In the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Everything Can Change in a Moment 


I may be a journalist, but I am not a fortune teller. This is why I am glad I did not appear on the BBC Friday evening: I did not expect Israel to launch a military offensive in Gaza, which it did this morning.

Early Friday afternoon, the BBC’s World Have Your Say TV program asked if I would like to speak on their show as the “Israeli journalist.” They were interviewing several journalists to fill this one slot, including me. For 10 minutes, a producer talked with me over the phone to get a sense of what I would say on the program. 

The BBC journalist, sitting at a desk in London, asked me, “Do you think the violence will escalate?” 

On Friday, the funeral of Mohammed Abu Khdeir — the Palestinian teen kidnapped, burned, and murdered as a possible “revenge killing” for the kidnap and murder of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Fraenkel by Hamas — was taking place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood where he lived. At that time, Jewish extremists were suspected of murdering Mohammad, and riots erupted near the funeral and in other areas around Israel in reaction to these allegations. 

Meanwhile, five rockets and two mortar shells had hit Southern Israel from Gaza Friday morning. Since the IDF started Operation Brother’s Keeper to find the Israeli teens kidnapped on June 12 and to weaken Hamas, dozens of rockets from the Gaza strip had hit Israel. But many questioned whether Israel’s incursions, arrests of hundreds of Hamas operatives, and restrictions of movement in the West Bank and Gaza constituted “collective punishment” against the Palestinians, or were necessary to deter Hamas, whose terrorists were responsible for killing the three Israeli teens. 

Courtesy of Abed Rahim Katib/Flash90

Yet, amidst all of this, there was talk about an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire possibly taking place. 

This is the information I knew when the BBC called me early Friday afternoon.

So I told the British journalist, “Assuming that no other large, harmful incident takes place, I don’t think Israel will launch an operation in Gaza. It doesn’t have the international backing, and I don’t think it would be strategically wise.” 

In the end, I did not appear on the show — and my predictions were wrong. 

Early this morning, Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza, titled “Operation Protective Edge.” During the four days between the phone call and the present moment, scores of rockets have hit Southern Israel, including 100 in the last day alone. On Sunday, our worst nightmare was confirmed that Jewish extremists did kill Mohammad Abu Khdeir, burning him alive. Riots have ignited across the country. Now, it’s looking more like the beginning of a third intifada than a deescalation. 

Strangely, a memory from Operation Pillar of Defense, the last time Israel started a military offensive in Gaza, gives me hope. On November 21, 2012, a bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv, wounding 15 people. This was the first bus bombing in Tel Aviv in more than six years. 



The bombing occurred only a mile away from the Jerusalem Post’s office, where I was working. I immediately got calls from my partner to check if I was okay, and I wrote on Facebook that I was fine. Everyone called anyone they knew that could be close to the bombing, which was a lot of people. It reminded my Israeli colleagues of the horrific years during the second intifada. 

I was really scared. Not only was the bus bombing close by, but it could also intensify the operation. 

Instead, hours later, Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire agreement, ending the eight-day operation. Both a bus bombing and a ceasefire occurred within the same day: That’s Israel for you.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can often feel intractable. It increasingly is. 

But everything can change here in a moment, for the better or the worse. I just hope that this operation ends as quickly as possible and we can get back to the real work that needs to be done: making peace. Israeli President Shimon Peres almost made peace with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2011: I’m just waiting for that moment to come back. 

‘Morty Robiniwitz at Congregation Beth Jewface isn’t throwing bottles at me.’

That was one of stand-up comedian Benji Lovitt’s better quotes from an interview I did with him recently for D”ash Magazine by the Jerusalem Post.

This is what the original article looked like:

Benji Lovitt PDF-page-001

But I don’t expect you to read the image above. Thankfully,  the full text is below. As always, let me know what you think.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Benji Lovitt

‘The capital of your mom,’ and other Jewy things.

By Laura Rosbrow

Benji Lovitt is an American immigrant and the principal English-language stand-up comedian and writer in Israel. He has written for many Israeli media outlets, such as The Jerusalem Post, and has his own blog on The Times of Israel. This year his annual “Yom Hatzmaut List,” where he lists X number of reasons he loves Israel according to how old Israel is (this year, it was 64, and aptly titled, “Sixty-four things I love about Israel”) received 9,000 likes on Facebook. Things seem to be only getting better for this breath of fresh Texan air.

Like any good comedian, he performs for the people he most understands: other Jewish English speakers. Lovitt’s typical audience in Israel is Birthrighters, young people on long term programs in Israel, and of course, other English-speaking immigrants that made the plunge to make aliyah, or become Israeli. When I asked Lovitt what the rudest reaction he ever received from an audience member was, his response portrayed what his typical audience looks like. “I’m not really performing in comedy clubs in front of drunk rednecks. Morty Robiniwitz at Congregation Beth Jewface isn’t throwing bottles at me.”

Although Lovitt first performed stand-up in 1997 in New York City, he did not make comedy a full time gig until he moved to Israel in 2006. When I asked what motivated him to do stand up more seriously here, he answered, “You’re a big fish in a small pond here. Maybe it’s intimidating to do it in NYC. It’s rewarding here, and you can’t exactly do jokes about pushing your way onto an Egged bus [outside of Israel], and people really appreciated it here. There was a community that really connected.”

Lovitt always had a strong connection to Israel. He grew up attending Jewish summer camps, spent a gap-year in Israel on Young Judea, and worked in Jewish organizations before he made aliyah. When asked what prompted his decision to move to Israel, he said the same thing many idealistic Zionist immigrants tend to say. “I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life asking ‘what if?’ I wanted to give it a shot.” This brave, soul-searching attitude also helped give him the courage to plunge more seriously into comedy. As he put it, “I never thought in a million years I’d be a self-employed freelancer. One interesting thing about making aliyah is once you immigrate, everything else you could ever do is less scary; you’ve already immigrated to another country. No one comes to not do a meaningful job. Once you’ve broken down that barrier, the other things are much less imposing.

“I have a joke about how I can never shock my parents again: ‘Mom and Dad, I’m making aliyah.’ ‘What?!’ ‘Mom and Dad, I’m doing stand-up.’ ‘Oh. At least you’re happy.’”

One impressive aspect of Benji’s writings and performances is that he manages to make “Jewish” humor funny and not corny. His jokes are offensive enough that his audience is amused without being so offensive that they are put off by him. This is a challenging task in approaching material about Israel, which tends to make Jews (as well as everybody else) feel polarized.

A great example of this PG-13 brand of Israeli humor was a Facebook status Lovitt wrote during Operation Pillar of Defense in November. As rockets were pounding the South of Israel, many Israelis in central and northern Israel offered their homes to Israelis living in the South. Lovitt, a 37-year-old Tel Avivian, took this kind offer a step further: “Anyone in Southern Israel need refuge this weekend? Let me know if you need a place to crash. Especially if you are female, single, and between the ages of 29 and 37.

I am here for you.”

In fact, Lovitt hesitantly exclaimed, “Operation Pillar of Defense was my best week ever on Facebook.” For Lovitt, frustration breeds humor. “I wrote a lot of statuses, but one in particular was quoted by The LA Times, how when the siren goes off and you’re on the crapper, you just gotta laugh. I was saying something that a lot of people were thinking, being caught in a “sh**ty” position (no pun intended), and people laughed.

“I feel weird saying that Operation Pillar of Defense was my best week ever on Facebook. Some people said ‘I wouldn’t have made it through this week without Benji.’ That’s how I know I’m doing a good thing. Is the best word for how I felt ‘perverse’? I had a duty to rise up and make my fellow Jews laugh and bear this week.”

However, when I praised this “not-too-offensive” aspect of Lovitt’s work, he wasn’t as comfortable with the compliment. “I don’t really talk about politics. I probably should. I want to write more about social commentary. If I’m not offending enough people, I’m probably doing something wrong.”

One of Lovitt’s current goals is to move away from typical new immigrant humor towards more social commentary. As Lovitt explained, “there are only so many times you can make fun of bad English on menus.” The best proof of this new approach is a blog post titled, “BBC, I’m the Capital of Your Mom,” where he criticizes the BBC for not listing any capital city in Israel (every other country had a capital) days before the Summer Olympics took place in 2012.

What’s next for Lovitt? In April, he will be performing for various Jewish groups in the American Northeast. Perhaps some of you D”ash readers will see him there.

Contact Benji Lovitt at if you want to book a show, book a youth leadership workshop, or rent his room in Jerusalem.

So far this year, being a woman is more deadly than terror in Israel


(This post was recently re-published onto the Jerusalem Post’s blog site.) I can’t count the number of terror related articles I have read in the last year about Israel. On the other hand, I’ve probably only read a few dozen articles over the same period of time about Israeli women facing domestic violence.

With this kind of media focus on conflict many Israeli women, myself included, are more afraid of terror than their intimate partners. However, the data reveals another story.

The Women’s International Zionist Organization just announced that the number of women that have been killed by partner violence in Israel so far this year is 19this is more than nine times the number of Israeli women that have been killed in terrorist related incidents in 2012, including Operation Pillar of Defense. Only two women have been killed in terror attacks so far this year. Furthermore, the number of people in general that have been killed in terror incidents in Israel in 2012 is 14: this is five people less than the total number of women that have been killed by their partners.

As a journalist and a woman, this gives me a lot to think about. Any thoughts from readers?