JERUSALEM – Masa Israel Journey and the National Public Diplomacy Directorate within the Prime Minister's Office have launched a joint effort to raise awareness of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in both traditional and new media. The goal of the effort is to show that Israeli civilians are under attack from Hamas in the Gaza Strip and explain to the world that Israel embarked on a defensive operation under the banner, "Israel Under Fire."
Volunteers have contributed their time out of a desire to show the world what is really happening in Israel and out of a sense of attachment to the country. The volunteers are helping translate materials into their native tongues, adapt the messaging to their specific national audiences, and contribute their own unique perspectives based on their experiences in Israel. They post on Facebook and Twitter, respond to falsehoods, expose Hamas lies, share explanatory YouTube videos, and attempt both raise awareness and challenge the discourse on social media.
Volunteers are conveying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's primary message in this conflict: "The difference between us and Hamas is that we use rocket defense systems to protect the people of Israel, and they use the people of Gaza to protect their rocket arsenal." The prime minister has been emphasizing this point in media interviews and in conversations with world leaders and it has gone viral thanks, in part, to the volunteers' social media efforts.
Masa Israel Journey, a partnership between the Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel that is currently celebrating its tenth year, brings Jewish young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to experience life Israel for 5-10 months on 250 unique programs aimed at strengthening their Jewish identity and connection to Israel. Some 86,000 Jewish young people have participated in Masa programs thus far. Masa participants have contributed approximately one million volunteer hours to Israeli society, in areas such as education, at-risk youth, immigrant absorption, strengthening underprivileged neigborhoods, and so on.
Sarah Hayum, a 21-year-old Masa participant from Luxembourg volunteering in the public diplomacy war room, said: "I saw how the international media is treating the situation in Israel and Gaza. My Facebook feed was full of pro-Palestinian claims against Israel. I couldn't just stand by. I needed to do something and show the world—to the extent I can—how wrong they are."
Masa Israel Journey CEO Liran Avisar Ben Horin said: "This is a critical partnership for all those taking part in the public diplomacy war room, particularly at a time like this, when the other side is fighting us on social media in an effort to win hearts and minds. The Masa volunteers' immediate mobilization is praiseworthy and I thank them for giving of their time out of a true sense of belonging. This is what true love of Israel, and Zionism, look like."