Camels and TV channels? Hasbara misses the point.

Israel’s new Ministry of Hasbara and Diaspora is not a shocking development, though probably ten years late. The thing is, it seems it’s completely missing the point. The heart is in the right place, but the message is… a bit off.

The videos on the homepage: Do British people honestly think we ride camels? Who cares if the Spanish don’t think we cook in indoor kitchens? The only one of the video examples on the new government-funded hasbara website that might actually make sense is the French woman reporting on gun shots heard all over Israel all the time. Acceptable, as it’s what a lot of people abroad (Jewish or not) truly tend to think after watching news coverage.

Then there are the tips offered when speaking to non-Israelis on your travels. Connect to someone by using broad hand motions, wavering voice tone and good body posture when speaking about Israel to someone else.  Ok, I’m simplifying it, a lot of the advice makes sense – body language is important. But. It’s a shame there is no mention of learning about the other culture before you go; studying the etiquette and ways of that region so you don’t make a wrong gesture or tone of voice and offend your hosts. I find that cultural-awareness and respect for other kinds of people is a problem, even inside our borders.

But the biggest thing the campaign completely misses: Derech eretz. Remembering who you are wherever you are, minding your manners and being a good example. Israelis have a reputation for traveling with no etiquette, no empathy and no concept that everyone is watching and making judgments. When you’re a guest in an another country, you have to play by their rules, or, yes, feel unwelcome.

And I don’t know that jumping on every native, waving your hands in a loud voice, talking up your own country is going to do just that. Maybe the best thing is to be a polite, appreciative, curious, memorable person who sets a great example of what Israel is deep down.

A day for (small-town) democracy.

It’s a day for democracy everywhere, isn’t it?

I know what you think I mean, but actually I’m talking about the Matte Yehuda Regional Council and Tzur Hadassah local council elections held today. 

Who knew that such a little town could make such a big deal out of its leadership? Apparently Tzur Hadassah is the biggest town in the Matte Yehuda region and the constant goal is independence. All that sums up to about one thing: a whole lot of campaigning around the Tzur Hadassah block.

The elections campaigns that ran through Tzur Hadassah the past few months have been humorously intense. I’ve enjoyed all the door-to-door late-night doorbell ringing (11pm last night, folks), the personalized candies, the endless waste of printed paper, the decorative mailbox-stuffing, the half-torn outdoor posters.  We read our share of mud-slinging, inaccurate polls, biased articles. All that for an area with some thousands people. 

It was a cute, quaint, small-town elections experience. Fairly quick, all things considered. 

And now on to bigger and more complex elections… Coming to a kalpi near you on February 10th.