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Monday, February 22, 2010

Booklet explains how to explain Israel

This initiative, which is obviously necessary, has been greeted with some derision and protest by Israeli media. In addition to political objections, we must note that not everyone is going to be good at getting the message across, no matter how much training they get. Qualities like personal magnetism, the ability to stay calm and to project sincerity  and a talent for thinking on your feet are all essential to good advocacy.
It seems we are doomed to live with the use of "PR" to mean advocacy, and the proliferation of announcements about "PR initiatives" that have little follow up.  
Ami Isseroff
If reserve military duty wasn't enough for them, Israeli tourists are invited to join efforts to improve State's image abroad. Ministry of Information launches campaign, complete with training centers. Remember: Israel developed cherry tomatoes
Itamar Eichner Published:  02.21.10, 09:03 / Israel Travel 
At a party in Goa, on the top of the Eiffel Tower, in the streets of Manhattan, in the jungles of Brazil or in a Dubai hotel – you can never know when an Israeli tourist will come across prejudice and negative impressions of his distant homeland, but it's pretty certain it'll happen at some point. Now we'll all have a response ready.

"Sick of how they see us abroad? You can do something to change the picture" – this is the slogan aimed at all Israeli citizens who go abroad. The Ministry of Information and Diaspora has launched an advertising campaign which includes setting up a website, distributing booklets to Israelis taking off at Ben-Gurion Airport, and coaching courses for official delegations – the first public diplomacy campaign in Israel's history.

During recent months the anti-Israel wave has increased around the world, reaching verbal and even physical violence at times. Arrest warrants against Israeli politicians, anti-Semitic events and disturbances during lectures given by Israeli officials – our representatives have seen it all.
Only last week, there were disturbances at lectures given by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in Oxford, UK, and Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, in the University of Southern California.
A survey carried out for the Ministry of Information and Diaspora under MK Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Likud) revealed that 91% of Israeli citizens believe that Israel's image abroad is extremely negative. Some 85% were ready to join the effort to improve this image.
What can be done? The new project, launched Wednesday, aims to train citizens to be Israel's PR representatives. As part of the project, an extensive media campaign is underway to encourage Israelis to enter the website and learn how they can help.
The Ministry will also distribute booklets containing most of the information available on the website to the three million Israelis going abroad each year. Israeli airlines El Al, Israir and Arkia have agreed to distribute the leaflets too.
The booklet begins, "Before you fly, allow us to tell you about the project, "Explaining Israel". How many times have you come across information about Israel that is nowhere near the truth? Probably many times. Now's the time to help."
Among other things, the booklet explains how to get important messages across. "Personal stories, feelings and experiences – share them. We're all human. Present new points of view – it's worth noting that each side has its own version of events. Speak concisely – long speeches are likely to lose your audience's interest. Clear sentences aid understanding. Use humor – it always helps."
If you want to impress your audience, you can present a number of positive items: Israel is the only state in the world in which the number of trees has not fallen in the 21st century. Israeli inventions: Drip irrigation systems, a system for beaming pictures from space back to the earth, desert agricultural techniques, and much more. And the grand finale: Israel developed the most popular varieties of cherry tomatoes.
The website also details myths about Israel common abroad and the real situation in contrast.
One such myth: "Israel is a huge country", and the appropriate response: "Not true. Israel is one of the smallest states in the world. India is 150 times bigger, Germany 16 times, and Italy 13 times. Israelis make up just one thousandth of the world's population."
Another example: "Israelis don't really want peace," and the suggested rejoinder: "Not true. Despite seven wars and terror that has continued for more than six decades, Israel has made huge concessions for the sake of peace with its neighbors Egypt and Jordan."
Edelstein told Yedioth Ahronoth on Tuesday, "In light of Israel's negative image abroad, the Ministry of Information and Diaspora understood that in response to the vast sums invested by Arab states in their propaganda against us, we have to recruit our human capital – Israel's citizens."
Why do Israelis have barbeques?
The campaign was planned after extensive research using surveys and focus groups. One part of the campaign includes three television clips which present the problem of Israel's image in a humorous manner.
In one clip, a British TV presenter tells viewers that the camel is the most common form of transport in Israel, used for transporting goods, water, riders and ammunition in the desert. In another clip, a Spanish journalist says that Israel has no modern means of cooking, which is why residents have barbeques in the park.
Some of the content of the booklet is likely to raise differences of opinion even among Israelis. The booklet notes proudly that minority rights of Arab Israelis are respected, and as proof of this presents Rana Raslan – the Arab Israeli woman who won Israel's 1999 beauty contest. Key moments in Israel's history are presented, including the Balfour Declaration, the Eichmann trial and Israel's wars side by side with successes in the Eurovision Song Contest and European basketball, as well as the field hospital in Haiti following that country's devastating earthquake.
The Ministry has also set up information centers around the country which will hold coaching workshops, adjusted to suit the group being trained. Various groups will be invited to take part including ministers, MKs, diplomats, military officers, businesspersons, guides, celebrities, sportspersons and youth group delegations.
Private individuals who go abroad often can also benefit from professional training in various centers. It is hoped that thousands will undergo training, which is offered by the company Debate.


Continued (Permanent Link)

The J Street boycott that probably never was

According to the Israel Forein Ministry:
Foreign Ministry blasts group for 'premeditated public relations circus' on delegation visit to Israel.
The American "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby group J Street made "untrue assertions" about an alleged boycott of the congressional delegation it recently brought to Israel, and about Israel allegedly apologizing to the group for the slight, a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
"[Deputy Foreign Minister Danny] Ayalon did not prevent the delegation from meeting with senior Israeli officials," as claimed by J Street last week, said Barukh Binah, Foreign Ministry deputy director-general and head of its North America Division.
"Ayalon was never part of the delegation's schedule and talk of boycotting meetings with congressman has no basis in fact. On the contrary, the deputy foreign minister is always willing to meet with elected officials from any friendly country, especially the United States of America, and [with] Jewish organizations which represent a range of diverse views from across the political spectrum."
Binah also rejected the "subsequent assertion that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs apologized in hastily arranged meetings," which he said was simply not true.
A senior Foreign Ministry official who asked to remain anonymous blasted the group for "coming to the region with the intention of creating headlines, perhaps for fund-raising purposes. The media and the congressmen became unwilling participants in a premeditated public relations circus. It is extremely disappointing that a so-called pro-Israel organization would put self-aggrandizement ahead of the interests of the State of Israel."
Meanwhile, questions were raised in Israel about the pro-Israel credentials of the five-member congressional delegation brought by J Street, composed of California Democrats Lois Capps and Bob Filner, Massachusetts Democrat Bill Delahunt, New Jersey Democrat Donald Payne and Ohio Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy.
While J Street chairman Jeremy Ben-Ami asserted that the delegation members were "key friends of Israel in Congress," a recent vote on House Resolution 867, which slammed the Goldstone Report and reaffirmed Israel's right to self-defense, saw only one of the five voting in Israel's favor.

The resolution passed 344 to 36, with 22 voting "present" and 20 not voting.
Among delegation members, only Kilroy voted with the majority in favor of the resolution, which was deemed in Jerusalem an important pro-Israel bellwether. Capps and Filner voted against, delegation head Delahunt voted "present" and Payne did not cast a vote. Reached for comment on Sunday, a J Street official declined to respond to the allegation, except to say that the congressional delegation's concern came from news reports of a Foreign Ministry boycott in Israeli newspapers including Ma'ariv and Yediot Aharonot.
If there was no boycott, J Street and its supporters successfully staged an elaborate hoax, since Israeli Media had story after story about the boycott, and op-eds whining that Israel can't afford to reject J Street. If the Foreign Ministry assertions are correct, then J Street probably planted the media stories that it now cites as the source of the information about the boycott. Doesn't it sound fishy when a group says they got news of a boycott of their group from the media? Couldn't they check with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs first?
Ami Isseroff  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tenth Century BC Jerusalem wall uncovered - possibly built by Solomon

This discovery is the fruit of the controversial archeological work in Silwan. TIME magazine and others complain that Jerusalem Municipality and "right-wing" archeologists are conspiring to displace the Arab squatters in the area. However the real motive for Palestinian objections to the digs may be that every such discovery helps to cement the Jewish claim on ancient Jerusalem, which is denied by the Palestinians. The findings are of course open to interpretation. Other archeologists may not be as certain as Mazar is that the wall was built by King Solomon, but the findings are certainly of great interest to archeologists and to the world.  

10th century BCE Jerusalem Wall Uncovered

Hebrew Unviersity excavations have revealed a section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem from the tenth century B.C.E. - possibly built by King Solomon.

Jerusalem city wall from 10th century B.C.E. uncovered Dr. Eilat Mazar next to an 8 meter section of the corner tower that was excavated
A section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem from the tenth century B.C.E. - possibly built by King Solomon - has been revealed in archaeological excavations directed by Dr. Eilat Mazar and conducted under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The section of the city wall revealed, 70 meters long and six meters high, is located in the area known as the Ophel, between the City of David and the southern wall of the Temple Mount.

Uncovered in the city wall complex are: an inner gatehouse for access into the royal quarter of the city, a royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse, and a corner tower that overlooks a substantial section of the adjacent Kidron valley. 

The excavations in the Ophel area were carried out over a three-month period with funding provided by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, a New York couple interested in Biblical Archeology. The funding supports both completion of the archaeological excavations and processing and analysis of the finds as well as conservation work and preparation of the site for viewing by the public within the Ophel Archaeological Park and the national park around the walls of Jerusalem.

The excavations were carried out in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the East Jerusalem Development Company. Archaeology students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as volunteer students from the Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma, and hired workers all participated in the excavation work.

"The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence. Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering," Mazar said. The city wall is at the eastern end of the Ophel area in a high, strategic location atop the western slop of the Kidron valley. "A comparison of this latest finding with city walls and gates from the period of the First Temple, as well as pottery found at the site, enable us to postulate with a great degree of assurance that the wall that has been revealed is that which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem in the latter part of the tenth century B.C.E.," said Mazar.

"This is the first time that a structure from that time has been found that may correlate with written descriptions of Solomon's building in Jerusalem," she added. "The Bible tells us that Solomon built - with the assistance of the Phoenicians, who were outstanding builders - the Temple and his new palace and surrounded them with a city, most probably connected to the more ancient wall of the City of David." Mazar specifically cites the third chapter of the First Books of Kings where it refers to "until he (Solomon) had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about." 

The six-meter-high gatehouse of the uncovered city wall complex is built in a style typical of those from the period of the First Temple like Megiddo, Beersheva and Ashdod. It has symmetrical plan of four identical small rooms, two on each side of the main passageway.  Also there was a large, adjacent tower, covering an area of 24 by 18 meters, which was intended to serve as a watchtower to protect entry to the city. The tower is located today under the nearby road and still needs to be excavated.  Nineteenth century British surveyor Charles Warren, who conducted an underground survey in the area, first described the outline of the large tower in 1867 but without attributing it to the era of Solomon.

"Part of the city wall complex served as commercial space and part as security stations," explained Mazar. Within the courtyard of the large tower there were widespread public activities, she said. It served as a public meeting ground, as a place for conducting commercial activities and cult activities, and as a location for economic and legal activities.

Pottery shards discovered within the fill of the lowest floor of the royal building near the gatehouse also testify to the dating of the complex to the 10th century B.C.E. Found on the floor were remnants of large storage jars, 1.15 meters in height, that survived destruction by fire and that were found in rooms that apparently served as storage areas on the ground floor of the building. On one of the jars there is a partial inscription in ancient Hebrew indicating it belonged to a high-level government official.

"The jars that were found are the largest ever found in Jerusalem," said Mazar, adding that "the inscription that was found on one of them shows that it belonged to a government official, apparently the person responsible for overseeing the provision of baked goods to the royal court."
Handles of jars inscribed with 'to the king' that were found at the
excavation site (Photo: Sasson Tiram)

In addition to the pottery shards, cult figurines were also found in the area, as were seal impressions on jar handles with the word "to the king," testifying to their usage within the monarchy. Also found were seal impressions (bullae) with Hebrew names, also indicating the royal nature of the structure. Most of the tiny fragments uncovered came from intricate wet sifting done with the help of the salvaging Temple Mount Sifting Project, directed by Dr. Gabriel Barkai and Zachi Zweig, under the auspice of the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation.

Between the large tower at the city gate and the royal building the archaeologists uncovered a section of the corner tower that is eight meters in length and six meters high. The tower was built of carved stones of unusual beauty.
East of the royal building, another section of the city wall that extends for some 35 meters also was revealed. This section is five meters high, and is part of the wall that continues to the northeast and once enclosed the Ophel area.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Poll: Americans love Israel

Israel's place in the hearts of Americans may have  deteriorated slightly, but remains high. According to a new Gallup poll  released over the weekend, Israel ranks fifth among the countries viewed most favorably by Americans, behind Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Japan. 67% of Americans have a favorable view of Israel. India got a slighly less favorable rating of 66%.
A similar poll in 2008 gave Israel a 71% approval rating, somewhat higher than the present results, but in that poll all the high ranking countries had more favorable scores than they did in the current poll. In any case, friction with the Obama administration and the Gaza war have not really affected American sympathies for Israel, according to these results. As might be expected, Gallup polls taken in other contexts seem to yield somewhat different results. When asked whether they favor Israel or the Arabs, only about 59% of Americans say they favor Israel. However, this percentage has increased over the years since 1967.
 Only 10% of American respondents had a faborable view of Iran in the current poll, 20% had a favorable view of the Palestinian Authority. Republicans like Israel somewhat more than Democrats.
Israel does not seem to have a real "image problem" in the United States. European perceptions of Israel are a different matter.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

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