“Israel Loves Iran” may be the most unlikely title for a social networking campaign yet.
Whether in spite of its outlandishness or because of it, however, the movement has picked up an extraordinary amount of momentum in the short time since a Tel Aviv father and teacher named Ronny Edry launched it on a whim with this opening salvo posted on Facebook in English:
“To all the fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters:
“For there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate.
I’m not afraid of you, I don’t hate you.
I don’t even know you.
“I’m not an official representative of my country. I’m a father and a teacher. I know the streets of my town, I talk with my neighbors, my family, my students, my friends and in the name of all these people … we love you.
We mean you no harm.
On the contrary, we want to meet, have some coffee and talk about sports.”
This message accompanied two photo posters showing Edry and his wife and children alongside the words, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country, we [heart] you.” Produced by graphic arts students at Pushpin Mechina, they’ve since been co-opted as a template for others to add their faces to the page.
Messages from Iran
Within 48 hours, Edry began receiving messages from Iranians, some of whom even wanted to “friend” him on Facebook.
“We also love you. Your words are reaching us despite the censorship,” wrote one of them, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “The Iranian people, apart from the regime, do not hold a grudge nor animosity against anyone, especially not the Israelis… We never saw Israelis as our enemies. As such, the regime cannot gain public support for war.”
Another message called the Iranian leader “nothing more than an opportunist, and more than anything — an idiot. Everyone hates him. We love you, love peace. And thanks for your message.”
Responses are rolling in from regular folks in a variety of countries, and even from some celebrities, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Alice Walker, who called Israel Loves Iran a “wonderful website.”
On March 21, as Facebook tallied 7,399 “likes” for the page, an Israeli added these two cents to the dialogue: “My name is Shmulik and I’m from Israel. I just want to tell you guys that the Israel citizens don’t want to fight with you or anyone. We just want quiet and peace because we deserve that like everyone in this world. Let’s stop together with all the hate. Let’s stop with all the bad and negative propaganda. Let’s create a better place to live.”
To be sure, the idea that a Facebook dialogue can defuse the looming specter of war seems farfetched and possibly even ill-considered to many in Israel and abroad, who feel Edry’s people-to-people approach fails to acknowledge that a military threat may be the only way to deflect a serious danger to Israel’s existence.
But Edry is encouraged by the people power of his campaign. Here is his latest Facebook post: “Today we received and share[d] so many messages, from Iran and Israel of course, but also from the US, Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Australia, Egypt, Lebanon, Sweden, Denmark, Bosnia, Monaco. Our message was broadcast in all these countries. … We are reaching the heart of the world. I’m going to sleep tonight with a big smile on my face and I thank you for that.”