The Internet is one of the greatest inventions of my lifetime, along with computers and the advances in medicine that have kept me able to benefit from them. Computers have freed me from having to type, correct by pencil, and then typing again or--later in my career--having someone type and repeating the process until fatigue rules that enough is enough.
The Internet provides access to virtually all the media in a language I can read as well as an excellent encyclopedia, plus Google and other engines that direct me to as many facts and more opinions that I can use.
As a result of these notes, I've acquired numerous friends, most of whom I have not met face to face. Several have visited me in Jerusalem. Another is coming later this week. I've been discovered and querried by international journalists who reach me by telephone or come to my home with their video cameras. Reports are that I had five seconds on Icelandic TV and even more exposure in other exotic places discussing the Haredim of Beit Shemesh.
Important for whatever notice I receive is Jerusalem, still at the center of the world, even if not of an empire. It is more interesting, and interests more people than any of the other places I have called home.
Alas, there are problems in sorting through the variety of what is so easily available. The Internet holds an unlimited amount of junk, put there by anyone with lust, imagination, or political mission, without editors to sort out what is not useful, decent, or accurate. And some of it is useful and honest, but problematic.
Just last week I slipped, and urged the same slip on a journalist who had seen my note about the retirement of Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, but was more wary than I about one of the details.
It was two days after I had clicked on the send button that I recognized a problem.
I heard Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch say on television at the occasion of her retirement that her grandfather, grandmother, and sister had died in the Holocaust, and that she had been named Dorit as a child who would herald a new generation. I read in Wikipedia that she was born in Tel Aviv in 1942. That caused me to pause, but additional checking convinced me that her parents had left Europe late enough to make it possible that an older sister had perished there.
I found a clip of that news program I had heard originally, listened to it several times, and was sure that the Chief Justice had said that her sister had died. Varda's ears are better attuned to Hebrew than mine, and she also heard the Chief Justice say, "my sister."
Varda was more uncomfortable than I with the historical problem, and searched the Internet until she found an article in Ha'aretz that provided a detailed text of what the Justice had read from the podium. It did not say "my grandfather, grandmother, and sister," but my "grandfather, grandmother, and my mother's sister." http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/law/1.1652231.
The difference in Hebrew is a great deal closer than the difference in English. The text to be read by the Chief Justice included the phrase, "סבי, סבתי ואחות אימי " and not "סבי, סבתי ואחותי ". The Justice's voice broke with emotion at the crucial moment, and blurred even more what she actually said. The difference between אחות אימי (achot emi, my mother's sister) and אחותי (achoti, my sister) is close in the best of cases, even without the distortions of emotion. .
Television, the Internet and all the other modern gadgets are great assets, but like my medications, each also has its risks.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at March 05, 2012 12:46 AM