One of the Scariest Moments of My Life

A couple of weeks ago, Israel decided to take action in retaliation to the rocket showering southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. Once again, all eyes were on the Arab-Israeli conflict and for the first time since the early 90’s, Rocket fire reached Tel Aviv. But not just rockets. Another long-almost-forgotten visitor returned to Tel Aviv; a bomb was placed on a bus and had exploded, injuring many.  Thankfully, my sister in-law who was right by the explosion wasn’t injured nor were any of my friends and family members.
But this attack managed to shake me to the bone,
not for the obvious reasons. gaza

2 hours prior to the attack,
someone identifying as a”media man”
from Amman, Jordan, tweeted me directly with the following message:
“10 people killed and 36 injured in an explosion in Tel Aviv”.
He was using Israeli advocacy  hashtags such as #IsraelUnderAttack #IsraelUnderFire and more.
I couldn’t understand why would someone who is advocating for Israel try to damage its advocacy efforts by posting false information, and I made that clear to him in my tweets back to him. I realized that he got to me after my angry tweet to BBC reporter Jon Donison, condemning him for tweeting a picture of an injured child from Syria and tagging it as Gaza.

After the bomb, he kept taunting me with “I told you” messages followed by further “warnings” of  events yet to come.

I posted a screen shot on my Facebook page, and kept posting with every threat.  The images were shared all the way to the military, the police, the secret service – who all contacted me for their own purposes.

Was the guy truly involved? Did he really have information about a planned attack? Was it just a lucky guess? Is he really who he says he is or an alias of someone further away? Did he pick random people or was I his choice for a reason? Should I feel guilty for not taking his warning seriously prior to the explosion?

I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, and that is that social media is rapidly given more roles by its users. With every day that goes by, the definition of “possible”, of time and of space stretch even further and wider, requiring government agencies, civil servants and law enforcement to adapt and update their communication strategies and tactics frequently, withstanding the challenges budgets and bureaucracy impose.

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Digital Diplomacy Colors the AppStore RED

On November 17th, I posted one of my most viewed posts “Gaza Shells Israel on Twitter” where I tried to make the point that the lack of Israeli presence on Twitter is harming the country’s public diplomacy efforts in light of the latest round of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. I simply said: “Israel is the startup nation and the hub of technological innovation – Don’t ask them for photos, don’t create hashtags that no one searches for. Develop a simple, visual, location-based app that would enable people to share real-time alarms/sirens, rocket shells and of course photos and tags that will help them share their experience with everyone in the world, and not just their own circles.”

Surely enough, today, only two days later, an app named “Tzeva Adom” (literal translation: Color Red, which is the name of the sirens sounded throughout the country when a rocket is fired in its direction) appeared in the AppStore!

color red siren app israel

The Tzeva Adom App as appears in the AppStore

Funnily enough, I learned about it from an article on Ynetnews, reporting that Knesset (Parliament) Member Gila Gamliel from the Likud party currently in power, called upon foreign ambassadors posted in Israel to download the app in order to “get some understanding of what is going on in Southern-Israel”.

Whether this was a direct result of my post, a spark of common sense or lessons well learned on the go, it is interesting to see the growing understanding of the importance of digital diplomacy and how to utilize it as part of the overall diplomatic effort.

Gaza Shells Israel On Twitter

My uniform is ironed, folded and ready for the anticipated call from my unit. After barrages of rockets from Gaza to Israel, it was time to retaliate. Many Israelis, who were getting tired of the situation, kept posting memes and updated their statuses expressing their wish to block rocket attacks and get back to normal life. It was at a certain point that the government decided to strike back, and has been doing so in surgical, pin-pointed airstrikes designed to stop the rockets by exploding them in mid-air as well as pounding at Hamas, its leadership and its infrastructure.

On Facebook, you couldn’t help but notice the heartwarming gestures of people living in the central and northern parts of the country, offering their homes and sending warm wishes to the 1 million civilians within rocket range. But soon after, rockets started falling in central Israel, making it 5 million civilians under rocket range, exposed to physical danger as well as much frustration, confusion and anxiety.

Israelis love Facebook so much that they forget there is a whole world out there which isn’t comprised of family and friends and who doesn’t necessarily support, understand or even know the slightest thing about what is happening now between Gaza and Israel. I noticed many of my friends, calling their friends and fans to post photos and testimonies of the rockets flying over their heads so that “the whole world will see”.

gaza fires rockets on israel

“The Foreign Ministry calls upon the citizens of Southern-Israel to send videos, photos that show your lives under rocket threat”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked civilians to email them videos and photos so that they may use them to create posters, memes and clips that will serve as advocacy materials in the public diplomacy efforts to keep the world informed and to maintain the first time ever general support of Israel and the opinion that Hamas launching daily, if not hourly rocket attacks from Gaza to Israel is the direct cause of this escalation.

But you see, the conversation is on Twitter, not just on Facebook. If Facebook is a social network, then Twitter is a source of information to all, at any given time, on any topic.

gaza shells israel on twitter

Gaza & Israel, or should we say just Gaza, on Twitter

Israelis, as opposed to Palestinians, don’t use Twitter. And when it comes to Instagram, they seem to keep the tags very local. This simple truth leaves the 4th battle field totally neglected.

A quick scroll down the twitter feed using the tags #Israel or #Gaza will show exactly who is shaping and controlling the conversation. No matter how many advocacy groups and governemt organizations will try to contribute, it is the people, in this case the Palestinians who control the Twittersphere simply because it isn’t used by Israelis.

As I wait to be called for duty, I would like to call upon the Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and everyone interested mobilizing civilians to keep the world informed:

Israel is the startup nation and the hub of technological innovation – Don’t ask them for photos, don’t create hashtags that no one searches for. Develop a simple, visual, location-based app that would enable people to share real-time alarms/sirens, rocket shells and of course photos and tags that will help them share their experience with everyone in the world, and not just their own circles.

The concern of a location based app revealing to Hamas the exact location of where the rockets fell I s understandable. So is the fear of encouraging people to take pictures of rockets when they should be running for shelter. But the thing is that, Hamas will know whether you tell them or not, and people will be taking pictures of rockets anyway…

Once again, the best speakers and the people themselves, the moment you do it for them, you lose the ears and the hearts of your potential audience which is not yours, it’s in fact, theirs.

The Power Shift

I had a very productive week.

I started my new job as the managing director of New Family organization and met with a few of my existing and potential clients:

A website building and design company, a PR Strategy company, an SEO and online reputation company and an advocacy group. I also had coffee with a young lawyer longing to find a creative outlet that might incorporate her profession with her passion.

More about my interesting meetings with some some other time, but for now –

I was shocked to find that in a country that is connected to Facebook as if it was an IV such as Israel, in a city so tech, nightlife and creativity-motivated city such as Tel Aviv, that web, PR, marketing and advocacy groups fail to understand the very basic influences of social media on modern society and how it changes (or at least has a tremendous impact) on marketing advocating and PR strategies and tactics; THE POWER SHIFT

As I mentioned in previous posts, today, a person’s voice opinion thought, feeling or experience speaks much louder than any logo or official spokesperson. No more dictating messages. Authenticity is the key to success.

At the Twiplomacy conference held on October 22 (2012) at the Italian embassy in Washington DC, Senior Innovation Adviser to the US Secretary of State, Mr. Alec Ross referred to the exact same point. In this video, Ross explains simply and effectively this very principle that should be understood by professionals, explained to clients and implemented in marketing tactics so as not to waste the client’s hard-earned money, Using new technology in old thinking can only go so far. And those looking for PR, Strategy and Marketing professional’s services should be aware of this before hiring their services.