WritersWeekly reader Yocheved Golani runs her freelance writing business from Israel. Angela Hoy asked Yocheved to write a personal essay of her experiences reporting from a war zone.
Journalists take serious risks when they report from a war zone. I’ve borne rather nominal scars in my freelance journalistic efforts within Israel, and I’ve learned quite a bit from them. I’m taking time out from my daily life to jot down some thoughts, and to distract myself from the noise of military aircraft overhead.
Setting the Scene
I covered a rally in Jerusalem’s Zion Square in the autumn of 2004. The event included a dais with a wide screen presentation of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon long ago denouncing the folly of withdrawal and his determined support for what is termed “The Settlements” in Western Media. Manhigut Yehudit, a faction with the LIKUD political party, signed up new members throughout the evening as listeners cringed over the biased terminology.
Another abused term, “Occupied Territory,” is equally misleading. Arabs who stole that land or invented fictitious claims to it foisted lies regarding rightful ownership upon the world. “Occupied Territory” refers to land that Israel won in a war that happened to have already been owned by legal purchase and/or agreement plus land retaken from previous theft. Arab media spin on all this is so confusing and convincing to foreigners that Israeli residents and legislators cannot keep up with the need to remind the global media and international governments of previous UN agreements, international treaties and private ownership realities.
Thousands of Israeli citizens from cities, villages, moshav and kibbutz farming communities arrived to the Zion Square event and jeered the words of the formerly respected political figure Arik Sharon (two years before a stroke put him in a post-Disengagement vegetative state). The timing of the event was intended to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the Israeli government’s new Disengagement stance regarding the “Settlements (shtachim in Hebrew),” and to sway Israeli voters to support Manhigut Yehudit’s untainted approach to a controversial situation (see www.jewishisrael.org).
In plain English, the Hebrew word “Shtachim” means “areas,” or “properties” in the same context as a realtor’s or almanac’s designation of office space or other real estate locations. A “Yishuv” is a village and “Yishuvim” are villages. It is impossible to translate nuance from one language into another. Connotations are impossible to understand without competence in a given language. I have long gritted my teeth when I witness Western media sources mistranslating “Shtachim” or “Yishuv/Yishuvim” as “territories” with a snidely implied sense of illegal seizure. I feel worse when scheming Israeli politicians capitalize on the confusion.
The accurate context of the “Shtachim/Yishuvim” is that they are parcels of land bequeathed to the Jews by GOD in Genesis, and repeatedly stolen from us by ancient Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Abyssinians, Jebusites, and other hostile populations until and including present-day Arabs. Israel’s 20th and 21st Century governments had to wrest these plots of land from unconventional warriors who stole them from their rightful owners. Israel’s government also chose to make these parcels of land negotiable. It has proved to be a deadly, disastrous mistake. The Jewish ownership of these lands and other disputed areas are documented in legal papers that Rabbi Chaim Silberstein, formerly of Yeshiva Beit Orot in Jerusalem, presented to Bill Clinton, Arafat and Ehud Barak at Camp David.
I covered that event, too. To my knowledge, not one international media source picked up the legal documentation story other than Israel’s. I made one mere sale of my coverage. It’s a good thing for my wallet that I successfully sold other fare such as medical articles and mainstream news items in those days.
Some “Reporters” Fake the “News”
Legal and social realities are for naught in much of the Western media. Israeli Jews are often portrayed as thieving, wild-eyed, gun-toting and brain-impaired Settlers in the press. In order to convey that very idea to his editors and potential viewers, the cameraman of a global news bureau punched me hard on my spine at that Manhigut Yehudit rally a few years ago. He immediately snapped a picture of me with my mouth wide open in a painful scream, my head covering falling off. For an Orthodox Jewish woman such as myself, it was an extremely embarrassing moment to be caught on film with my hair exposed. It was also a cunning, underhanded move on the reporter’s part to portray an innocent me as a vicious, loudmouth settler as he shouted in competitive glee to an associate by cell phone.
I Wanted to Rip More Than His ID
I grabbed the news bureau ID clipped to his shirt and caught my breath. I growled that if that shot ever appeared anywhere in the media, I would see him in every international claims court so I could show the judges my own credentials as a reporter. “You framed me! You created a photo op that is completely faked,” I announced. I showed him my photo ID that enabled me to enter press pools and roped off areas for reporters. The mugger’s jaw went slack and I attracted the attention of some male companions to provide me with protective cover.
Lesson Learned: some reporters “fake the news.” Global media wanted Jews in the news to look criminal.
Do You Know Hebrew? Neither Do Many Reporters
There have been times when I helped an English-, Spanish- or other foreign language-speaker to find the correct directions, taxi or bus to his or her destination in Israel. Further conversation proved that some of these people were reporters who lacked appreciable skills at speaking Hebrew. I have found such ilk in Israeli restaurants, struggling to order meals while berating the wait staff in crude English, and in press conferences where they ask other reporters “What did he/she say? What does that document/sign spell?” I have not yet succeeded in establishing working relationships with any of them. They’re not interested in understanding Hebrew.
Lesson Learned: A reporter and a news bureau’s lack of Hebrew skills provides context for a multifaceted, hard to pin down reality: many non-Israeli reporters are clueless. They have no idea what is being said to or near them when someone, even a politician or ambassador, communicates in Hebrew. Worse, Israel’s government has not done an outstanding job of providing press kits and instantaneous translations for Hebrew-challenged journalists at newsworthy events. But Arabs tend to provide these services far more often, and with far less clarity than a sleuth for the truth would want. That discrepancy leads to the biased reporting so decried by Christian Zionists (see http://www.israelmybeloved.com), sympathetic foreigners and proud Jews. My participation in the loosely constructed Israel Hasbara (Public Relations) Committee has not yielded better results. IHC never became a force in the news media arena.
Research is my forte and a necessary component of my work. I often find startling facts on my way to looking up something else. I incidentally found a site called “Occupation Magazine” and nearly lost my lunch. The site contains the following link: http://www.kibush.co.il/datapage.asp?lang=1%20§ion=10 and under the “Presentations and Images” area, web surfers are supposed to click on the part entitled: Inciting Israeli Children To Kill.
Lesson Learned: It is easy to foist lies upon the public. The footage entirely lacks context and does not address the violence that Jews have experienced since the days of Abraham. There is absolutely no incontrovertible identification of the children depicted in the shot (they could be non-Israeli children posing on purpose to defame Jews, illiterate of English and manipulated no matter what their nationality). The oddly juxtaposed photographer in the background is another nauseating example of Faked Photo-Ops. It is an issue of credibility and the lack thereof that anti-Israel reporters often happen to be aiming their cameras, sound recorders and notebooks at just the right moment in order to “demonstrate” how sick Jewish minds can be. Intelligent, impartial minds should wonder “Why have Hebrew-speaking Israeli children scribbled English-language hate messages to Arabic-speaking enemies?” The answer: They didn’t. It was a set-up for creating and provoking prejudiced viewers.
I live in Israel, dealing with its realities on a daily basis. Never have I learned of publicity on par with anti-Israel propaganda regarding Arab-on-Arab savagery when someone who befriended or worked happily with Jews ends up murdered in the public square (see http://www.pmw.org.il). Nor do I recall an international outcry and investigation into the lynching of two Israeli soldiers who accidentally made a wrong turn into Ramallah a few years ago. The gruesome scene landed on magazine covers and in newspapers but its life lesson was totally overlooked. Arabs celebrate death, worship it, and revel in gore. That’s why they recently ignored all Geneva Conventions once again and kidnapped Israeli soldiers after unsuccessfully trying to kidnap teenage girls on their way to school. See http://www.israelnn.com/news.php3?id=106857 and http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=105464 for background information that does not seem destined for the light of international media days.
Lesson Learned: My countrymen and I must shop for food between informative and worried E-mails, gruesome news updates, warning sirens, bullets, rockets and missiles, air concussions that temporarily knocked out electricity across the country the third week of July 2006 and forced smiles for our nervous neighbors. We never know if the bus we’re riding will make it safely to and from our destinations. Fewer people can afford gas for private vehicles. Businesses and banks are suffering. Customers can’t access them all that easily (see: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1153291980611&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FshowFull). People are overwhelming local emergency rooms with panic attacks. Children are suffering most of all, as they lack the intellectual skills of those adults able to cope with the stress of war.
The facts are available for foreign media but relevant reports are just not happening at news bureaus outside Israel and other Jewish environs. See http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3280144,00.html about indiscriminate bombings, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVEDm8K0ZvE to hear Israeli soldiers pray to GOD for safety, or http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3278738,00.html for coverage about desperate efforts to spread the truth concerning Israel’s predicament and http://msmedia.a7.org/arutz7/eng-video/music/hazak-300.wmv for a music video about global sympathy for Israel’s beleaguered Jews. As to lies foisted about Jews, see http://www.zoa.org/pubs/ArafatsLegacyOfLies.PDF or http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:tF3vkRz21PwJ:www.zoa.org/pubs/ArafatsLegacyOfLies.PDF+Israel+dropped+poisoned+candy+Palestinian+Children&hl=en.
Maintaining a Freelance Writing Business in a War Zone
Sales of my fact-based articles never reached the level to which I’ve aspired since 1992, not even since I relocated from the USA to Israel in 2002. Despite my vast network of contacts in the journalism world, my record for honest reporting, prodigious fact-checking and a skill for conveying events in a truthful manner that does not minimize or hide negative realities, I never became a sought-after reporter of significance. My novels Legacy, and Legacy 2006: Integrity, have accurately predicted future headlines since the 1997 first draft of my first novel, and the 2004 publication of my second. I have my facts down cold, and I can adequately assess the impact of those realities. Sales of my books: minimal. Too bad I never made an impact on the reading masses or The New York Times Literary Review.
Ah, well, onto my life’s real purpose, facing challenges…
A lack of professionalism and expertise are not the reasons for my poor earnings and presence in the journalism world. It is because Israel and the Jews are struggling to remain alive in the face of growing and extremely dangerous global prejudice. We have been framed for crimes we never committed.
Israelis have been caught in gut-wrenching lock-downs at public thoroughfares as bomb squads test suspicious packages. A live and let live society that desires to remain on the land GOD gave to us, we are preyed upon by those who despise our unique religion and way of life. Not one news bureau I know of desires my style of truthful reporting. Few independent editors want it. They are exceptions to the rule, and people of remarkable integrity.
My income is earned by providing various writing services to numerous clients. I write speeches, press releases, feature stories, and so on. I even edit the written works of some clients. These days, I only dabble in occasional byline business.
The truth is that Israelis and Jews worldwide are literally being murdered over lies. As Americans, Spaniards, British and other nationalities can see from life in Iraq, Arabs of the insane variety have no regard for truth or mercy. The bodies of murdered Arabs who worked willingly with Israeli business owners and private citizens tend to turn up in public Israeli and Gaza thoroughfares, due to the actions of Arabs who despise those who cooperate with Jews.
This is a defining moment in history that will always affect the future. Pure evil has brought suffering to so many. Bush led the attack on Saddam and won. Now the Saddam sympathizers and their ilk are attacking the whole world in their hatred for Christianity, democracy and anything outside Muslim sensibilities.
Nobody can be sadder than GOD at this point. Only Ten Commandments (Don’t kidnap, Don’t murder, Don’t steal, Maintain courts of justice, etc.) and not one of them is being correctly obeyed by the masses. Just a few folks here and there who try to live with the Golden Rule. We are a minority.
GOD will save us. Those good hearted souls who pass on will surely go to Heaven. Judaism believes that EVERYONE who is good goes to heaven, not just good Jews. As for the baddies, may they all get dumped in the same too-tight receptacle and have each other for company.
Journalist or Reporter? You Decide
Journalists cover unusual events or interesting people and some of us indulge in book and other media reviews. Reporters race to be first to cover real time events such as car crashes, various crimes, politics and war. I am not competing for deadlines these days. I know better than to try.
I focus on book and music reviews (see http://www.yochevedsbookshelf.com) and feature writing about medical topics, unsung heroes, a rare news story, and op-eds. Long ago, my Jewish Press editors published a story in which I explained that I entered journalism as a response to the horrifying realities/consequences of global failure vis-a-vis the observance of shmirat halashon (laws regarding forbidden modes of speech). I decided to give the world something kosher to talk about as often as possible. GOD gave me the skill to portray news stories in a kosher manner. And the rest is my limited experience in journalism, a profession of deserved ill repute.
Journalizing my thoughts is a steadier source of income than providing documented facts that prove Israeli Jews to be sane, fair and sleazily maligned.
A local charitable foundation put on a play last month commemorating the disastrous 2005 withdrawal from Gush Katif/Gaza. I did a radio interview and prepared a feature story about the event. I sold ads for the keepsake libretto that included artwork and poems from the actresses who likened the Disengagement to the Exodus of Biblical fame.
Israelis in other parts of the country are presently rescuing Jews from Northern Israel and bringing them out of underground bunkers to our more southern homes for food, shelter and reassurance. Grocers and private donors around the country are providing victims with free food and drink.
I’ve invited a woman from Carmiel and her pet dog, to stay in my farming community home. She has been driven from hers due to constant shelling from Lebanon and Gaza. Carmiel is Israel’s formerly noteworthy community of peaceful and productive Arab-Jewish co-existence. The roar of military aircraft shakes my home all day long. We endure harsh realities.
Lesson Learned: two editors abroad and eager to share the truth about Israeli Jews recently solicited my coverage of daily life under the gun. I sold work to them after I was certain my reporting career was kaput. I realize once again that fate is not random. A slyly clever GOD rules it. His agenda is mysterious to us, but it’s being revealed over time.
Photos by Yissachar Ruas (Israel cell phone 052-865-1848):
An English and Hebrew-speaking resident of Israel living “among today’s headline makers,” Yocheved Golani writes for freelances for publications and edits for various publishers. Her fiction and non-fiction works have been anthologized in Booklocker.com, Baltimore Writers Alliance and Targum/Feldheim books. Yocheved’s books include LEGACY and LEGACY 2006: INTEGRITY