Israelis are mocking gloomy representations of their country online by juxtaposing cheerful pictures and stories of themselves with the hashtag #SadSadIsrael this week.
The sarcastic hashtag, which was among the top trends on Twitter in Israel the last few days, was started in response to the October 26 New York Times article “Whose Promised Land? A Journey into a Divided Israel,” which some Israelis have argued presents an inaccurately morose depiction of the Jewish state.
In response, Israelis have been posting snapshots of themselves enjoying life – marriage proposals, days out with children, scenic backgrounds – to create a mosaic of experiences that would better represent the Israeli reality. Often the posts feature pictures of joyful moments with satirical gloomy captions – reference to the language used in the Times article.
Last month, when our grandfather turned 70, the entire neighborhood came out to celebrate. The kids in their community all made birthday cards — so sad.Is this what the @nytimes’ @PatrickKingsley meant when he wrote about the “social divisions” in our country?#SadSadIsrael pic.twitter.com/5CScJRZYrY— Akiva van Koningsveld (@koningsveld) November 2, 2021
There have been thousands of contributions to the trend, which was sparked by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis, a media watchdog.
The NYT view of "what it means to be Israeli today: “tensions," "inequities,” “divisions,” “unrest,” “fury,” “ambivalence,” “illegitimacy,” “alienation,” “injustice,” “discrimination,” “bias,” “abuse,” misfortune, “slums” & “shabby” “tired” “garish” towns. https://t.co/ZTxo6Iea5G— Gilead Ini (@GileadIni) October 29, 2021
“The New York Times article was ridiculous in the way a fun house mirror is ridiculous,” said Gilead Ini, the senior research analyst at CAMERA who wrote an article and post that helped spark the memetic mockery. “They told their readers that it’s a faithful mirror. They told Americans that the pile of discontent captures ‘what it means to be Israeli today.’”
The article featured the travels of the writers throughout Israel, in which critics argue that they only have negative encounters and only meet citizens with bleak stories. The interviews were overwhelmingly with those critical of the state and Israeli society. Israelis are portrayed as being divided by irreconcilable sectarian divisions.
“The idea for #SadSadIsrael came up in an impromptu hallway meeting,” said Ini. “I had just written a critique of the piece, and some of us converged and were laughing at how transparent the attempt to rewrite the country was. We imagined the newspaper had a camera with a built-in filter that put frowns on the faces of smiling Israelis. The idea of that hashtag spreading on social media came up in that meeting. So I used it, as did a few colleagues.”
The hashtag soon gained widespread popularity, with the participation of the official Twitter account of the State of Israel, NGOs and social media influencers.
Some of the posters were quick to note that in contradiction to the Times depiction, Israel was named the 14th happiest country in the UN’s 2020 World Happiness Report.