Israelis Must Learn That How You Hear the Worst of All News Matters

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Maj. Chen Fogel, left, and Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani.
Maj. Chen Fogel, left, and Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani. Credit: IDF
Yael Shevach

Once again you were surprised that no respect was shown for the families: The authorities forgot to ensure that the next of kin had been notified of a loved one’s death before the media rushed to report it to the world. Again we heard the loud cries of disgust and self-righteous scolding of the out-of-control media for its chutzpah.

Sorry, I don’t buy your show of revulsion. I don’t believe you. The media isn’t solely to blame. It’s our culture, the culture of spreading rumors – that’s who we are.

And it has been this way for far too long. This isn’t the first time, or the second, so allow me to break your heart here: It won’t be the last. The Israel Defense Forces’ Spokesperson’s Unit and this or that media personality aren’t the only ones to blame for this phenomenon. It’s our fault.

When my husband, Raziel, was shot in a terrorist attack four years ago, his parents heard about it through the media. The speed with which word that he was wounded spread, without anyone checking whether his family knew, was unbelievable. And later, the news of his death also spread by word of mouth and various forms of media long before we knew.

My poor brother-in-law, my husband’s brother, who was on his way to the hospital and sent a request to a group of friends to pray for Raziel’s recovery, received a cruel “no longer relevant” message from someone who had heard that Raziel was no longer among the living. This person felt authorized to spread this information before my brother-in-law even reached the hospital and had been told of his brother’s death.

Sara Netanyahu meeting with the author, Yael Shevach, whose husband was killed in a terror attack, February 2018. Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO

I, too, almost fell victim to an irresponsible message about his passing away. If my phone hadn’t been taken from me on the drive to the hospital, this news surely would have reached me from one group or another and I would be coping with my grief differently.

People really need to understand the price of the irresponsibility of being the first to spread the word. It’s extremely harmful, it creates more victims – secondary casualties who are emotionally killed.

The way one receives this news has an irreversible impact, one that will have an effect on every stage of processing the grief, every stage of one’s emotional recovery. Family members who receive the news in such a warped way will never get over the experience.

While you’re tuned in to rumors and busy passing on messages in various groups, family members could unwittingly come across this information – while riding the train, sitting in a cafe, standing in an elevator – when they’re not surrounded by the support they need, with no one there to catch them when they fall.

This isn’t just “human error.” It’s not just an embarrassing slip-up. It’s not a misunderstanding. There’s no way to “just make a mistake” here. Such a mistake is like injecting a sick person with a powerful drug while he or she is walking down the street or standing in the supermarket checkout line. There is no sterile environment, no stable ground, no appropriate support for ensuring that the person whose life has just fallen apart can safely fall to pieces.

On Tuesday, two more families learned on a screen of a loved one’s death. This is appalling, and this blood is on all our hands. Stop blaming the IDF spokespeople, the military censor or the media. Take responsibility.

Yael Shevach is the widow of Raziel Shevach and a columnist for the Makor Rishon newspaper's Dyokan magazine.

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