A pandemic of jokes? The Israeli COVID-19 meme and the construction of a collective response to risk

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The COVID-19 pandemic that broke out in Israel in February 2020 prompted widespread public response, which included a deluge of humorous memes. The current article discusses the main meme cycles of the pandemic with the aim of uncovering the functions of the humorous meme, and particularly its singular language, which incorporates the universal and the particular, the global and the local, the hegemonic and the subversive. The memes are examined in their immediate context, as responses to news announcements, restrictions, and rumors relating to the pandemic, and from a comparative perspective, with emphasis on the various functions of disaster jokes and the use of folklore in response to previous epidemics, crises, or risks. Alongside the hybrid nature of the genre, these meme cycles demonstrate that COVID-19 is not just a threatening virus but a new reality that undermines our experience of time and space, evoking old beliefs and new, and threatening to change everyday practices. These narratives not only reflect the incongruities evoked by the virus, but also give vent to anxieties and aggressions brought on by the pandemic and convey a communal need to protect and foster group cohesion and a local sense of belonging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-257
Number of pages29
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.


  • Israeli and Jewish humor
  • digital culture
  • disaster jokes
  • everyday practices
  • internet memes
  • parody
  • world risk society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


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