Hasbara: Why Am I Still Doing This?

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Leslie-Ann Stoffel with Flag“Your Struggle With Darkness Has Left You Blind, I’ll Light The Fire In Your Eyes. Let Me Be Your Shelter” – Lone Justice – Shelter

For years I watched the media trash Israel with lies, half-truths and the perverse inversion of moral relativism.  I was one of those non-Jewish kids who, when learning about the Holocaust, vowed that if anything like that should ever happen again, I would be the first one to stand up against it.”

I only ever really “knew” one Jewish person in my life, my little friend Naomi.  We were the best of friends.  I knew she was different because she was the only kid in the neighborhood who didn’t celebrate Christmas.  Oh well, I shrugged it off. I didn’t get it, although I was a little jealous because she got presents for an entire week.  But hey, we had a great time together and I could overlook this one odd part of her life.  Then abruptly, one day, she and her family moved away to an area with more Jewish people.  I really missed her.

Fast forward many years later, finally I thought, in 2008 after coming home to Canada from my first trip to Israel, I could use social media to bypass this BS and put the truth out there.  I was the quintessential bright eyed and bushy tailed pro-Israel advocate.

That worked great for a while.  In 2011 I went to Israel again. I met members of Knesset, went to special media and political meetings, met fellow Facebook pro-Israel advocates, got the red carpet treatment all over Israel and even met an amazing Israeli guy, I was sure this pro-Israel, Zionist thing was going to be A.Piece.Of.Cake.”

After spending an extended length of time in Israel I returned to Canada.  Of course I continued with my pro-Israel efforts.  By this time I had over 20,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, I was working for the largest grassroots pro-Israel movement around, United With Israel, and I was now writing for various blogs including The Times of Israel, The Jewish Press and Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Falling Down the Terror Bunny Hole

I woke early one morning last summer and heard that three young Yeshiva Boys had been kidnapped near Hevron, in Israel.  Horror, confusion and fear gripped me. I knew what could happen to these young boys if the monsters who kidnapped them were to keep them as hostages.  I shared it with my mom, she loves Israel and the Jewish people as much as I do.  We kept a vigil and prayed day and night for their safe return.  I hardly left my social networking sites.

Suffering, What Suffering?

Some social media savvy young people started a Twitter and Facebook campaign called Bring Back our Boys. They requested photos of those in support of bringing the boys home safely, to submit a photo with the hashtag #bringbackourboys. I posted mine and the onslaught of hatred was unreal. I even had death threats.  One guy said he was going to send Hezbollah after me. I started to realize that THIS was what the Jewish people have lived with for millennia and I was just getting a small taste of it.

boys-kidnapped-550x309#BringBackourboys

They’re dead, they were murdered the very first night they were kidnapped.  Head is spinning, heart is broken…what….how….God where were you in this? Why did this happen?  How could this have happened? We were all praying.  Why didn’t you listen?

Rockets are now flying into Israel from Hamas as the Jewish people are breaking their hearts over the boys’ disappearance and death.  Jerusalem neighborhoods are being set on fire, even residents of Tel Aviv and Haifa are running to bomb shelters.  Thank God for the Iron Dome.

Being the media junkie that I am, I never let up. I’m on social media 24/7, feeling so helpless because I’m not in Israel. I’m in Vancouver, it’s summer and it’s beautiful.

Not only is Israel being inundated with rockets but the media turns on them as they start a campaign to fight for their people against this barrage of rocket fire.  Soldiers and tanks go in to Gaza to destroy the network of terror tunnels that were discovered.  These tunnels went from Gaza to the populated areas within Israel and were constructed in order that terrorists could make massive sweeps into Israeli territory, kidnapping and demoralizing the Jewish State on unprecedented levels.”

Every day more soldiers are dying as they cater their war plan to keep the residents of Gaza as safe as possible. We are heartbroken.

Leslie & Isik My Birthday May 9 Jerusalem Overlooking Old City Walls Jaffa GateThe World Crushes Me

The final blow comes as I find out the love of my life has cancer and is being treated in the hospital in Jerusalem.  He’s terminal.  He and his mom ask me to come and see him before he dies.  Quickly I pack and leave Vancouver to get to his bedside as fast as I can.
Leslie & Israel – Overlooking the Old City Walls in Jerusalem
When I arrive he’s a shell of the person I know and he’s being swallowed up by cancer and despair. Although, with my arrival his condition improves.

I stay with him for a month overnight and then on the eve of Sukkot, he has a very restless night. The doctor and nurse woke me up at 5:30AM to tell me he has passed away peacefully in his sleep.  It is exactly one month since my arrival and 3 years to the day of our having met in Jerusalem. I. Am. Shattered.”

We bury him the next day in Jerusalem.  They bring him out into a stark marble room wrapped in a prayer shawl that evokes thousands of years of Jewish Tradition, poignant in its beauty and yet I feel the cold reality of his absence. My grief overwhelms me.

Private Leslie Reporting For Duty. Did I Sign Up For The Wrong Zionist Gig?

It takes me five months after his death to start feeling like I can finally get back into life again. Over those months I ask myself if I still have it in me to fight this fight. Can I continue with my pro-Israel advocacy? I’ve been crushed by life and I feel so powerless.

Am I making a difference? Should I keep doing this? It’s just so damn hard.

Through all this I remember….I remember the pograms…..I remember the holocaust…I remember the terror…I remember how much I love Israel and my Jewish friends…I remember that my soul is intertwined with you for eternity and I won’t give up, not for anything.

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