Israeli tech social media star: I'm working 20 hours a day fighting lies about Israel
- Hillel Fuld is a fixture in the Israeli tech-startup community.
- He explains how his job, and the Israeli tech ecosystem, has been altered by the Israel-Hamas war.
This is an as-told-to-essay from Hillel Fuld, tech-startup advisor, blogger, and social-media star known in the tech industry as the Israeli Robert Scoble. It has been edited for length and clarity.
What has my life been like since October 7? It's been exhausting. I'm working 20/6 doing my thing (offline for the sabbath — thank God for some rest).
But let's start at the beginning. A few days before the October 7 Saturday-morning terrorist attacks on Israel, I had a feeling. Between America and Russia, Russia and Ukraine, America and China, internal politics in America, internal politics in Israel, anti-religious and pro-religious reform, I didn't know what it was, but I had a bad feeling. A few months ago, in fact, I wrote a social-media post that something big was coming and Israel would be at the center of it.
Don't ask me how I knew that. I had a strong feeling.
Then, on that dreadful Saturday morning, I was in synagogue celebrating a holiday, Simchat Torah, a day where we celebrate the Torah. We were dancing around with the Torah scrolls in my synagogue, and all of a sudden, I heard a chilling screech, a siren.
About 10 minutes before that, I was with my 12-year-old twins walking to synagogue and we heard booms above us. We looked at each other wondering what those booms were, hoping they weren't what we thought.
They were indeed the Iron Dome. Hamas had started firing. We all ran to the bomb shelter, but because it was a holiday, the synagogue was jam-packed, and the bomb shelter was not intended for hundreds of people.
So the women and children went into the bomb shelter, and the men found shelter anywhere else we could: standing by walls or wherever. And then everyone came out of the shelter and went back to praying. About five minutes later, another siren sent people back to the bomb shelter. We were in synagogue, so most of us didn't have our phones, didn't know what the hell was going on. I think this happened 10 times throughout our prayers.
Then bits of the news started spreading among us. There was an infiltration of militants into Israel. At first, I didn't believe it, but the news spread that people were getting called up to the army.
I started to panic, as my brother was killed in a terrorist attack five years ago and each one is a terrible trigger for me. Everyone around me was trying to calm me down, and I told them all to imagine if, after the Sabbath, we turned on our phones and there were 75 dead Israelis. That was the worst possible scenario that my brain could fathom.
Of course, the truth was far more terrible than that. Sure enough, when the holiday was over and I turned on my phone, I learned of the devastation.
I've unfortunately learned the hard way that when terrorist attacks happen in Israel, I need to jump into action. That's not to say I'm not going to mourn. We all are going to mourn and I'm going to mourn, but I don't know that now is the time for me to mourn.
I need to do what I need to do: share real information and fight disinformation. I have a large following on several platforms, like X, and my posts are reaching tens of thousands, sometimes millions of people, some of which have been shared by the biggest names out there. I say that not to brag but to emphasize that we are not alone in this digital battle.
I feel like my brother is working through me in a way.
I normally post startup and tech-related content but I've basically neglected everything to focus 100% on this. I'm online, I don't know, 20 hours a day, finding a few minutes to eat and sleep, and then that's it. I also have X posts that are limited because people reported them, even though one was a post about soldiers coming home to Israel and being welcomed in the hospital. But the bottom line is I'm fortunate to have that platform right now.
To an extent, I feel like everything I've done has led me to this moment.
The response to the controversial hospital blast was the perfect case study. The Israel Defense Forces — and 24 hours later, US President Joe Biden — showed the evidence: the video evidence, the audio evidence, proof that this rocket that hit the medical institution did not originate in Israel.
But anybody can say whatever they want, and it goes viral, and millions of people are just consuming blatant lies. So I've made it my role to spread as much truth and positivity as I can. And that's what I've been doing tirelessly for the past three weeks.
Today, the entire Israeli tech ecosystem is mobilizing to help soldiers and families. We're also using our technology to detect bots on the internet that are spreading lies. We're using artificial intelligence to amplify the truth. We're using our hardware expertise to make chargers so soldiers can charge their phones in their tanks. And those are just a few examples.
We're getting a lot of support from the global venture-capital community as well. Insight Partners and many, many others have stepped up. Over 800 VC firms have signed a joint statement in support of Israel, and, some, including Insight Partners, have committed to sending significant sums for humanitarian aid.
Of course, much of the Israeli tech ecosystem has been called up to reserve duty, and that presents a challenge. In my world, social media, our ecosystem is leveraging technology to win this war on the digital battlefield, which is also important. People are building databases for different areas. For instance, one entrepreneur has built a database of answers to basically help everyone debate the lies that are being told about Israel.
That's an important point. Because Israel has made mistakes and we own up to our mistakes when we make them. But I'm an optimistic guy, and I think that the world's eyes have been opened. We need to differentiate between political opinions, which everyone's entitled to, and facts. So, yeah, misinformation is incredibly important because you know that someone's going to spread propaganda about Israel. My fear is that this propaganda will cause the world to pull their support or even worse: encourage violence against Jews, which we're already starting to see.
There are still extremists who are going to support Hamas and want to see Jewish people killed no matter what. That's something that, as a nation, we've always had to deal with: antisemitism.
But I also see a direct correlation between terror and innovation. The more they attack us, the more they persecute us, the more we innovate. We flourish under pressure. Israel has always done that. The country is one big startup.
Just a few weeks ago, this entire country was divided. These are tragic circumstances, but now we are united like never before. We've created a unity government, something that would've been a fantasy just weeks ago.
These are challenging times, and I see everyone in the Israeli tech ecosystem doing all we can.
This is a war on the physical battlefield, but it's also a war on the digital battlefield. We are all doing our part.
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