Originally published in Israel Today
Young people from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen and many other Arab countries are turning to social media to tell the world that they love Israel.
The trend began, according to Al-Monitor, a popular pan-Mideast media outlet, when an Israeli Arab Muslim who served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) wanted to convince other Israeli Arabs that the (IDF) are not an “army of evil” and that its soldiers are not as bloodthirsty as they tend to be portrayed in Arab propaganda films.
But instead of messages from the Israeli Arab audience he was targeting, he began receiving messages of peace and love from young Arabs all across the region.
M., who told his story to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, noticed that the Arab-Israeli political parties were putting up billboards protesting against recruiting Israeli Arabs into the IDF. “I saw the signs that were hung in Arab villages being run by activists of Balad and the other Arab parties under the banner ‘The IDF isn’t worth it’. It infuriated me,” he said.
“I decided to respond to them on Facebook, so I made a page called ‘The IDF is worth it’, but instead of getting responses from the young Israeli Arabs to whom I was directing my personal campaign, I started to get photos and texts from young people around the Arab world. My jaw dropped,” M. told the website.
One young woman from Saudi Arabia posted a video holding a green Saudi passport against a street scene in Jeddah, saying in the background: “Good evening. I am a young woman from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. I am a member of one of the better-known tribes of the Hijaz, and I am showing you Darajeh Square, a famous landmark in Jeddah. I’d like to send a message of peace and love to Israel and its dear citizens. I know it is surprising that a Saudi Arabian citizen sends a message to the people of Israel, but it is a basic principle of democracy that everyone is free to voice an opinion. I hope the Arabs will be sensible like me and recognize the fact that Israel also has rights to the lands of Palestine.”
A young man from Iraq posted a picture of his passport along the Tigris River. “I want to send a message of peace and love to the dear Israeli people,” he said. “I decided to shoot this video and tell you, ‘True, we are two countries that do not have friendly relations, but that doesn’t matter. I believe that the number of people who support Israel here will grow consistently.’”
Other young people send M. photos of their passports with handwritten messages in Hebrew, Arabic and English. It is always the same: “We love Israel.”
M. also engages the senders in private conversations. “After I got a video from Baghdad, I asked the person who sent me the clip what it was that caused him to express support for Israel.” The Iraqi man responded, “You’d be surprised. I’m not the only one. There are a lot of young people here who think like me. Everything that is happening to us here in Iraq — the killings, the terrorism, the veritable bloodbath — showed us that Israel has nothing to do with it. There are many young people… they are fed up with the religious wars between Sunnis and Shiites.”
Of course, there is also a growing pro-Israel sentiment among young Israeli Arabs, especially Christians. Ehab Ashkar, an Arab believer from Nazareth, had this to say when Israel Todayasked him about the phenomenon:
“As an Arab who lives in Israel, it is a great honor for me to live side by side with my brothers the Jews. I bless them and love them and it is a privilege to tell them about my faith in their book, the Bible. There is a real way that we can live together in love, unity and peace, Arabs and Jews – through our prince of peace, Jesus Christ.”