Navigate to News section

Israelis Are Using Humor to Cope With Recent Surge in Violence

Defensive weaponry includes T-shirts and rolling pins, selfie sticks and ‘Street Fighter’-like lightning cannon balls

Yitzhak Bronstein
October 15, 2015

Facing a wave of terrorism, some Israelis are using humor, and social media, to cope with the ongoing violence that is proving increasingly difficult to prevent. In response to these attacks, such as the rabbi who was run over in Jerusalem by a car then hacked to death by a Palestinian man with a cleaver, Israeli citizens are taking crash courses in krav maga, stocking up on pepper spray (there’s reportedly a national shortage at present), and applying for gun licenses. Others are taking a less direct defense route by posting satirical pictures and videos onto Facebook and WhatsApp that mock the absurdity of the situation.

From the nation that introduced “bomb shelter selfies” to the world last summer, using humor as a coping mechanism is not unprecedented. Much of the current humor marks the impossibility of protecting oneself against, say, stabbing attacks, while simultaneously poking fun at those who are obsessively consuming and sharing content related to self-defense. Here are a few examples:

And body armor, it seems, is in vogue:

Or better yet, how about a “personal iron dome” system:

And take a look a this video posted by the popular satirical site Hatzinor, which, like many other self-defense clips making the rounds, begins with a virtual instructor emphasizing the importance of a knowing defensive tactics against knife attacks. And then, instead of using a krav maga move as a defensive mechanism, the recommended secret weapon is, well, a little different:

One Facebook page buzzing with activity from Israelis and their sympathizers is that of comedian Benji Lovitt, an Israeli via Texas whose humorous updates are garnering hundreds of likes and shares. Lovitt explained that the goal of his humor is straightforward, intended “to bring some smiles to peoples’ faces and maybe to express what all of us are thinking.” As an Israeli civilian without a military background, Lovitt said he feels that the best way he can serve his country during this tim is to “raise the morale of those whose spirits are down.”

But the humor certainly isn’t limited to the community of Anglo-Israelis. The country’s leading satirical TV show, Eretz Nehderet, poked fun at how the recent terrors attacks have been stopped using bizarre objects, including umbrellas, nunchucks, and even selfie sticks.

Civilians will apparently carry anything they can find to add a measure of safety to their daily routines:

Others have responded in jest. The Hebrew below translates to: “Surreal what people are bringing with them when they go outside…”

An extremely tense issue exacerbated by the recent terror attacks involves the growing suspicion with which Jewish Israelis now perceive Arabs they pass on the street. Responding to a tragic revenge stabbing carried out by a Jewish Israeli in a Haifa suburb who mistook a Sephardic Jew for an Arab, this man’s tee-shirt lets bystanders know that he doesn’t pose a threat. “Please relax, I am a Yemenite,” the shirt reads.

Or the following image, the text of which reads, “Calm down, I’m a Mizrachi.”

When asked whether these types of jokes are making light of a terribly grave situation, Lovitt replied that indeed, he does have mixed feelings. But he was reassured that when he posted this very question on a public Facebook status, the overwhelming response was positive. One fan summed up the public sentiment by responding, “Please, please make jokes. We’ll go insane without them.” Added another: “We need them more than ever.”

Yitzhak Bronstein is a master’s student at the University of Chicago Divinity School and a regional Jewish educator for Moishe House.