Secret Jerusalem

A Secret Jerusalem Confrontation

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Getting into Facebook arguments is a useless waste of time.

Everyone is 100% sure they are correct, 100% of the time. People rudely hide behind their keyboards. And no one ever feels a shred of remorse for their gross behavior.

Nevertheless, it happened to me again. I was on Secret Jerusalem. And I engaged. I knew I shouldn’t have. And the moment I wrote what I wrote, I knew I had made a mistake. Not that the person didn’t deserve criticism. But that criticism fell on deaf ears, and any intelligent, thoughtful observer would have known that would be the case.

Here’s what happened.

The Magical City of Eilat

Secret Jerusalem

Recently I was in Eilat, my first time in that magical little city.

A known fact about Eilat is there is no VAT charges in the city. VAT is a tax unfamiliar to Americans, that can make items in Israel significantly more expensive. But in Eilat there is no VAT, and thus the same item you might buy in Jerusalem costs almost 20% less.

This was all new to me. I was first learning about the city and these laws, and I wanted to understand everything better.

But then I started noticing what appeared to me to be other differences in the city. And I started wondering if it had a different legal status regarding more than just one matter.

For example, I got a fish pedicure when I was down there. (Really weird and fun experience!)

Now, my understanding–correct or not–was these had been banned in Israel. Or perhaps just Jerusalem. But in any case, my curious nature made me want to clarify all these matters. So I asked a question about it in Secret Jerusalem, a Facebook group theoretically dedicated to assisting its members with any and all Jerusalem and Israel-related questions they may have.

My Secret Jerusalem Experience

Secret Jerusalem

My question on Secret Jerusalem had two parts: One about Eilat’s legal status and the other about the reasons behind the VAT exemption. And I learned a lot! Some of the laws I thought I understood, it turns out I did not. And now I understand that the VAT exemption is a technique created by the government to encourage tourism to a remote location.

The system worked! I wanted answers, and well-meaning people on Secret Jerusalem provided them. Could I potentially have received my answers through Google? Perhaps. But I wasn’t even fully clear on what I was asking, and thought a personal touch would help clarify things better.

And all was well.

Until it wasn’t.

Some guy decided to provide a stupid joke answer. Now, in general, I am opposed to this. I think it’s only appropriate in select situations, such as when the original poster is a good friend. You already have rapport with one another. Joking around is acceptable and expected. However, joking around with strangers is both weird and usually unwelcome.

Flawed Way to Answer People

Secret Jerusalem

I’m a busy person. I ask questions online either because I’m curious about something or because I need help with something. When I get that little notification that says someone has commented on my post, I get excited. My curiosity might be a little closer to being satisfied. Or I might have the answers I’ve been looking for.

But when I get the notification and only to find out someone wrote “Google it” or “Following” or they clearly answered the wrong question or they made judgment calls about me rather than addressing the question… or they just made some dumb joke, it ticks me off. You’ve wasted my precious time. And nothing at all good will come from your silly little response.

No one is forcing you to respond. If you don’t have an actual answer, silence is absolutely golden.

No one is forcing you to respond. If you don't have an actual answer, silence is absolutely golden. Share on X

Trollin’ on Secret Jerusalem

Secret Jerusalem

But this situation was worse. I’ve seen this fella before. He lurks around groups like Secret Jerusalem, arrogantly and obnoxiously abusing people with sarcastic comments. For months and months I’ve hated watching him treat other people like crap, and it was only a matter of time before his venom spilled into my lap.

Listen you little troll: You have nothing valuable to offer the community. Under no circumstance is your rude behavior welcome. Go somewhere else and leave everyone alone. We are a community of people trying to figure Israel out. It’s not easy. It’s really not easy. We need all the help we can get. And your poison sets us back. You make it harder to live here. You might think you’re just a funny troll hiding behind your keyboard. But you’re so much more than that. You are taking the homeland of the Jewish people, a place we waited thousands of years to return to, and making it a worse place to live.

You. Not the government. Not the crappy drivers. Not even the violent terrorists. You are helping to make it a place where people might not want to be. This is not at all something you should be proud of.

And I Engaged…

Secret Jerusalem

But I did what I should never do. And knew I should never do. I confronted him. I called him out on his crap. And he just doubled down, called me an idiot, and proudly stated that his 46 years in the country gave him some level of privilege to harass others.

Here’s what I have to say:

First of all, the modern world, where everyone is so tough behind a computer screen, saddens me. People behave a certain way because there’s no consequences to their actions. They neither see the hurt they cause others, which may provoke empathy, nor do they fear getting punched in the face, which may provoke fear.

Either would be beneficial in this situation.

I’m not saying that if this person were to be standing before me, I would have tackled him and pummeled him to the ground. I’m saying everyone in the world who is rude to another should have a small amount of fear that this could happen. This is not a bad thing. It keeps us in check. Why should anyone have the right to be awful and nasty to the others? The internet has taken away fear of consequences for awful behavior, and produced worse people because of it.

Time Does Not Equal Privilege

Secret Jerusalem

Now, about those 46 years. Big. Friggin’. Deal.

You are not special.

There is an odd tendency for people who’ve moved to Israel to brag about how long they’ve been here. Sorry to say, I am not impressed. Simply being in a place for a long time is meaningless. It proves nothing and grants no privilege.

Think about it. First of all, what message are you conveying. Essentially you’re saying it’s ridiculously challenging here, and the fact that you’ve stuck around means there’s something special about you.

Is there any other case where we would think that’s impressive rather than lunacy?

I’ve been in this awful and damaging relationship for thirty years now? Look at me go! I’ve had this painful growth on my ass for the last decade. I don’t even bother getting it removed. Pain builds character! And on top of that, my basement is filled with water. No worries, it’s been the case for three years. No wet vac for me. Black mold shows the world how impressive I am. I can tough it out!

Time = Responsibility

Secret Jerusalem

If it’s super great here, then bragging about time spent here is even sillier. I’ve been living a good, happy life in the lap of luxury for two decades now. Yeah, I don’t even consider moving away from a perfect lifestyle. Impressive!

But even if any of these statements made sense (they don’t), does any of this give you the right to be an asshole to people?

Sorry, but I see it very differently.

We survive here because we pull upon each other’s knowledge and experience. If you have both, the appropriate thing is to share of yourself freely, not alienate others because you know more than they do.

Yes, you are a senior member of the nation. Good for you! Now make this a better place to live for everyone here. Anything less and you’re setting the country backwards. And that’s hardly something you should feel proud of.

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