By Colin Becker
We live in a world where social media has become an intrinsic part of our daily lives. Waking up and checking Twitter feeds, looking at Facebook walls and seeing how many likes and comments the latest post on Instagram has, even before the daily intake of coffee is common feature.
Unfortunately the majority of topics covered by all these social media sites during the recent difficult period for Israel are feeds, comments, retweets and videos filled with various content on the subject of the ongoing conflict with Hamas and Gaza.
Sites are flowing with information being shared between family and friends; discussing updates and the latest news and articles, as well as responding to so-called celebrities who often use social media as a platform to share their own views. Sometimes these views are capable of inciting anti-Semitism all over the world, oblivious to the damage they have caused.
Far too often our comments and use of social media is in response to bias propaganda and reporting that we see in the British media portraying Israel and IDF as “the enemy” and suggesting they are the ones guilty of war crimes.
This of course was further condemned recently by the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who stated Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip (in retaliation to militant rocket attacks on its territory) amounts to a “deliberately disproportionate form of collective punishment”. The deputy prime minister’s comments are among the most critical of Israel from a Western leader since the current crisis began.
If that were not bad enough, Ed Miliband, the first Jewish leader of the Labour Party this week stated that “I am a supporter of Israel and I believe in Israel’s right to self-defence. But its military actions in the past two weeks have been wrong and unjustifiable.”
You would have to ask yourself – what planet he is he living on?
I suggest both have a discussion with Colonel Richard Kemp and ask his views on the IDF. Colonel Kemp spent most of his 30- year career in the British Army, commanding front-line troops in fighting terrorism and insurgency in hotspots including Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003 and from 2002 – 2006 he headed the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Prime Minister’s Office.
Social media sites have become a frenzy of comment in defence of our homeland and a platform to provide the much-needed moral support for the IDF. Those soldiers are putting their lives at risk so that we can have a home; a place described by the American poet Robert Frost as “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
A thought occurred to me the other week when I was sitting amongst friends discussing various content they had seen and read on their social media sites. A number of questions were raised: what would be the outcome of the conflict, what would be the cost in human lives, how many more IDF soldiers would be captured and or murdered, would the apparent and obvious rise in anti-Semitism continue throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
Two conclusions dawned upon me late that evening when I was up, unable to sleep due to the burden of how Israel and the IDF are currently being portrayed.
Firstly, I was actually more concerned about the current rise in anti-Semitism in the UK & throughout Europe than I was about Israel and the Gaza conflict, as this is a battle that we have been fighting since The Israeli Declaration was made on 14 May 1948.
As we all know, from that moment we were attacked by five surrounding Arab countries committed to driving Israel into the sea. The Arabs tried it again in 1967, and again in 1973 with the Yom Kippur war. Each time the Jews prevailed but not without great loss of life, and let’s not forget, when Israel is not fighting a major war, it is defending itself against terrorist campaigns.
Secondly and probably most importantly, I realised that there hundreds and thousands of Jews all across the world using social media sites, ranging from the Orthodox to the reform.
Regardless of their views, knowledge, outward signs of being Jewish and level of “Yidishkite”, we all share one common thing: we are Jews.
Suddenly I was witnessing friends who had previously never shown a glimpse of interest in the state of Israel or the IDF, immersing themselves in support of the Jewish state through social media.
This provoked me to then think about how powerful it would be to then request a thought for prayer….
The idea is simple. Whoever you are, whatever the depths of your belief, swap just a few minutes of your daily browsing on social media sites and instead spend that time to reflect, to pray, at whatever level you’re comfortable.
If that simply means switching off from the world for a few minutes and saying a prayer to Hashem asking him to protect the state of Israel and IDF, pick up a prayer book, say Tehillim and focus at whatever level on the prayer.
None of us know to what extent a prayer helps but what we do know is that Hashem hears all our prayers. To spend time each day letting go of our physical identity for a few moments and enriching our soul is the time when we put our ego’s to sleep.
Then we can rediscover and reignite our inner spirituality, allowing us to ask for Hashem’s protection during this most difficult and testing period.