by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz
In the case of Israel, there is a lot of misinformation and propaganda spread about the country, causing people to believe things that are not true. Why is this? Why are people oblivious to the truth even when faced with it? People tend to hear what they want to hear and see what they wish to see, even if it is not true. This is an important rule to remember, as it can lead us to make mistakes.
There are several reasons why people tend to hear what they want to hear:
- Prior beliefs: We tend to believe information that aligns with our beliefs. For example, a person who believes in conspiracy theories may be more likely to believe information that aligns with those theories, even if it has no factual basis.
Personal interests: We tend to believe information that helps us achieve our personal interests. For example, a person who wants to believe that the government is good may be more likely to focus on positive reports about the government and ignore negative reports.
Emotions: We tend to believe information that makes us feel good. For example, a person who wants to believe that they are right may be more likely to focus on evidence that supports their position and ignore evidence that contradicts it.
For these reasons, among others, people are not objective when it comes to Israel.
The story of Rabbi Illish in the Talmud Gittin (49b) illustrates this tendency. The Amora Rabbi Illish, was taken captive. One day, a crow came and cawed at the window. Alongside Rabbi Illish, there was a gentile who knew the language of birds. He asked Rabbi Illish what the crow said, and the gentile replied that the crow said, “Illish, flee, Illish, flee” – indicating an opportunity to escape without being caught.
However, Rabbi Illish responded that he did not believe the crow’s words, calling the crow a liar. He explained that he didn’t trust the crow because of its previous actions, such as when Noah sent the crow out of the ark to see if the earth had dried after the flood, the crow circled the ark and did not fulfill its mission.
Later, a dove came and cawed at the window, saying the same thing, “Illish, flee, Illish, flee.” Rabbi Illish trusted the dove’s words, comparing the congregation of Israel to the dove, as it had fulfilled its mission properly with Noah. This trust in the dove’s words allowed Rabbi Illish to escape captivity successfully.
The story raises the question: Why did Rabbi Illish, who understood the language of the birds, need confirmation from the gentile about what the birds said? The conclusion is that people tend to hear what they want to hear, even if it is not true. In this case, Rabbi Illish was a prisoner, hoping to escape, so when he heard the crow’s advice, he didn’t believe it, fearing it was a product of his imagination. However, when the dove said the same thing, he believed it because it was considered a truthful bird.
This story illustrates our tendency to hear what we want to hear. When we want to believe something, we often focus on evidence that supports our belief and ignore evidence that contradicts it.
In the case of Israel, where misinformation and propaganda are prevalent, it’s essential to be critical of the information we consume and to remember the saying: “There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.” Supposedly educated and respectable people not only fail to condemn brutal murders, rapes, and kidnappings of Israelis but also condemn Israel for atrocities actually committed by Hamas against their own people. This phenomenon occurs because they tend to see what they wish to see and hear what they wish to hear. Their perceptions and biases significantly impact their judgment and result in a lack of objectivity.