Social Media & Tragedy Collide In Israel

On Sunday night, at a bus stop near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, a group of Israelis gathered to light candles in a memorial ceremony for the victim of an auto accident.

As they did so, a white car drove up and began shooting. Seven people were injured, among them a 21-year-old who was 30 weeks pregnant, along with her husband. The pregnant woman was taken into emergency care in critical condition and given a C-section to deliver the baby. Days later, the woman is recovering. Her unnamed baby, however, died on Wednesday.

And next to the news as it was scrolled into my Facebook life was cute videos of cats and the latest happenings in the world of Trump.

On Twitter, where I mostly follow different Israeli journalists, the effect was even more acute. A photo of the baby, newly named Amiad Yisrael, in a wrapped up casket at his funeral Wednesday night. Next tweet: the Woman’s March, a joke about politics, the visiting of an Italian far-right leader to Israel.

The scrolling is deafening. And it makes the news cheap, as every outlet so much as tangentially related to Israel threw out post after post relating the same news, which flooded my social media feed irregularly and made the disgrace of strolling past tragedy less and less pronounced. Once, I feel guilty. Twenty times, and it’s just this screen in front of me, I guess.

This effect applies to almost any news at any time. Uighurs mass interred in China. Terror attacks and anti-Semitism in Europe. Homeless camps in Minneapolis.

With all this input, do we care too much and burst over all of it, or stop caring altogether out of self-preservation? Of course an uncomfortable question, painting in black and white that we all tend to focus on our little parts of the world, making whatever order we can out of the chaos of our lives. And I don’t consider that to be a bad thing.

But the news and the scrolling makes my head spin. On Wednesday night, as the funeral was held at the Mount of Olives cemetery, I sat in my apartment in Jerusalem and worked on some stories. The apartment wasn’t any different. Earlier, I had found out about the baby’s death in a Whatsapp message in the middle of a yeshiva class. The class didn’t stop. Life just kept scrolling.

My phone just turned on…and off again.

But rain fell in Jerusalem on Wednesday night, which is no small event in this arid land. It felt, with no way to simply scroll past the occasion of wet drops, like an appropriate response to the news.