Friday, April 16, 2004 Nisan 26, 5764
Web diaries become hot medium for talk on Israel
Last summer, 400 people attended the
going-away party for Rich and Sara Brownstein, who were about to immigrate to
Israel from California. Rich said that "they all wanted to know what we
were going to do when we got to Israel," so after his arrival in Jerusalem
he posted photos on his website and an essay about how the first few days had
gone. Since then, he has regularly posted essays about daily life as an American
in Israel, weaving his political opinions throughout. Over time, the site, brownsteins.net
became a blog, a virtual diary of the Brownsteins' adventures.
Blogs - or, to the
uninitiated, web logs - are the hot medium through which millions around the
world "publish" their views every day. In Israel alone, 33,000 people
have create web diaries through Israblog.co.il,
an IsraBlog spokesman said. The number of active, English-language blogs with
Jewish content increased 4,000 percent in the last year, according to the
founder of protocols.blogspot.com, a site that tracks activity in what it calls
"J-Blogs," or Jewish blogs.
Blogs by Anglo-Israelis play
a unique role in helping readers abroad form opinions about Middle East
politics. "Anglo-Isra-blogs, [like] most English publications in Israel,
have some of their largest impact in English-speaking countries like the United
States," said Steven Weiss, the Protocols founder. "As in all topics,
blogs [about Israel] have the potential to be more effective than other media
because of the immediacy and interactivity that are part of the medium ... After
a major event or news revelation of any sort, you can find many [other bloggers]
looking to Anglo-Isra-blogs for their reaction."
Shai Tsur, who maintains shaister.com
said his blog draws hits from Germany, Brazil and Japan; his regular readers
include an employee at the Pentagon. "Israel gets so much bad press,"
he said. "It would be nice to think I'm providing a little counter to
Bloggers told Anglo File
that their hobby offers many benefits, including an easy way to communicate with
friends abroad and a central place to notify others, after a terrorist attack,
that they are alright. The bloggers also appreciate the ability to receive
readers' feedback through posted comments, to include hyperlinks to relevant
news articles, and to share photos without using email bandwidth.
But the main allure of
blogging is the opportunity to publicize one's views easily and cheaply. Adrian
Edmonds, the British writer behind ExpatEgghead.blogspot.com,
said "I've gotten a letter published in Haaretz, but that's a one-off thing
that doesn't repeat itself. As an individual, one doesn't often have a voice.
Blogging is a way of expressing it." His readers hail from Israel, the
United States military, the U.K., and France.
Tsur, who started blogging
while still living in the US, said "I would read the papers and have these
conversations in my head about the articles. I decided to get my thoughts out
there to share with whoever might want to read it. I'm an opinionated person and
this is the perfect outlet."
A common thread in Anglo-Isra-blogs
is the right-of-center political positions of most of the writers. Edmonds noted
that "I was fascinated by the number of [English-language Israeli] bloggers
who are right-wing. I couldn't find any that were left-of-center. I wanted to
put my viewpoint across, more of a Peace Now viewpoint."
Other than their generally
right-wing leanings, Anglo-Israeli blogs are as varied as those who write them.
For example, on treppenwitz.com,
David Bogner muses humorously about his mid-life crisis, while at Tsarphati.blogspot.com,
an American immigrant who is newly observant records his observations about the
religious community, Judaism, and the Hebrew language.
is the work of Rabbi Lazer Brody, otherwise known as "Rabbi Rambo" and
"the Lazer Beam." His blog focuses on suggestions for stress reduction
and other methods of self-improvement. But Anglosaxy.blogspot.com,
which, like ExpatEgghead is authored by an English gentile who married an
Israeli, is self-described as containing "A Brit's insight into life in the
Holy Land ... teaching, writing, drinking and anything else in the present
At least two Anglo-Isra-blogs
are connected to formal print publications: Brianblum.blogspot.com
contains essays on Israeli family life that form the basis for the writer's
widely published column, "This Normal Life," and Judy Lash Balint
posts supplemental updates to her book The Jerusalem Diaries at jerusalemdiaries.blogspot.com.
Jennifer Tocker, a Minnesota native and writer of just-jennifer.com, points out that there are "Israeli bloggers," who "are active about posting what's going on in Israel from every aspect," while others, like her, are "Israelis who blog," posting their diaries of personal, everyday life. But "in Israel there's no way you can post about life here without posting the background." Her blog draws many North American readers, she said, who "are curious about the average person in Israel."