The Blog

What Happens on Social Media – Stays on Google

[su_intro]As part of my internship for Career Israel as the Social Media Manager for BOMAH – The Brand of Milk and Honey I attended the CIC Public Diplomacy Workshop at Bar Ilan University.[/su_intro]

The CIC is a prestigious program that trains outstanding students in the fields of public diplomacy and spokesmanship, and provides them with the skills necessary to represent Israel in the international sphere. The topic of the workshop was “How to Positively Rebrand Israel.”

The first speaker was Dr. Raanan Gissin, a former senior advisor for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. His presentation focused on methods to combat the de-legitimization of Israel against BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) and Israel apartheid movements. The tactics that Dr. Gissin suggested involved changing the image of the Arab / Israeli relationship through Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), Media and International Institutions.

The key takeaway seemed to be that by sharing positive images and promoting Israeli good deeds to the public (e.g. Humanitarian Aid in the Philippines) would facilitate a re-conceptualization about Israel. Dr. Gissin also believes that a constant flow of positive media, with the rapid spread of technology to uneducated populations will enable the upcoming generations to conceptualize Israel through more than just one lens.

The second speaker was Itzik Yarkoni the founder of BOMAH – Brand of Milk and Honey. Itzik’s presentation focused on using Social Media to combat anti-Israel publicity and teaching the BOMAH strategy of storytelling to connect people to Israel.

Itzik began his presentation by asking a volunteer from the audience what finger she would use to ring a doorbell (drawn on a whiteboard). As you might have guessed she used her index finger. Itzik then explained how youth today are so engaged with technology (smart phones) that when asking a young person the same question, the most common answer was the thumb.

This concept coincides with the idea that the Internet and Social Media are now the most relied on sources of information for our youth and the next generations. Instead of doing research at the library people can simply use Google Search for all the information they need.

The point to be made here is that Israel is losing the battle on social media. The majority of content that appears when people search about Israel is skewed information that leads to a negatives perceptions of Israel.

During the workshop a young woman asked the question, “So what is the message?” According to Itzik the message is that stories peak a genuine interest from your followers and by sharing your experiences you allow people to see Israel in a unique and different light, from your perspective. Storytelling is an extremely powerful communication tool that publicly illustrates the personal aspect of Israel, a technique that is not reflected on the media.

Another participant answered,

“That’s the magical thing, this is your message. Nobody is telling you what message to convey, it is what ever you want to tell.”

Itzik gave examples using the storytelling strategy to combat BDS, apartheid week and other anti-Semitic actions on Social Media and explained why positive content is more effective than negative content. “People want to know what you think and what your personal feelings are about your experience.”

BOMAH offers a new strategy for the pro-Israel online community by using storytelling on Social Media. The goal is to reach new audiences through storytelling so that they can experience the personal side of Israel.

The workshop concluded with an activity where everybody worked in groups of two with the task of brainstorming an idea for a post that would combat anti-Israel content on Social Media using storytelling. There were many creative ideas that were presented; I especially liked one that played off the BDS creating the BBS – Bountiful Beer for Students organization.

It was a very special and rewarding experience to be able to participate in the workshop. I had the opportunity to meet and brainstorm with graduate students that understand the necessity and are passionate about re-branding Israel.

The tools are there for everyone who wants to spread awareness. The battle against the de-legitimization and boycott against Israel can be fought though being proactive, staying positive and sharing your story.

Israel: An Education

[su_intro]Things I’ve learned coming from the diaspora[/su_intro]
  1. Even though you feel completely at home and speak the language, you still sound like a foreigner.
  2. What you thought was impeccable, fashionable taste in shoes was completely wrong. Shoresh and Naot are… trendy? Believe it.
  3. Every conversation now ends with “yalla bye.”
  4. There is no such thing as “waiting your turn in line.” It just doesn’t exist here.
  5. Saying things like “I don’t do public transit” doesn’t fly anymore. Now you do.
  6. When someone smashes into you full force without even paying attention to what happened, it was your fault. Accept it and move on.
  7. You need to learn not to accept the first, second, third, or fourth price offered to you.
  8. Everything tastes better here.
  9. Your right-wing views are still met with gasps and raised eyebrows. Yes, even here.
  10. You’ll likely re-examine your life daily once you see people your age fighting for our homeland.
  11. It’s time you completely abandoned “sorry” and “excuse me,” possibly for a few choice curse words in Arabic. This will get your further.
  12. There are things more important than pleasantries. These are sincerity and openness.
  13. Someone will be willing to go completely out of his way to not only give you directions, but lead you there personally.
  14. People are more genuine and honest than you’ve ever experienced, and it’s SO refreshing.
  15. You see the way people care about their fellow Jew and it warms your heart.
  16. You’ll visit the Kotel and understand what really matters in your life.
  17. You’ll understand what real love is when you see yourself loving this place more than yourself.
  18. You won’t want to go home, you’re already here.

A Fire Within My Soul

[su_intro]I landed in Israel on the day of my 20th birthday. The clock struck midnight somewhere over the Mediterranean Sea and a plane full of Israelis sang me “Yom Huledet Sameach.”[/su_intro]

A few hours later we landed in Israel. After 20 long years I had returned to the place of my birth.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had visited and traveled around Israel since moving at the age of 6, but it had always been with family. Going with Taglit, specifically Mayanot, was more than just an adventure. It was life changing. When I look at my current life I know that I would never be the person I am without my trip to Israel. I know it is cliché to say this but… Birthright changed my life.

I went on Birthright a secular Israeli Jew, but after seeing students from all different backgrounds and upbringings united in the love of our shared heritage, religion, and most especially Israel, I left with a deep desire to explore my Judaism, and I longed for a connection with my Jewish heritage.

Our group was lucky enough to have the chance to celebrate two Shabbats, one in Tiberius and one at the Kotel, as well as the first half of Chanukah on the trip. I will never forget that first night of Chanukah, crushing into a cramped street in Old Jaffa lighting candles at some long unused synagogue. Singing the blessings over the candles and Shehecheyanu as strangers began joining us in a chorus of singing so loud I was certain the whole country could hear. The camera shook in my hand as I desperately tried to capture the experience, the singing, yelling, and laughing of my fellow Birthrighters. But the camera could do little to capture my emotions, the pride I felt for my religion, and for the amazingly strong Children of Israel who have fought tooth and nail to defend the Jewish State was astounding.

Since returning from Israel I have longed for the same spiritual high I felt in Jaffa. I joined Jewish groups, religious, secular, Israel advocacy, even the Jewish sorority. Israel sent me down a path to discover who I was and a deep desire to connect with the Holy Land once more. Israel lit a fire within my soul, a desire to keep the Jewish State alive in my every day and a deep yearning to return.

Love and language

[su_intro]It is irresponsible to fall in love with a person who has knowledge of only one language.[/su_intro]

Persons who speak and understand one language care not for creativity or passion; they are strict in composure and crisp in their manner of speaking. Language is idealism, and speaking is the romance of the tongue.

Thus, I make it my upmost priority to fall for the bilinguals. Trilinguals are exemplary, obviously, but constantly reaching for the stars gets tiring. So bilinguals will do.
And how many of them there are in Israel! Hebrew is a given here, clearly, so that’s the basis from which I’m working. Almost everyone speaks English, or at least Hebrish. Hebrish counts as .5 of a language, so if there’s some Arabic in there or maybe a little telenovela inspired Spanish, you’ve got yourself a full-fledged bilingual.

Think about it, how many times can you hear “I love you” in the original language of the Bible before you get sick of it? If your tolerance is low, say the word and it switches to Russian.
Listen, I’m no love doctor, but I know what I’m talking about. I’m sure that falling in love in North America has it’s perks. America’s got its share of immigrants and bilingual speakers, sure, and I heard in Canada they speak French. But falling in love in Israel is magic. It’s just one of those things you’ve got to do to understand.

Wherever you are, I dare you to go out today and hit on someone who speaks a different language than you. Preferably something ancient, like Hebrew or Greek. Because loving someone with knowledge of an ancient language keeps that language alive, and we’re all linguists at heart.

Maya Fried is a current Hasbara Fellow and active member of MishelanuLA, she is also an Onward Israel participant.

The Jewish Valentine’s Day

Every summer there is a chance for those whose February 14th plans just didn’t work out to redeem themselves: Tu B’av. This minor Jewish holiday taking place on the 15th of the month of Av is a holiday of love and essentially the Jewish Valentine’s Day.

I had never heard of Tu B’av until last year when my boyfriend mentioned it to me, though admittedly we didn’t really celebrate because he was away working at a summer camp. This year however, he and I are in Israel together and I was looking forward to celebrating.

In Jerusalem, there is a “Two B’av” festival on Emek Refaim that he and I were planning to go to together. However as often happens in life, things get in the way. He ended up having to travel to Haifa this week to work and see some family, so I was disappointed that we would not be together, again, on Tu B’av.

Little did I know that he was not planning to let this holiday go unnoticed again. While away, he had been texting my room mate to find out my schedule and when I would be in our apartment. All the way from Haifa, he had roses, chocolates, a teddy bear and a card delivered to me in Jerusalem.

It seems fitting that my first real Tu B’av celebration would take place in Israel, and while my boyfriend and I were not able to be together it was nice to have him with me in spirit.

Next year in Jerusalem… together this time.

Brittany Ritell is a student at Brandeis University currently in Israel for her first time. She participated in Birthright at the start of summer and is now a participant on Onward Israel.

The Beginning of Every Jewish Story

I gazed outside the plane window 30 minutes before we touched down on Israeli soil, and my eyes swelled with tears as my heart swelled with a mixture of devotion, love, and pride. This is my Moledet. It is the place where my mother was raised, where my parents met for the first time, and where my story essentially begins.

The last time I was here was eight years ago. I was eleven and I didn’t understand. From then until this summer, I always knew that I loved Israel. I knew I was a staunch Zionist, that I would challenge anyone to a historical debate about the claim to this land, and that I would defend its politics and people with everything I have. But I admit that I still considered myself somewhat separate, like I could never be fully part of it because I lived elsewhere.

Even now at the age of nineteen, I did not think the impact would be so radically different. But I was so wrong. I knew that from the moment my heart skipped a beat when I looked out onto Israel’s sacred soil. The first night I spent in Israel was a sleepless one. Among other thoughts that kept me up that night, was the one of my understanding that this trip to Israel could likely decide my future.

A few days later I visited Tzfat and Jerusalem. The feeling of being in these holy cities was indescribable. It was more enjoyable than floating in the Dead Sea or even riding a camel. Walking these cobbled paths was enough to bring joy to my heart. In these places I learned the true meaning of emotional and spiritual happiness, as opposed to intellectual happiness of my comfortable life in the States. Here I was truly home, with people who understood my culture, spoke my language, and valued the struggle and triumphs we share as Jews.

Coming from an observant home, visiting Israel on Taglit with students from very secular backgrounds, posed numerous questions in my mind. I will be spending the rest of my summer here in Israel, in the hopes that I will gather some answers.

But Israel is more and bigger than just my story. It is the beginning of every Jewish story – the land where the holy words of the Torah come to life, the land which G-d promised to the Jewish nation, and the land where after thousands of years of persecution, exile, and torment, a frail yet striving people saw a miracle realized. That miracle is realized every single day in this land.

Social media diplomacy workshops with Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professor program

[su_intro]BOMAH is pleased to have run a social media workshop with the Erwin & Martha Samson CIC Public Diplomacy Workshop & Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professor and AICE earlier this week.[/su_intro]

We discussed how to engage both students and community, as well as methods for sharing information and spreading awareness about Israel through social media.

The Visiting Israeli Professors program has played an instrumental role in spurring the growing support for Israel studies on U.S. campuses. It has brought more than 60 professors to 40-plus U.S. campuses, offering more students more opportunities to study Israel through a variety of lens including the environment, history, immigration, literature, law, media, medicine, political science and sociology, among others. Participants at the conference this year included Hanan Alexander, AICE Advisor Board, Sharon Aronson-Lehavi, Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professor, Shlomo Avineri, AICE Advisory Board, Mitchell Bard, Executive Director, Boaz Mismuth, Foreign Affairs Editor, Anat Gilboa, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Eitan Gilboa, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Leah Kinberg, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Moshe Ma’oz, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Tikva Meroz-Aharoni, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Adi Portughies, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor Professor, Maurice Roumani, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Zach Scheinerman, Publicity Director, Yuval Sinai, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Michelle Stein Teer, Media Trainer, Gerald Steingberg, CLSFF/AICE Advisory Board, Miri Talmon, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, Joshua Teitelbaum, AICE Advisory Board, Israel Waismn-Manor, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor,. Michael Widlanski, Schusterman Visiting Israel Professor, and our own BOMAH Founder Itzik Yarkoni.

The visiting scholars program provides “greater insight into the legal, cultural and educational impact of this unique history that blends East and West, religious and secular and traditional and modern. These different perspectives on Israel will bring a new dimension on the Jewish State to the students and faculty on U.S. campuses, as well as those interested in Israel and the Middle East in the greater campus communities.”

It was a pleasure to work with these professors on how to use social media to further their stories, both inside and outside the classroom. We give the tools to tell an Israel story, now all you have to do is experience one and share it with the world!

[stag_button url=”” style=”light-blue” size=”small” type=”square” target=”_self”]AICE Conference Participant Bios 2013-2014[/stag_button]

Home Once Again

The first time I stepped foot in the Land of Israel, I was five years old. I couldn’t comprehend where I was, but I knew I was in a place where my ancestors had walked, a place where I could comfortably live as a Jew, a place where I am welcomed by complete strangers, but more importantly a place I would soon realize was my home.

Ever since that first trip to Israel, I had a strong love for the people and the land but I couldn’t understand why. I kept going back and soon understood it. I was no different than many of the people around me, I could embrace the culture and the sense of belonging as soon as I got off my sixth flight to Israel, just as I had felt it my first few times.

When deciding what to do with my summer, I decided to spend the first four weeks of my summer in Israel, spending the first two weeks learning how to become an advocate on campus, and the last two embracing the land I love so much.

I learned how to stand up for my land, was able to embrace the culture of the State, and continue to call it my home. It’s not only my home, but the Jewish people’s home. It is the place where our ancestors walked, it is the place where our history became history, and a home for Jews everywhere. No matter where I am in the world, I am always thinking about my home, the Land of Israel.

Michelle is a current Hasbara Fellow and student at the University of Central Florida

With Every Passing Moment, I Am Making Up For Time Lost

Let me start at the beginning.

I was born a month early in California in 1992. Born a whole month before my time, and still my mother had to have a caesarian in order to convince me I should come out. That was the first and last time my mother experienced the glory and pain that is childbirth–I am an only child. When my father tells the story of that day, he likes to embellish the part about my mother ripping his shirt and almost breaking his hand before she got her epidural.

Most of my “family history” details are similar to these, that is, they usually start with me. Of course, I’ve always known that my father was born somewhere near Tel Aviv, that he went to yeshiva from a young age, that he has two degrees from Bar-Ilan. I’ve always known that my mother was born in Ashkelon, the seventh of seven children, that her father owned a movie theater, that everyone recognized their last name. My father was an officer in the army. My mother was considered the beauty queen of her small town. I grew up with all these pebbles of information, but I could never make a mountain out of them. I could barely make a hill. But I tried anyway, knowing that Israel was the foundation, untouchable. After all those years in America, my parents neglected to take me to their motherland.

My first trip to Israel was nine months long. I was just shy of eighteen. My mother told me not to go; my father took me. While my friends were unpacking in their dorm rooms in California, my father pointed out his old apartment to me in Tel Aviv. While my mother went to bed in Thousand Oaks, her sister showed me pictures of her family– my family–that I had never seen. My cousin drove me by a site of ancient ruins I had just seen my mother laughing on in an old photo. I sat with soldiers wearing uniforms my parents donned thirty years prior. I ate the food that they too had eaten, I hiked the same trails, and I spoke their language.

A lot of people seem to find themselves in this country. People are moved to tears at the Kotel. They are astounded by the many climates and terrains they find themselves hiking through, they are inspired by the teenagers in uniform, and many even enlist themselves. Personally, I didn’t think I needed to be “found.” I was over the Kotel in about fifteen minutes. I wasn’t bombarded with overwhelming urgency to enlist. I didn’t find myself in Israel–I found my history. I found the lost chapters of my parents’ lives. I found out where I came from, and where I could have been all this time, and who I could have been, had things gone just a little differently. Moreover, I found my future. I am now involved in explaining to others what Israel truly means for this world, an explanation I didn’t truly receive until just over three years ago.

With every passing moment, I am making up for time lost. I could have been in Israel every summer since my birth, like many other Jews. Instead, I am writing from Haifa on my third trip to Israel. They say third’s the charm, but charm I experienced a while back. Now I’m just getting settled, eating absolutely everything, and taking it all in. I made it back home.

Maya Fried is a current Hasbara Fellow and active member of MishelanuLA, she is also an Onward Israel participant.

Israel, A Story From Birth

[su_intro]Having been lucky enough to be born in Jerusalem, my Israel story started at birth – and it has continued to change me ever since.[/su_intro]

It is hard to explain what it was like growing up in Israel – the joy, anger, fear, sadness, happiness and pride were all emotions that the country, the nation, and the people of Israel all feel together. There seems to be a common understanding shared by you and your neighbors that you represent something much bigger than yourself. Therefore, when Israel succeeds there is a sense that all of its people have succeeded, and when it fails the entire nation weeps. More importantly, I believe that if I fail Israel, then I have failed much more than just a simple state – and that notion will forever inspire me to write a happy ending in my chapter as part of this nation’s celebrated book.