In Israel, Comedian Brings Humor to Tense Times

Israeli comedian Benji Lovitt's personal Facebook account has been as hot as the southern Israeli desert in the middle of July. "In a place like Israel, some of the best comedy comes out in times of conflict," he said.
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Israeli comedian Benji Lovitt's personal Facebook account has been as hot as the southern Israeli desert in the middle of July. The sarcastic immigrant from Texas has been on something of a comedic roll over the past week with his humorous posts on the social network.

While Lovitt, who lives in Tel Aviv, isn't taking up arms to defend his fellow Israelis during the ongoing wave of brutal knife attacks by Palestinian terrorists that has plagued the Jewish nation, he is making it his mission to bring some levity to the situation. In a recent Tablet Magazine article, Lovitt explained that he "feels that the best way he can serve his country during this time is to raise the morale of those whose spirits are down."

Some of Lovitt's posts over the past few days have been garnering close to 1,000 likes, which is unusual for a personal Facebook account. I asked the popular comedy writer, who also performs standup, leads Birthright Israel tours and teaches, why he thinks his fellow Israelis (and Jews in the Diaspora) have been so receptive of his "foxhole humor" on Facebook.

"It's a bit cliche in the circles I run in, but people, especially Jews, laugh to keep from crying," Lovitt said. "In a place like Israel, some of the best comedy comes out in times of conflict. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and again this past week, I sort of live-blogged the conflict on social media through comedy."

I personally find Lovitt's humor to be refreshing amidst all of the negative news coming out of the region, but I was curious if he ever feels it's too sensitive of a situation to mock. "At times, I feared it was 'too soon' or I had crossed the line of inappropriateness but the feedback I consistently get is that people really need it. I try not to make light of tragedy or death but to express something that everybody is feeling; either fear, depression, anger toward terror, or just to create a release for something we're all thinking but not saying (like the annoyance of hearing a siren going off when you're sitting on the toilet, what happened when rockets were launched by Hamas in 2014).

Lovitt's posts have ranged from the self-deprecating ("I am not willing to let terrorists scare me into changing the way I live my life. If I want to eat Doritos for dinner, that's my disgusting choice to make.") to the harsh criticism of the Palestinian leadership through sarcasm ("Mahmoud Abbas just called for a moment of silence for the boy the Israelis "executed" who is currently eating raspberry jello.")

One of Lovitt's Facebook posts gave a tip of the hat to the sitcom Seinfeld, which was just as popular in Israel as it was in the United States. Showing how humane Israeli hospital workers were being, even to the terrorists, Lovitt posted, "An interview on Israeli television showed hospital staff treating terrorists before the victims if their wounds were more serious. I can't believe Elaine's idea in the Chinese restaurant of serving people based on hunger level is being adapted to the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Due to the seven-hour time difference between the East Coast of the United States and Israel, many of Lovitt's fans outside of Israel find themselves waking up to his humor, as he posted his jokes early in the morning in Israel when Americans are still asleep. For Israelis, Lovitt's humor has been an appreciated coping mechanism. For non-Israelis, his tongue-in-cheek missives have been a welcome change from the dark and dreadful reality that other Israelis have been posting on social media.

While there have been times Lovitt has found it challenging to find any humor in such a scary situation, he ultimately recognizes that humor has helped the Jewish people survive through the most menacing times. "If I can raise people's morale at all or maybe help them forget about the conflict for even a moment," he reasons, "I guess that's something I'll do my best to do."

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