Blogged Down

On his way to Ra'anana last Thursday to meet the authors of some of his favorite Web sites, David Bogner of Efrat expressed the nervous anticipation of a man about to go on a blind date.

On his way to Ra'anana last Thursday to meet the authors of some of his favorite Web sites, David Bogner of Efrat expressed the nervous anticipation of a man about to go on a blind date. "You become invested in the character they are presenting to you," he said of the information he already knew about those he was about to meet. "No one presents an unchanged version of themselves. Is this person the way they appear online?"

Bogner, the writer of Treppenwitz.com, was one of some 25 participants in the first "Anglo-Israeli Blogger Bash," a gathering of the writers of 21 English-language "blogs" (short for "Web log") produced in Israel. A blog is an online diary in which a writer posts his or her daily reflections, political opinions or comments on world events, often anonymously. Thus, the attendees at last week's Blogger Bash, were in the unusual position of knowing intimate details about the lives and thoughts of people they were meeting for the first time.

Most of the participants came to meet the authors of popular blogs which inspired the founding of others: Gil Shterzer, 25, a native Israeli whose blog, shterzer.com, is temporarily inactive but who is considered one of the founders of English-language Israeli blogs; American-born journalist Allison Kaplan Sommer, whose work at "An Unsealed Room" (allisonkaplansommer.blogmosis.com) attracts an average of 500 visitors each day; and "Imshin," who moved to Israel from England at age nine and now blogs anonymously at imshin.blogspot.com

Shterzer said that the fact that there are now enough Anglo-Israeli blogs to have a blogger meeting "is amazing. It feels good to know I inspired others to do something positive. We're not competing. It's a community."

Blogging has proven to be a low-budget way for Israelis to "humanize" their image abroad. All those interviewed said that their readers are mostly located on other continents, in the U.S., Europe, Asia and South America; several reported having readers who work for foreign governments or militaries. Indeed, counteracting negative media attention on Israel was the primary reason most of these bloggers started their online journals.

"I try to convey the sense of what our lives are like here, the blend of what is unique and special on one hand and normal and universal on the other hand," Sommer explained. "I think it's important to show that there are normal people here, that we wake up in the morning and take our kids to school, that we are not different from others."

The participants in the blogger gathering were as diverse as the contents of their blogs. Evenly split between men and women, the group included religious and secular Jews (as well as the non-Jewish author of ExpatEgghead.blogspot. com who is married to an Israeli); residents of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ra'anana and the West Bank; single 20-somethings and married 50-somethings; left-wing and right-wing writers; and one Canadian tourist (www.celestialblue. blogspot. com) who rearranged her itinerary in order to attend.

The general consensus was that, while few bloggers physically matched the vision that others had formed of them - Imshin, for example, was deemed to look younger than her years, while David of IsraellyCool.com was deemed to be "less Australian" than expected - their written work tends to accurately reflect their personalities.

"I'd thought that people would be more introverted than their blogs suggest, since they post anonymously," the author of IsraellyCool told Anglo File. "I found that people were generally like their blogs. Normally in a room of strangers I wouldn't have such a good time, but I felt like I knew everyone."