When you live in the States, unless you work for an American Jewish communal organization, an American Jewish newspaper (like I did at one point), or a synagogue, you are less than aware of the back-and-forth between terrorists in Israel and the IDF.
Unless there is a bus bombing.
Then, the major news agencies like CNN and MSNBC start paying a little bit of attention, and if Israel is lucky, the attack gets a minor International news headline somewhere mid-way down the list. Thanks to social media, a few more Americans might know when children are killed in Israel or bags explode near bus stations; but only because one of your Facebook friends works for an Israel-related non-profit or because your brother is there on business and checks in to let you know he’s okay. Or because your loud-mouthed blogging friend made Aliyah recently.
I hear a very deafening silence from my American friends today.
Of the almost 700 friends I have on Facebook, not one has asked me if I am okay following the terrorist attack yesterday in Jerusalem, in which a British tourist was killed and 39 others wounded. Not one of my friends has posted on my Wall or sent me a message.
You might think this is because I am unpopular. Not so. Despite what my Facebook friends might think about me in real life, they do enjoy interacting with me on Facebook.
For instance, a month ago, I wrote on my Facebook status update that I thought I saw a UFO flying one night over my kibbutz in the North. About 20 people commented. Even last week, when I told my Facebook friends I wouldn’t be able to attend an adult Purim party due to a fever, I received about ten heartfelt condolences.
My friends care about me, and they interact with me frequently on Facebook.
Yet, no one seems to be worried about my condition following the Jerusalem bombing.
You might think this is because I don’t live in Jerusalem, and therefore my friends confidently know I am safe. But, how can that be? I’ve traveled to Jerusalem at least four times since I made Aliyah in December. My husband has been to Jerusalem for a job interview. The bombing occurred at 3 pm in the afternoon. For all anyone knows, my husband or I easily could have been at the bus station waiting for a ride back to HaMovil Junction, the bus stop nearest to our home.
You might think my friends were sure I would never take the bus, and therefore were positive I was not at the bus station when the bomb went off. Not so, either. Just last week I got on a bus at the Haifa central bus station after trying out an Ulpan class, and subsequently rode the bus home, sharing it with a wide variety of Israeli residents, Jews and Arabs alike.
You might think my friends are not worried about me because they know I am alive and well.
But that’s not what I think.
I think most of my friends don’t even know it happened.
I don’t think my friends — who have been glued to news stations and web sites for a week now following the earthquake, tsunami, and danger of nuclear fallout, or the uprisings and activity in Libya –have much of an idea that anything scary or dangerous has happened in any near vicinity to me.
Which is good in the sense that I haven’t yet received a call from a worried mother or father asking if we are all okay, and more important, “When are you moving back to America?” But it’s also makes very clear to me what Israeli citizens have been saying for years: Save for a few diehard Israel fans and outspoken opinionated members of the community, American Jews are extremely uninformed or extremely desensitized to what’s going on in Israel. To make it plain, they are unaware or just don’t care.
Which one is it? Did you know there was a bus bombing in Jerusalem yesterday?
And if you did, why aren’t you concerned?
Where are you, my American Jewish friends? My friends who donate money to kindergartens in Beersheba? My friends who sit on Jewish organizational boards? Who send their kids to Jewish preschools? Who plan Solomon Schechter fundraisers? Who get drunk on Simchat Torah at that hip Jewish synagogue on the Upper West Side? Who lead Federation missions? Who read Lifecycle announcements in The Jewish Exponent?
Where are you today?
Please understand: I am not criticizing you. To be sure, until recently, I was you. The busy Diaspora Jew who counted on the mainstream American media to tell me the truth and to appropriately prioritize my news for me.
But I’m not anymore. Now, I’m the friend you should be checking in on when there is a bus bombing in Jerusalem.
If only you knew it happened.
Jen Maidenberg is is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/. She originally posted this column on her blog on March 24, 2011.