The Israeli-Arab selfie that went viral

Danielle Ben-Shabat, right, and her bus companion. FACEBOOK PHOTO
Danielle Ben-Shabat, right, and her bus companion. FACEBOOK PHOTO


Last Sunday, young Israeli soldier Danielle Ben-Shabat was on Bus 836 from Tiberias to Tel Aviv, eventually en route to an IDF base after spending the weekend at home. With tensions high amid a Palestinian knife intifadah, including several attacks that have transpired on buses, Ben-Shabat was, naturally, alert and aware of her surroundings, according to her Facebook post that eventually went viral, and Israeli news agency NRG.

Taking a seat by the window, Ben-Shabat, dressed in traditional army garb, reportedly took notice when a young Arab woman wearing a hijab boarded the bus, choosing, after a brief argument with the driver, to sit directly beside her.

According to Ben-Shabbat’s Facebook post, she was terrified.

She began envisioning the woman shouting “Allahu Akbar” and attempting to stab her, so considered her options. She decided to text her mother, who immediately responded, advising that she switch seats. Then, Ben-Shabat noticed her seat companion’s pink lipstick, and let out a sigh of relief. She turned to the woman and told her everything, that she was paranoid and had texted her mother, who cautioned her to change seats. Ben-Shabat asked if she would mind taking a selfie with her to show her mother that there was no reason to panic. She immediately obliged.

Ben-Shabat sent the photo to her mother with a caption riddled with dark humour: “Was filmed a few minutes before the stabbing incident on line 836.” Though her mother was not amused, she did reportedly feel much better.

Ben-Shabat wrote on Facebook that the post was about “maintaining vigilance” but also on tackling the “fear of insanity” in our every-day lives. Continuing her story, she said that she and her seat-mate began a conversation in earnest. Her name was Saffa, is a student at Tel Aviv University, and, Ben-Shabat wrote, “thinks every person should be a good person, nor does she hate me because I wear a uniform.”

NRG reported that Facebook comments on the photo swayed between supportive and even racist. But Ben-Shabat insisted that the post was not political. “It does not matter if I am left-wing or right-wing, it is not a post about politics,” or the recent wave of attacks, or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls of increasing security, she wrote. “I just wanted to add a bit of light.”

I think she succeeded.