Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Israelis share their fears and feelings online

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , TEL AVIV

Writing from bomb shelters, offices and cafes, Israelis are giving voice to their thoughts and fears about the latest Middle East fighting through Internet blogs and forums. Most often they reach out to one another, and sometimes to the Lebanese themselves.

An 18-year-old living in the north of Israel recounts the sounds of rocket fire and having nightmares of her home being struck. A 13-year-old girl grieves for a friend in the army who was killed in action in Lebanon, cursing Hezbollah in sentences punctuated by many exclamation marks.

Another blogger features a photo of Israeli soldiers leaning on their tanks under a full moon and challenges the assumption that most Israelis support their government's decision to strike Lebanon.

After waking from her nightmare and leaving her bed in the family's reinforced "safe room" to sleep in the living room, Miss Diss -- as the 18-year-old identifies herself -- tries to console herself in a recent posting.

"The day will come when I will get used to sleeping there," she writes. "I have to get used to it."

Mourning

Until recently, Noamik, the 13-year-old, was writing about shopping and her bat mitzvah.

But in a newer posting, she mourned. "Benji was killed today," she wrote, blasting Hezbollah. "I am not ashamed to say that I HATE them."

In a country where most people have both Internet access and sharp opinions, communicating online with a mix of humor and fatalism has become an important tool of expression.

"It fits very well here," said Tomer Baram, 30, who has run several forums and Web sites in Israel. "We are not an introverted nation. We let everything out."

The experience mirrors the blogging phenomenon in Iraq, where civilians, soldiers and pundits post their own observations. One difference is that in Israel the technology is sometimes being used to communicate with the other side.

A comment from Shachar, an Israeli soldier, appeared on a Lebanese blog soon after the fighting began saying: "Hey, I'm an IDF soldier stationed on the Lebanese border. We can't see all the bombing on Lebanon here from Israel [naturally we're focusing on the bombs falling in Israel], so you're pretty much updating me on what's going on."

"I don't want to start arguing about who's right and who's wrong, the final word is that it's not right that civilians get hurt in the process on both sides. I'm sending you my best wishes from here, and hope that you and your family will be strong and be all right until this horrible situation will be over," Shachar wrote.

Lebanese blogs

Ami Ben-Bassat, 50, a journalist who writes about popular technology, was one of the first Israelis to make contact with Lebanese bloggers and post links to their sites on his own blog, "On the Edge."

"We are beginning to understand that we have a mechanism that allows us to speakface to face without the establishment's screening us from either side," he said. "This is the first time the blogs have started speaking out so intensely."

Ben-Bassat cautioned against what he described as the romanticism of some bloggers who think their interactions might change the world, or at least the conflict.

While such dialogue is heartening, he said, it is engaging only a minority of Lebanese whose more moderate opinions do not necessarily reflect the wider views of their compatriots.

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