When we think of Iran and Israel, we think of war, we think of nuclear bombs, cultural eradication, mutual hatred. We are fed a message of hate, but with the Internet at our fingertips, every day people are taking peace into their own hands.
There is more to the story of Iran and Israel than we are ever shown. The Iranian Jewish community has existed for centuries, at times thriving. When Israel was created, many Iranian Jews moved to the new country, bringing their Iranian traditions with them. Families are split across national borders. To see each other they must fly to nearby Turkey, then catch flights to their intended destination. For years phone calls have been notoriously difficult. Now, with the help of the Internet, people from both countries are once again discovering their common ground and their mutual interest in peace. They are fighting back against the 24-hour news cycle which declares that there is only war and friction.
Ronny Edry is an Israeli graphic designer, a man who knows the importance of an image. Last year, when it looked as if Iran and Israel were determined to begin yet another war, he had an idea. He took a picture of himself and his daughter holding the Israeli flag. Underneath he placed the words “Iranians. we will never bomb your country, We love you.” Edry posted it on Facebook and went to bed. By the next morning, the image had gone viral.
Much to Edry’s surprise, the supportive and encouraging comments were not just from other Israelis but from Iranians as well. Somehow in the night the image had crossed through what had seemed an impenetrable barrier. Soon people from all over Facebook began sending in images of themselves to have the message “ Israel (heart) Iran” put on them. As the message spread across the Web, Iranians started responding with their own pictures and “Iran (heart) Israel”. For every picture of an Israeli a picture of an Iranian could be found. Israeli/Iranian couples and friends began sending images of themselves together with their passports in view. With Facebook groups like “Israel loves Iran” and “ Iran loves Israel” gaining ground, other countries joined in. Soon there were support groups across the globe.
No bleeding heart peacenik, Edry was a paratrooper in the Israeli army for three years. He believes that people need to be their own ambassadors. “This is the courageous thing to do,” Edry said in a Ted talk in Jaffa, Israel in 2012, “to try to reach the other side before it’s too late.” The Israel Loves Iran campaign is going strong, drawing “Likes” and favorable comments from all over the world.•