yesterday, revile me today.

I don't post because, in truth, I don't want to know that perhaps you secretly despise me and my family because of who we are, where we were born and the country we live in. I have always prided myself on my earnest desire to listen and learn, to build relationships and grow, to create a pathway to a peaceful existence. And yet, I know, that if I begin to post the blood of some will boil right onto my page and all over my words. I know posting this will cause some of that too and I just don't know what the "right" thing is to do.

I'm off to Vegas today. On a day without war I'd be dreaming up the fun and funny pictures I could post as my adventures will no doubt be wild and wacky and I like to share wild and wacky but somehow it all seems so irrelevant in the face of the global dialogue around my people. I'm off to Vegas for Hadassah's National Convention. Hadassah, an organization founded to support the medical needs of ALL the inhabitants of Israel over 100 years ago. An organization who has been treating the victims of Syria's bloodshed throughout the turmoil in that region and even today treats the injured on both sides of the conflict in one of the only emergency departments and surgical centers in the world built completely in a bomb shelter.

At Hadassah we don't ask how you got there, we simply make you whole. And so I know, that over the next couple of days of this gathering of women from around the United States who support a hospital in Israel, I will post about Israel openly because I support her and because I hope that we will one day have a true and lasting peace the world over. Please forgive me if I don't engage in comments that are intended to get a rise out of me or that attack me or my family. It is not that I don't want to hear your point of view it is simply that in order for there to be dialogue a respectful tone must be had on all sides.

I do value our friendships and hope together we can set an example for what a productive social media conversation can look like, even if we don't agree now and may not agree in the future. Part of living in a free country is that beautiful promise we make to our children of a world where people who disagree can still live in peace.