Truth, Dream or Fiction? by Noa Cohen, Israel

It was a weekend in 2012, when I came home to spend Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest) with my family in Haifa. At that time I was part of a one year volunteering program in which Israeli-Jews and Israeli-Bedouins worked together in educational frameworks around Be’er Sheva. My Bedouin peer was Dalila (pseudonym) – a gentle and wise girl from Laqya, both of us were 19 years old.

Dalila and I had been working together for about 6 months at that point. We taught Arabic at Jewish schools and Hebrew at Bedouin schools; we gave education lessons, and gave an example of working together. It wasn’t always easy working with someone that comes from such a different background, but it was very interesting. We had different opinions on so many topics, we believed in different “truths” and we had different habits. But at the same time we had so much in common, we shared the same mission, and we had created a deep friendship.

The weeks previous to that weekend were tiring. Rockets kept on falling in the south of Israel, and I kept finding myself in search of shelter – by myself and with students, indoors and outdoors, in Be’er Sheva and in Laqya. As I got home that Friday, far from the current danger zone, I heard on the news that rockets fell in a Bedouin village near Be’er Sheva. I called Dalila right away to make sure her family was alright.

Luckily everyone was fine, but Dalila told me that she was worried about how the confrontation would develop now that the Israeli parliament was hit by a missile.
“WAIT – WHAT? The Israeli parliament? Missile? How come I didn’t hear about it? How did you hear about it? Give me a minute, I’ll call you back” I replied. I hung up the phone and sat by myself, confused and full of thoughts. The last thing Dalila said was that the news channel she was watching has just reported that the Israeli parliament was hit by a missile.

To those of you who are wondering – no missiles got near the Israeli parliament that month, yet I remember being so puzzled. Dalila was watching one news channel that reported this as fact; I was watching a different channel that said nothing about it. I found it hard to believe that such a thing could happen, but Dalila had just said that it did, and she is very reliable. Was she lied to? The only reasonable thing I could think of was calling Shai, a friend of mine who lives near the parliament, and asking her to clarify things.

Shai confirmed that the parliament was just fine, and I called Dalila to try and calm her. I didn’t know how to say it, I wanted her to know the truth about what scared her, but I felt like it was bigger than that specific case. I knew that both of us should learn from this.

After the issue was resolved, and later, when the rockets were not being launched as often, I was still restless. This was the first time I consciously experienced fake news, and it was a somewhat extreme case of something that happened daily – news is always biased. Including or omitting stories, telling events from a certain point of view, mixing facts and opinions – there is no way to escape it.

I could not stop thinking about how most of the information I get does not come from a primary source, and how this information has a significant part in shaping my opinions. I now consume media way more critically, and so does Dalila. It’s not easy, but being aware of the information I receive and trying to verify it as much as possible is the beginning.

 

This is just one example of the important work produced YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region. 

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