Hosted by IZZY co-founder Josh Hoffman, This Week From Israel is a podcast that publishes new episodes every Tuesday!
Topic of the Week: Israel’s Role in Global Anti-Semitism
The last few weeks I’ve been talking to a lot of people from different parts of the world: Australia, Europe, the United States, South America, and of course Israel. While these people come from different cultures and backgrounds, and span a variety of ages and religious beliefs, the sentiment from all of them was the same: Israel’s brand image — how it’s portrayed in the media — following the most recent military escalation with the Gaza Strip, is not only pitiful … it’s also having direct effects on worldwide anti-Semitism and of course, anti-Israel sentiment.
In 2014, when I first experienced the Israeli-Palestianian Conflict face-to-face, I was less than two years living in Israel, still discovering the culture, people, and history … kind of in the honeymoon stage, you could say. So when Operation Protective Edge (known as tzook eitan in Hebrew) came during the summer of 2014, I was non-stop immersed in the hour-by-hour news, checking it feverishly. And I was highly defensive of Israel, both on social media and in interpersonal conversations. It was if, in my eyes, Israel could do no wrong.
This time around, I took a completely different approach. I disconnected from social media and the news almost altogether, and prevented myself from getting into deep conversations with people abroad about what was going on in Israel. I tried to stay objective and emotion-less. And as I did, I couldn’t help but realize that the State of Israel is ultimately to blame — or to be held responsible — for its feeble global brand image, which has unfortunate effects on Israelis and non-Israeli Jews living around the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe Israel has every right to unapologetically defend itself against enemy fire. And while I am totally in favor of peace, quiet, and zero civilian deaths on all sides, I also know that when someone attacks you indiscriminately, you don’t just fight back. You fight back with the idea of deterring future attacks, and weakening your enemy.
But when it comes to how the world perceives Israel, especially in times of military conflict, Israel continues to fail embarrassingly on multiple fronts. Israel is a mighty country, not just militarily, but also economically, technologically, geopolitically, and what I call “the most talent per capita in the world.”
And the tools of what they call “nation branding” have never been more ever-present, immediately accessible, and highly inexpensive: things like social media, digital content, influencer marketing, search engine marketing, etc. The idea that little third-world Hamas can “out-compete” Israel in marketing and PR is simply absurd, and the time has come for Israel to truly rethink and re-strategize how it develops its brand (and sub-brands like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) across the world.
What gets lost in these tools of nation branding is the content, or what they call “the creative” in the marketing and advertising worlds. Just because you use social media or influencer marketing or search engine marketing as tools doesn’t mean the content that you use to drive them is building a positive, inspiring, and impactful brand image.
Take, for example, Israel’s most well-known brand around the world. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint: The word Israel is in the name of the brand. Any last guesses before I tell you? Israel’s number-one brand around the world is… the Israel Defense Forces.
You don’t even want to know how much money the IDF invests in marketing and PR today. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently wrote that, if you take all the people who serve in the IDF’s spokesperson’s unit — the unit responsible for the IDF’s marketing and PR — this unit easily becomes the biggest marketing and PR firm in the entire Middle East.
Think about that, and then think about other countries and their most well-known brands: Germany is known for its cars (BMW, Mercedes and Audi, for example); the UK is known for its music (Adele, the Beatles, Elton John, etc); Thailand is known for its massages; Brazil is known for its soccer; America is known for its consumer brands, like Apple, Starbucks, and Netflix. And Israel is known for its army.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s nothing short of incredible that tiny Israel has mustered up the world’s most impressive army, pound-for-pound. But in 2021 and moving forward, if your army is mainly what you’re known for by the worldwide masses, I’m not sure this is the best strategy for a bonafide nation brand, no matter how amazing the country actually is.
Of course I’m frustrated about this, which started boiling inside of me immediately after Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and ultimately concluding with the founding of IZZY in 2020. Now more than ever, Israel needs a diverse, positive, and uplifting brand image — which I’m proud to say we take very seriously at IZZY — so the next time Israel inevitably finds itself in a quarrel with our unfriendly neighbors, the world’s citizens don’t frown upon Israel so much, and our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world can truly live in peace.
IZZY Updates: IZZY Gift Cards
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For more about the IZZY gift cards, please visit: www.helloisrael.tv/gifts
Someone Special – Tracy Alexander
Originally from Australia, Tracy made “aliyah” to Israel and became one of the top news anchors and journalists for Israel-based i24NEWs. I met Tracy in one of my previous media ventures and she’s honestly one of the sweetest, most authentic people I’ve met.
Today Tracy is somewhat of a life coach who specializes in meditation and self-talk strategies. I subscribe to her email newsletter and I can tell you that meditation and self-talk are two of the most important parts of my life as well, running a high-pressure startup among other things.
Tracy has an academic background in Cognitive Psychology, and she’s trained in both Vedic Meditation and a psycho-somatic healing methodology known as Integrated Touch Balance. Based on these techniques, Tracy has developed programs that can help you level-up your life, both mentally and physically remove blockages, boost your self-belief, and make your mind an asset not an enemy.
One Good Thing
Israel’s ancient Bedouin culture gets new life online — from our friends at ISRAEL21c
“Israel’s Bedouin community has undergone major shifts in the past decades, transforming from a nomadic people into a more modern one complete with town dwelling, formal education and technology,” Naama Barak writes for the website ISRAEL21c.
“But this change came with the danger that the ancient Bedouin traditions could become completely forgotten with the passage of time.”
A new collection in the works at the National Library of Israel preserves some 50 years of the Israeli Bedouin community’s history, carried out by a world-renowned expert. It will be made freely available online within the next year.
The collection will be based on the archives of Clinton Bailey, a US-born Israeli Middle East expert who for 50 years collected materials from the last Bedouin generation to grow up in the pre-modern period, making them an invaluable source of an orally transmitted ancient civilization.
Bailey first came across the Bedouin when he was working as an English teacher in the Negev Desert.
“I used to jog in the desert, and they were out with their flocks and herds and we spoke and they invited me to their tents, and I saw it was a very unusual and probably very old culture and I wanted to record as much of it as I could before it disappeared,” Clinton told ISRAEL21c.
“So I spent the next 50 years doing so.I bought a jeep and a tape recorder and went around. I met and stayed with hundreds and hundreds of people. In many groups I was even a member of the family, in a metaphorical way.”