It will be an adventure, they said..
Hello again my loyal readers!
This update of my blog will be quite different from the past…why is this so you might ask?
Because I am writing this as I cross the border from Palestine to Israel.
Yes, I went to Palestine as I visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. I was advised to go by one of my contacts for my research and I decided to make the effort of going. As I am crossing the checkpoint, I get to stay on the bus because I am an American. Every person who is Palestinian must get off and physically walk across the border showing their identification and they must also answer a series of questions. To what that entails, I don’t know but it didn’t look like the friendly chat about the weather…
Back in Israel now.
Palestine was a place unlike any I have seen before. Crossing a checkpoint from Israel and seeing “the Wall” or the massive and extremely long concrete structure that divides Palestine from Israel just like the Berlin Wall. Only bigger. See the attached photos, please.
To me, “the Wall” in Israel was always the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I had no idea whatsoever of this wall dividing Israel from Palestine. It’s hard to fathom such a structure and it is a difficult thing to understand.(However, The wall has lowered suicide bombings and murder rates in this area, a positive outcome) The conflict here is more calm than the prior summer but people are still reeling from that time. Twice a year, the Israeli government has “practice missile alarms” where the alarms go off but no one stirs. To the traveler who is alone and sleeping at the time they go off, you can imagine the frantic dash around my apartment to find my necessities to travel (passport, phone/charger, iPad and proper clothing) and then my puzzlement when I walk outside and people are sitting on the grass outside my place as if nothing is wrong….there apparently was some kind of warning on the news to which I missed. Clearly.
Speaking Hebrew here feels like a necessity to me. Maybe that is because I am alone or maybe it’s because of the situations that I’ve encountered but I find myself tripping through interactions with locals (most locals, not all) because I am lacking the linguistical knowledge suitable to Israel. However, Today, as I bargained with a local in the Arabic Shuk inside Old City Jerusalem. I guess linguistic barriers weren’t an issue for the shopkeeper as my disinterest in buying after talking earned me a “f-bomb” as I walked away…great business motto for him 🙂
Looking on to my research, Israel has been much more rich in social media than that of Thailand. It almost felt weird to go back into the research mindset again after some time off. My first contact came from a business man in Jerusalem who works to unite the youth from Israel and Palestine through alternative means and communication. He noted that as the war of summer 2014 raged on in the region, everyone in Israel and Palestine saw their Facebook feeds littered with propaganda, political expressions and hate-filled sentiments. My contact actually deleted his personal Facebook because he was so sick of what he read. He continued to say that as the conflict raged on, the youth he works with actually wanted to do without social media outlets and turn “old school”: the face to face communication. These young adults, no older than myself sought to come together to understand what was really happening within their region, away from biased media outlets this twisted every piece published to nearly the exact opposite of its original intention. It seems clear that what these young people aspired to do is exactly what needs to happen in this region. The students came together and learned about one another to establish a newfound understanding and respect, unseen in the median depiction of the conflict.
This turn away from social media is arguably the voice of its’ impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Social media here is in fact a place of miscommunication. People do not use social media for news updates because it is all wrong (at least during the war) or they are sick of seeing political views expressed all over the Internet.
One of my favorite contacts, from just an overall standpoint: research, willingness to help, flexibility and personality came in a journalist based in Jerusalem. I will give her the name Jennifer despite that not being her given name. Before I met Jennifer, I had read a few of her pieces and learned a bit about her as a journalist. Upon meeting her in person, she was a kind, friendly person that was a wealth of information both in life and in the topic of social media. In regards to social media, Jennifer noted that outlets such as Facebook are very popular in Jerusalem, where she finds that immigrants communities are able to connect with others similar to them. One example of this can be seen in the English speaking community that come to Israel as expats. While Facebook is used by expats, locals also use it as a form of publishing thoughts, finding identity and connecting with people all across the globe. This latter method is one that I have a seen transcend many locations that I have visited from Singapore to Thailand and Israel. As Jennifer continued, she made a point to say that social media methods can be a way to meet new people whom you would never speak to before. Jennifer’s best friend is a woman from a completely different walk of life whom she would have never met if it weren’t for social media. Jennifer also noted that since social media can be used in this way, it’s a way to feel a sense of comfort away from our comforts. Unlike that of my prior contacts, Jennifer felt that social media does make out world more social, but only if we actually make the effort to interact in the flesh with our newfound connections.
My next contact comes from one of the bigger universities in Israel, located in the north Israeli city of Herzilya. The professor, known for his personal work in communications where he has written many books on the topic of the Internet. To much of my surprise, this professor from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzilya felt like a sort of mentor to me, we immediately bonded over all things social media related, agreeing on many world views. He brought up a very valid point in that the psychology of the Internet must be noted. These friends that we have on Facebook are usually not actually our friends in real life, my friends on Facebook are simply people that I meet, hardly someone I would make plans to have a drink with. This idea of a false sense of connection is really interesting and does transcend the boundaries of my research. As the professor and I examined social media deeper, he noted the sense of identity that I have mentioned in my talk of East Asian social media. What we often think of as a simple post is actually an extension of our innermost thoughts. We might not think of this that way but it is. For example, if I post a video of Madonna, who is known for her sexually driven songs, I could be promoting some sort of innuendo. My thoughts: I’m not promoting that at all, I just like the song “4 Minutes” but this is something that could be misunderstood by my post.
My thoughts suddenly went wild. I continued to feel that the new “psychological profile” is not in person, but over the Internet. You can easily tell someone’s interests bed upon their Internet footprint. What they post on Facebook, who they are friends with, who they follow on Twitter and what kind of photos they post on Instagram…the new psychology is now becoming open to everyone. If we were to look at international relations, how a government is perceived on social media is what some may feel is the actual government. Connecting my conversation with the professor to my experiences in HK, someone could easily take HK as an unsafe place because of the riots of 2014. The depiction of HK as a place of violence and social unrest was not the case, but social media makes you think that and makes you have a planned response so a certain opinion can be made: a psychological test at its finest.
The case of social media and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still exists today as the divide between the two is ever present. Social media was clearly not the answer in 2014 and may not be the answer for this society. Can I say this as an expert? Of course not, can I say this as a local? Obviously no. What I can give is a outside perspective based on my time here in Israel.
Ok readers! That’s a wrap on another edition of my blog. Thank you again for reading and as always, I welcome any comments or questions!
Next stop: Greece!
All the best,