A Powerful Story About the Power of Speech
I am in utter shock and boy, do I have a story to tell you. This time, however, there is no happy ending.
Rewind two weeks and the disastrous UN resolution calling the Western Wall and half of Jerusalem illegal passes with the US abstaining. I was devastated. I wrote a scathing post, including these words “Barack Obama will go down in history as the president who sided with BDS, the extremist Islamic terrorists group Hamas who has declared that all of Israel is a settlement, and with the many countries who blatantly and vocally hate Israel and its very existence. These are your colleagues on this resolution, Mr. Obama.”
That post went moderately viral with hundreds of shares and comments and close to 1000 reactions. But I made a mistake. I got too emotional about the subject.
Among the many comments telling me I was spot-on, were some very strong voices telling me I am dead wrong and that Obama is no worse to Israel than many previous presidents, and how, in fact, he is much better. I disagreed, to say the least. But again, I made a mistake.
One of the many voices disagreeing with me was a man named Michael Zeff. We debated and it got heated, too heated. I threw out accusations and phrases I should not have. In fact, it got so bad that Michael went back and deleted his comments because of how ugly the thread got.
The next day, and sit down for this, I was at work, writing a new press release and I wanted to give the story to the local press, so I reached out to an editor friend and asked him to introduce me to one of his tech reporters.
A few minutes later I was on the phone with a journalist named Michael Zeff. Yes, that Michael Zeff. Only, I had zero recollection of our encounter the day before. I mean, I remembered the ugly thread, but didn't remember his name and so the call began like every journalist pitch call. I did my thing, he liked it and as we were about to hang up, Michael did something I then thought was super strange but am beyond happy about now.
He quietly and with clear hesitation started with "I don't usually mix business and pleasure, but I kinda have to say something..." I was confused and curious.
"Do you know that you called me a self-hating Jew yesterday on Facebook?"
My heart dropped and not only because I was afraid he would hold a grudge and not cover the story I had just pitched, but mainly because it is one thing to call names on Facebook from behind a screen and a keyboard, and a whole other, quite awkward I might add, encounter, when hearing the voice of the person, the real person, you so quickly dismissed just 24 hours before.
The marketing team was sitting there in the room and surely saw my face turn white. I of course immediately apologized and explained how I know I get very emotional when it comes to Israel and I did not mean what I said. He apologized for his words and the call ended as if that horrible thread never happened. He wrote a positive story that was published the very next day.
But wait, that is not the most insane part of the story. I couldn't shake the feeling that this happened for a reason. I mean, what are the chances? I attack someone publicly and the very next day, I need something from them and am "forced" to apologize and repair my damage. There had to be a reason that happened that way.
This morning, as I was begining my day, I get an email from a colleague who was in the room the whole time while that horribly awkward conversation was going on. "Did you hear about this?"
Michael Zeff has died of a sudden heart attack in his Jerusalem apartment.
"Na, can't be our guy" I thought. But it was our guy and Michael is gone.
I am speechless. A tragedy. A good man lost. But I cannot believe that I had the rare opportunity to right my wrong with Michael just days before his horrible death. I am thankful that I did and I am beyond shocked how this whole story went down.
Moral of the story: You choose one. There are many.
Mine? Watch your words, they are like knives, except they leave deeper wounds. They are also like feathers in the wind, you can never take them back. I was lucky enough to gather those feathers through a total fluke accident but Michael has taught me to think ten times before throwing around big words and accusations.
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