Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Dialog in 140 Characters

I love Twitter (www.twitter.com), a social media application that lets you connect, engage, converse, touch, share…all in 140 characters or less. I love blogging, a means of sharing daily happenings that seem so less intrusive and so much more far-reaching than emails.

Today on Twitter, I received a wonderful, sweet message from a lovely young lady in Beijing, China, another from a man in India. I connected with someone from Canada who offered to send me snow in exchange for some of Israel's warmth, even an offer to switch homes for a few months of the year (down comforters included).

This is the beauty of Twitter, the strength. On any given day, I can communicate with thousands of people I will almost assuredly never meet. I will learn from them about their lives, their countries, their families…and they will learn about mine. I have made a special connection with an amazing family, an amazing woman who lost her son, Micheal, in Iraq. Micheal was an American soldier, serving his country, doing what he believed was right, to make the world a better place, a safer one. I never had the chance to meet him and yet I know he was warm and friendly and funny and now he’s gone and his mother lives with that every day. She is one of many I have met through various Internet connections that bring the world to a new and amazing level of interaction.

During the Gaza War, when my son was there, I received many messages. Most were supportive; some were nasty to the point of obscenity. Some blessed my country and told me it was at the forefront of a global war against terrorism, hatred, extremism and death-worship. Others wrote of proportionality, accusations which proved, in almost every case, to be false. No, they were not innocents, but combatants. No, it was their own rocket that landed and killed the children, not ours. No, you cannot ignore 10,000 rockets and you are a fool to believe we would.
As the war raged I fought my own battle to let people know why Elie was where he was, what he was doing. No, I wrote to one commenter, Elie was not killing innocent people. He was targeting specific locations from which rockets were being launched and where terrorists were known to be stockpiling weapons. And, as was often the case, if that location was a mosque or a school or a home, it was not an innocent place but an arsenal, a legitimate, legal, moral target.

The war ended, as wars tend to do and eventually, Elie’s unit was returned to one base, than another. He went north; he went south; then north again. He spoke of the leaflets that blew all the way across the border to where his unit was camped. He even kept one as a souvenir. He gave it to me and though it is in Arabic, I know that it warns the civilians in the area to leave because the Israeli army detected rocket fire from near their homes and would be coming soon to deal with this threat to our country.
Today, for no reason, as Elie is in the north on exercises, about as far from Gaza as it is physically possible to be in our small country, without warning, I got a message from someone. “How does it feel to be the mother of a killer and the unofficial apologist for a terrorist regime?” Well, I thought to myself, now there’s an interesting way to meet people and open a dialog.

We had a conversation of sorts. He sent me a few website addresses filled with nonsense. To him, it was all about numbers, not people. If more Palestinians have died in this conflict than Israelis, Israel must be at fault. The logic, if lacking, is used often by those who do not want to dig deeper to really understand this conflict.

Israel is not a terrorist regime, I wanted to tell this person. We are not the ones who fired rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas without warning (and not even with warning). Our children are not raised to go into pizzerias and blow themselves up; to board buses and place themselves in strategic locations to maximize death and destruction.

And, of course, my son is not a killer. Comfortable in the absurdity of that claim, he would probably give me one of his usual grins and shrug it off while I wanted to fight back. No, you stupid person, MY son…all my sons…did not go to Gaza to kill, but to prevent the killing of our people.
How do you answer one so filled with ignorance and hatred? One friend suggested I answer his question of “How does it feel to be the mother of a killer” with "no clue - do you know how it is?"

I answered his website links with several well respected websites showing that his casualty figures were wrong. These are established studies – real studies, not wild claims. The organizations went name by name, so-called “child” by “child.” I thought to explain. More Palestinians died because while we build bomb shelters to protect our people from missile fire, Palestinians spend their resources on weapons and secure bunkers for their leaders. And a quick examination of the number of children this person quotes to me will find that many of those so-called Palestinian children were actually combatants, armed, firing guns, throwing firebombs.
When does a child stop being a child? I wanted to ask, but didn’t bother. The mother in me could easily answer “Never.” My children will always be my babies, though one is married, one sits on Israel’s borders and another has already been given his dog tags and military identification.

“If you want me, or the world to have any respect for you, have the guts to stand up to your own people when they are wrong,” he continues. He is correct…and when my nation is wrong, I will stand up. Luckily, for my sake and my son’s sake, my nation was entirely correct in its response to thousands of missile attacks from Gaza. My first thought was to tell him that since I have little respect for someone who can’t even check his facts, why would I care whether he had any respect for me?

But I quickly came to the conclusion that a dialog isn’t really a dialog if both sides aren’t willing to listen, “How about we just agree to disagree.” I answered him back. “You sure as heck aren't going to convince me of anything, so pls, just leave me alone.”

The truth is that while I enjoy challenging conversations with people who disagree with me, I can't stand ignorant fools who are filled with preconceived notions and hatred and are too stupid to even know it!
You can’t explain the history of the Middle East in 140 characters, not even the history and reality of the Gaza War.

The only thing you can say in 140 characters is: “When U R ready 2 talk, contact me. I'll B here, in my land, w/ my sons & daughters. I'll listen if U will; I'll make peace when you R ready.”

3 comments:

Melissa said...

I just found your blog.

You are a beautiful writer.

I must be back to visit again soon.

Melissa

Yoek Ben-Avraham said...

As an Israeli father with two "graduates" of the Israeli paratroopers and two more candidates either in the process of being drafted or awaiting that exoerience ... you speak to the converted. I also deal in hasbara and I absolutely LOVE your Dialog in 140 Characters. I'm actually considering printing it out and framing it. It sums up ... in 140 characters what those of us who have invested decades of effort in hasbara feel. Thank you for being so eloquent.

RangersGirl said...

I'm not a huge fan of twitter, I just can't get into it...I really have enjoyed blogging over the years and learning about other people and their lives around the world. Its amazing how similar we all are no matter where we are.

It just blows me away that people zero in on military parents and spouses and make such nasty comments. I give you credit that you can carry on any type of polite conversation with them when they spew venom.

I enjoy reading your blogs because they are well written.

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