The Jerusalem Ambassadors program at the Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School gives students the opportunity to share their experiences in Israel through social media, telling their personal stories of “what Israel is really like.” The program is one of several projects of the Brand of Milk and Honey (BOMAH), a business created by Itzik Yarkoni which exposes various groups of people to social media platforms to help them tell their story, as reported by Shuly Wasserstrom in the Jerusalem Post.
The idea for BOMAH came about after Yarkoni spent the 2010-11 school year as the Israel fellow at the University of California – Irvine. He was surprised to see how little students new about Israel and felt that existing strategies to combat misconceptions about the country were insufficient. Yarkoni turned to social media as an important advocacy tool. “People these days are spending all day on their computers. People turn to Facebook and Twitter to see what’s happening in the world and in Israel,” Yarkoni explains.
The Jerusalem Ambassadors program, a partnership between the University, BOMAH, Masa and the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, saw 13 overseas student participants from China, Turkey, Australia, the US, Canada and Mexico during the spring 2014 semester. The program has two main components. During the semester, students are taught how to “brand” their experience in Israel through social media such as blogging and Facebook posts. After returning home, they participate as ambassadors in sessions about Israel and the Rothberg International School, engaging students and educating them about Israel.
“Imagine if we have thousands of visitors to Israel, not just students, writing positive things about Israel. There is real potential here,” Yarkoni says. “I have no problem if a student’s blog expresses some amount of negativity towards something particular that bothers them about Jerusalem. Bureaucratic things in Israel are notoriously difficult, but overall, the blogs appear to be happy and positive.”
For the full article in the Jerusalem Post, click here.