Interrupting a Sacred Israeli Ritual

An old friend from high school recently posted an article on Facebook in Hebrew which claims that the murders in the Jewish settlement of Itamar prove that "the Arabs" are far more savage than the Israelis and that any comparison between the violence on the two sides is a false equivalence. I commented on this post that the article was an irresponsible piece of hate-mongering. Below is some of the invective that was flung my way for daring to suggest that it is wrong to tar all Palestinians with the actions of the Itamar murderer:

"One would think you would have some humility and keep your disgusting hate-filled fanaticism to yourself when all Israelis are mourning such a barbaric and animalistic act. The fact that you have chosen to rear your ugly head (rhetorically, not literally having never met you) speaks volumes about your psychological state and your need to hate and be divisive. I pity you deeply!!!"

"Boo hoo Eliyahu, you simply dont respond to my posts because you cant. If you ever want to be a serious documentarian, rather than the failed anonymous hack that you are currently, you have to engage in truth. Only someone with credibility and above all, intellectual honesty, can respond to charges. Looks like you failed on both counts. You simply cant take it when you are proven wrong. Dont worry we will spend[sic] the word that you are not interested in the truth."

"Do you not understand what is blindingly obvious to everyone? That bcause you had to leave Israel your reaction could be one of two: Either you would feel guilt fo running away or you would attack all that you left behind to assuage your guilt. You attack everything to do with Israel and Judaism, the very basis of the ientity that you are running away from. It is very transparent and you will never be taken seriously as a documentarian until you deal with those demons. Just let them out Eliyahu and then you will be better"

"Eliyahu, I feel bad for you cause your emotional issues run so deep. You must be so angry and sad inside, but I guess this must be a great outlet for you to feel better about yourself. Personally, I don't know why people like ______ and _______ give you the satisfaction. I suppose it's because they really are good people that have a lot of hope and care. I guess I don't have that much care inside of me, so I don't care for your crap. So when you're ready to deal with your real issues, which are clearly emotional, then we can have a chat. Till then, piss off!"

The first three comments came from the same person, who I unfriended many months ago, because he was constantly engaging in ad hominem attacks (I'm perfectly happy to have political discussions with people who disagree with me, but I draw the line at the ad hominem). The last excerpt is from someone who has never spoken to me like this before. Both commenters live in Israel. This is not the first and I dare say not the last time I will be subjected to such rhetoric, but it has gotten me thinking about what's going on here. Part of it is that the structure of Facebook rewards the back-and-forth that occurs in an argument. But I think there's something else going on as well. By posting what I did, I was interrupting the sacred Israeli rite of converting pain into hatred. By insisting that most Palestinians oppose such heinous crimes, I was suggesting that the pain be redirected from its normal pathway. In retrospect, I don't think that Facebook is a good place to interrupt this flow. It's too easy to descend into what you see above and it's too impersonal to really have the desired effect. It is my hope that in the darkness of a cinema, the film that I've been laboring over for the past two years will have a better chance of interrupting that flow and redirecting the pain towards something more constructive than hatred. This is the challenge. Because the people who are levying these comments at me are actually good people. They're just caught up in a cultural ritual that distorts their humanity. I believe that in my lifetime, both these rituals and the events that feed them will be a thing of the past. It will be the sort of thing that we will have trouble explaining to our grandchildren. Until that day, I will continue my work to interrupt this destructive Israeli ritual.