Have you heard of Daphni Leef?
If not, you must not have been reading Israel's
newspapers in the past month. The youngster from the small township of Kfar Shmaryahu in central Israel is one of the leaders of the tent protest that is sweeping through Israel these days, driving a 300,000-strong crowd onto the streets on last Saturday's march.
Leef has been in the public eye for a mere few weeks but her impact on public debate is immense. So why shouldn’t she be noted on Wikipedia? Someone obviously thought she should and hastened to write a short entry about her in the free encyclopedia's Hebrew version.
But soon after the publication of the article, some editors and active contributors called for the deletion of the page and a heated and unnecessary debate evolved around the editor's justification for publishing the article as well as around Leef's persona.
Most comments related to the value of the article. One writer claimed that "with all due respect, she hasn’t earned an article in Wikipedia. She represents no lofty idealism or has any added value. She comes from a family that could buy her eight flats. She didn't even serve in the army. What right does she have to present claims to the government? Let her make a contribution first".
Others commented on the exclusive mention of Daphni Leef whereas her counterparts to the initiation of the protests were disregarded. "Daphni Leef is not the sole initiator of this protest – she has nine counterparts. It's true that the protests stemmed from her personal story but I'm not sure she's more important than the rest," says a reader who goes by the name of Derech.
On the other side of the divide are those who deem Leef noteworthy of a Wikipedia entry. A reader by the name of Karni noted, "One must remember that the world 'Wiki' in the name 'Wikipedia' means speed. There is considerable public interest around this woman and there is no reason why Wikipedia should not serve as a credible, comprehensive source of information on Leef. After all, she has led only one of the largest social protests in the history of Israel".
Some readers chose to focus the debate on the reference made to Leef's exemption from the country's obligatory military service. A reader called Liran claims that "There are several articles in which military service exemptions are not mentioned. There are endless things Leef has not done and there is no room to mention them all."
Nath replied that readers will want to know why she went on to university right after graduating high school, thus claiming that Leef's military exemption should be noted.
Leef's political leanings were not spared scrutiny either. The reader Ido inquired "Why can't the readers know that left-wing organizations, including Daphni's former employer, are funding her protest and even joined forces ahead of time to finance the spontaneous outcry?" To which Eman retorted, "Why do you insist on mentioning unfounded claims that stem from insinuations that appeared in the Prime Minister's 'pet' newspaper which doesn't dare to present them as facts because even it has its boundaries?"
The excessive contentiousness is nothing unusual in Wikipedia; however, it seems that the Hebrew version of the open encyclopedia is afflicted with this ailment to a much greater extent than its counterparts in other language.
Incidentally, the English version of Leef's page in much more detailed and includes a shorter and succinct discussion. The English editors must prefer spending their time writing and developing entries rather than futilely debating them.