Some build a monument supporting their country's struggle, while some dream of recreating an Israel of the past. All of them, however, endure the current exchange of bombs and missiles back and forth across the Lebanese border with a weave of ambivalence, fatalism, and what might be called a black-hearted optimism. The "SL Israel" group is several dozen strong, primarily comprised of Israeli Residents, and when their country's conflict with Hezbollah reached a savage apex over the weekend, I sought them out, to get their perspectives-- on the situation in particular, and how it's impacted their Second Life.
For the record, I also searched for Lebanese Residents, but was not as lucky; consider this an open invitation for Residents in Lebanon to contact me, so I can give their perspectives equal time. For now, then, multiple Israeli views after the break.
A software developer who's also a First Sergeant in the Israel Defense Force reserves, where he works in intelligence, Nightspy Rebus built SL's Big Shalom site during the worst of Hezbollah's attacks so far. A courtyard with the Israeli flag and large photos of the country's leaders, past and present, it also features links to webpages on Israeli history, a comment box, and free copies of IDF uniforms.
"[W]hen the first missile fell on Haifa, I felt this time it was more serious. It hit a train depot, killing eight workers and injuring bystanders. That was a significant devopment. I was very upset, naturally. I felt there was something I could do here. I know it isn't much, but they don't need me to go fighting right now. At least if we could get people to acknowledge the existence of Israel... support us in our effort, [Big Shalom will be worthwhile.] This land was donated for me, by an American Jewish guy."
Has he gotten any negative responses for creating Big Shalom?
"I was told to keep real politics out of SL [by someone writing in the comment box], and someone rezzed a box over my flag. I don't think that's justified."
His thoughts on Hezbollah, and the conflict.
"I didn't work in that section when I was in service, but generally Hezbollah never enjoyed this much freedom of operation, and they are very dangrous at the moment because they feel they are losing support. They want to rip alot of success to regain their soldiers' confidence. People are leaving them...
"My hopes [are] we can reach an agrement to stop supporting Hezbollah and taking over the border line. But right now, we have to do our best to destroy their ability to hurt Israel. Don't say it's far-fetched. There is nothing that can't be broken with force. It just takes time, patience, and willingness to make sacrifices."
"They all seem to be doing pretty well. My cousin lives near Safed. He was very fatalistic when I talked to him. I think they could hear Safed being missiled."
"[I]t's a weird feeling, but I feel that it's good that war hurts both sides pretty equally. So hopefully it won't last long."
Does it feel strange to be in Second Life while all this is going on?
"It feels strange to be in the UK while this is going on."
Not entirely English-fluent, Uni Waves lives in Tel Aviv. When I speak with him, it's 4:00AM in Israel, and a friend from Haifa (where Hezbollah rockets have killed several civilians) is sleeping on his couch.
"His bank will be closed in Haifa tomorrow, so he stayed in Tel Aviv to go to bank early. He is businessman and it's disturbing his business very well."
Uni Waves is the founder of "Jerusalem", a group dedicated to creating the temple destroyed by the Romans in Second Life. For now, he's constructing an SL version of the Tabernacle carried by the Hebrews during the Exodus from Egypt.
"Just to notice, me not religious person, I'm just love history and spiritual structures. [This] Taberancle was build to be removed, so I'm trying to remake it as it was-- it's like 'mobile Temple'.
"Personally I'm not talking to many Israeli here. In SL, [I'm] more with people from many places because my main time spent here is about yoga and Tibetan culture. I'm working on Yoga project here in SL, it's also very important I think. If you'll have time, I'll be happy to show you our Yoga Ashram."
His plans for the Jerusalem group.
"The idea is to collect friends and resources [to buy a] sim for it. We have [a] few people interested that know very well building and scripting to do it in Second Life." He grins. "So for awhile me alone working on this 'temporary Temple', and hope to enter 'Jerusalem' sim."
On the conflict with Hezbollah.
"I think it's very stupid to fight neighbors and I want peace, not war."
What do you think Israel should have done about Hezbollah's kidnapping of IDF soldiers?
"I don't know, it's so complicated for me, there's many things I can't understand, maybe because I'm not much interesting in politics. I think something wrong here is temporary, and will be fixed by time. Time is cure for the current situation. Maybe it's like in disease, you feel worst just before get healed."
About his time in the Israeli Defense Force (service is mandatory for adult citizens.)
"I was like... secretary. I hold weapon one month in my life for training.
"If I was then thinking as I think today, I would never go to army, even if I go to jail for it."
So do you think Israel should not fight Hezbollah?
"Yes. And Hezbollah should not fight Israel. Be made from same things. Blood, flesh. Who need it?"
"I have many cousins in the army, one of whom is partolling in the Gaza strip. Family and friends in Israel are often connected, everyone has cellphones, so that if God forbid anything happens, we can contact each other. There is a lot of tension, but in Israel we are accustomed to going on with our lives no matter what. It would be impossible to live here your entire life without having such an attitude."
His opinion on the conflict.
"I don't know if there is a right or wrong anymore, it's turned into a vicious circle. Of course the most ideal thing would be for a cease fire, but every single Israeli knows that if a cease fire is declared a terrorist attack will soon follow. The terrorist not only demand the release of prisoners. They demand that Israel be destroyed. No land settlement agreemant is acceptable on their side, except all of Israel. (Now understand I speak of terrorists here and I am not generalizing for all Palestinians or Arabs and Muslims in general.)"
It sounds like you believe there's no real solution.
"I don't think there is any rational solution, no, but I believe that the conflict can come to a point, and this would be a terrible point, in which both sides are simply exhasuted."
Does it feel strange to be in SL while all this is going on?
"I made many good friends, especially my partner, who help me get through these tense times."