No blogs and no forums
Settlers have a very modest presence on the Internet. Most sites are outdated and their impassioned call to join the settlement movement is accompanied by not-so-encouraging reports
"Only an accursed moron / Could possibly think / To take my city away from me / I won't withdraw; / Like a lion I'll attack / And crush...! / And without respite / crazed lion / I won't give him even a moment of repose.
Refrain: Hebron - Like my steadfast father,* I won't fear / Hebron - Willingly, as my father** was bound / Hebron - Like my father,*** I will wrestle with a deceiver / Hebron - I will hold on to Hebron all the days of my life." (* Abraham; ** Isaac; *** Jacob)
Composed, arranged and performed by Dr. Shalom Fliesser (from the Hevron.co.il Internet site).
Anyone who wants to learn something about the settlers via the Internet should actually look for what is not on the Web. There is no blog (Web log, or Internet journal) by a settler, male or female, giving a firsthand account of what is happening in the settlements. Israblog, a host site for Internet journals, has a blog by someone who describes herself as a 19-year-old settler who will speak about everything.
"I will never understand our people - so divided that whatever they do slips through their fingers," she wrote in the middle of the night of July 31, 2003. Beyond that, she has not added a single word.
How is it that such a large population has not spawned a teenage boy or girl, a man or a woman who will write a blog of his or her personal story about what is happening on a settlement? Even settler forum groups are rare. Actually, only the Ynet portal has an active community called "The Settlements." The Walla, Tapuz and Nana sites do not have similar communities.
On Hyde Park, a Web site that hosts 5,500 forums, close to a dozen are about parrots but only one is dedicated to settlers, and that one, too, was abandoned about six months ago. A perusal of the content of the Settlements community at Ynet teaches that they are more involved in relationships between the political left and right, between the religious and secular, than in what is happening on the settlements.
What's happening here? Why is no one talking, relating or conversing? And what about the Internet sites themselves? A few dozen sites tell the stories of various settlements. It is not difficult to characterize them. The overwhelming majority are built with 1990s technology. In other words, they are frightfully outdated.
The Elon Moreh site (www.shechem.org/elon-moreh), hosted by the Shechem.org Web site, is a typical example. It is one long page, a few pictures and a few links. There is no trace of advanced animation, soft colors or scrolling menus. It is stark, bordering on ascetic. Forget about idle chatter. Here every word talks of purpose. The purpose of the settlers' sites, almost all of them, is built on inner conflict. On the one hand they are issuing a loud call to come and join the settlement effort. "We are living today in one of the most important and critical periods in the history of the Jewish people," says the text at the Elon Moreh site. "And you, particularly now, can help."
On the other hand, however, they publish reports that are not really encouraging. Under the heading "Hospitality Shabbat at Elon Moreh," it states, "Wednesday, 28 Nissan (late May). Two terrorists who tried to perpetrate an attack on the agricultural neighborhood beside Elon Moreh were killed by local residents and the ready team. All our forces are safe."
The Yitzhar site (www.shechem.org/machon/sites/yitzhar/yitzhar) opens with good news too: "On the night of Saturday June 8, 2002, a terrorist infiltrated Yitzhar in order to attack our homes and our families. By a miracle and God's mercy the terrorist happened upon the soldiers' quarters, and their alertness and swift response led to the foiling of his plot and his death." Further down the page are dozens of pictures of mountains, rocky hillsides and a few green gardens.
The Gush Katif site (www.katif.net) does much better. Along with constant news updates and pointed criticism ("The terrorists are waging a war on our bodies in Katif, inciting in the media, and the world goes on its way."), a heartwarming picture awaits surfers under the heading "Flowers gladden every home in Israel. Flowering plants at the Atzmona nurseries."
Sites that try to address the issue of settlers leaving their homes note that it is a tactical move. Question: Aren't there any families leaving the settlement in the wake of the events of the past year?
Answer: A few families have left so far, almost all of them to other settlements in Yesha (The Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza)." - from Nerya's Internet site (www.nerya.org).
The attempt to convince surfers that there is settlement momentum in some of the settlements stands in direct contradiction with the way in which it is presented. The Gush Katif site has a page for each of the 12 settlements in the area, with 50-100 words describing each one - as if that were enough.
Most of the sites are not up-to-date. The home page of the Shechem Web site includes a link to an announcement to the press, expressing anger at the decision by defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer not to allow entry to Joseph's Tomb. Other sites simply do not exist, as if they have been abandoned. This is the case with many of the sites to which the Yesha Council (www.shechem.org.il) refers surfers. Other sites have changed their addresses, such as those of Ma'aleh Adumim, Efrat and Gush Etzion.
Recruiting new settlers is a two-pronged action. On the one side, at almost all the Web sites, are pictures of smiling children, symbolizing the health and happiness of the settlement. Such children, for example, welcome visitors at the gate of Negohot's site (www.geocities.com/negohot). On the other side are pictures of open rocky hills, beckoning to potential settlers. Almost all the sites forgo native Israelis from the outset. Otherwise it would be difficult to explain why so many of the sites are written solely in English.
Perhaps that is the key, forgoing in advance those who are not there. It seems that the site builders are using the Web as a bulletin board on which they hang posters joyfully inviting the public to come for Shabbat. But anyone trying to open a dialogue with the posters will quickly discover that he is speaking to a stone wall. n