Chairman of ISRAEL21c Zvi Alon – ISRAEL21c’s activities are dynamic and ever-changing – evolving as quickly as the world of modern media and communications.Every new organization begins with a dream: a vision of what it hopes to accomplish.
Few people who initiate a new venture are lucky enough to see their vision realized – fewer still are able to see the organization begin to have impact far beyond what they originally imagined.
This, however, has been the case with ISRAEL21c.
Four years ago, on Nov 1, 2001, I inaugurated this website with the following statement:
“Our organization has one goal above all others – to shine a light on the Israel that is virtually obscured by today’s headlines about violence, conflict and upheaval. In so doing, we seek to build a better understanding of the Israel of the 21st century.”
Looking back over the past four years – this declaration of intent turned out to be an understatement: our initial accomplishments have gone beyond what those of us who founded ISRAEL21c envisioned and we have evolved to a new understanding of an even broader mission that now stands before us.
While we didn’t intentionally set out to create a model for a new paradigm for Israel’s public relations effort that would deeply interest and inspire not only the organized American and international Jewish communities but many of the decision makers in the government of Israel itself – that is what we have done.
We couldn’t have asked for a better gift for our fourth birthday than the October 14th article in the weekly newspaper The Forward reporting that Israel’s three most important ministries – the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, and the Finance Ministry met and agreed to adopt the philosophy that drives ISRAEL21c and the concepts we have worked hard to advocate and implement.
The newspaper reported that: “The meeting is the latest manifestation of a growing movement – begun in America – to “re-brand” Israel, or to reinvent the country’s image in the eyes of both Jews and non-Jews. The driving concept is that Israel will win supporters only if it is seen as relevant and modern rather than only as a place of fighting and religion.”
It continued: “The new approach to Israeli image control first began to take on institutional form about four years ago with the founding of ISRAEL21c, a small California-based group that has worked with public relations experts to place news stories about Israel that do not focus on the conflict with the Palestinians.”
The newspaper story was reporting what top-ranking Israeli officials have been telling ISRAEL21c since our inception – that our approach and perspective has filled a vital need – providing a path to move past the short-term ‘crisis management’ approach to Israel’s image-making, to a long-term, systematic approach, with an emphasis on the Israel that exists beyond the conflict with its neighbors.
The approach that we have advocated and that the Israeli government has adopted seeks to adjust the way in which the world views Israel, by showing it the country I described back in 2001: the Israel that generates tremendous foreign investment in technology because of the intellectual capital and know-how it possesses; the Israel that leads virtually all nations in the world in medicine, biotechnology and science – resulting in breakthroughs that enhance the quality of life and eradicate disease; and the Israel that can offer the United States a great deal of knowledge about how a small nation that aspires to pluralistic democracy and freedom deals with terrorists who seek its destruction.
The newspaper’s description of our organization’s activities, however, only touched briefly on what our small but highly effective organization has been doing over the past four years.
Most visibly, each week, the ISRAEL21c website has attracted tens of thousands of readers to the articles published which report on the accomplishments of Israel in the fields of health, technology, culture, and global democracy. In addition to the direct visitors to our website, the stories we have written have been picked up and reprinted by thousands of websites, newspapers, organizational newsletters and media around the world.
In addition, working with two public relations agencies which target two market segments, we have placed thousands of articles in major American publications and items on US television outlets, which report on 21st century Israel. We have sponsored reporters’ trips to Israel for American journalists so that they themselves can view the Israel of high tech development and advanced medical research, the Israel where culture, creativity and innovation thrive, and the Israel which is a force for decency and democracy in the world.
In 2001, I pledged to cooperate with other groups whenever possible, declaring that “we do not presume to supplant the efforts underway by other organizations seeking to educate or advocate on behalf of Israel. We seek to engage with them, partner with them when appropriate and share the information we gather.”
We have fulfilled this promise to an impressive extent – through the United Jewish Communities FedWeb, our stories appear on a regular basis on the websites of Jewish federations throughout the United States, so that American Jews can learn more about an Israel they can be proud of and relate to. Cooperating closely with major organizations such as Hillel, AIPAC, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the American-Israel Friendship League, we have also provided content for their websites and addressed gatherings of their organizations.
Further proof of our success has been the fact that far more quickly than we imagined, Israel’s supporters in countries other than the United States have solicited our help in showing their countrymen to the Israel of the 21st century.
We are embarking on our second year of publishing a website in conjunction with the Canada-Israel Committee: ‘Israel In the 21st Century’, which focuses specifically on the contributions that Israel makes to Canada and as we celebrate our fourth birthday today, a similar parallel program begins in the UK with our partner BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.
We now translate our articles into both French for distribution in France and in Quebec and into Spanish which will soon be distributed in the discrete Latino press serving the ever-increasingly important Hispanic population in the United States. We are now investigating translating into Chinese and other languages, perhaps including Hebrew and Arabic.
ISRAEL21c’s activities are dynamic and ever-changing – evolving as quickly as the world of modern media and communications, which advances every day at a tremendous speed. But our vision is clear and focused. So while we may not be able to imagine precisely what we will be doing four years from now, we know that our priorities will remain the same: directing the attention of as many people as possible to the extraordinary contributions Israel’s society makes to the world community every day.