Never underestimate the power of a single tweet.

That was one message I picked up — a modern cliche for our times, perhaps — but a worthy one, at #ThinkIsrael, a recent “tweet-up” for advocates of Israel in New York City.

The tweet-up was one just element of a “Think Israel” conference for students and young professionals considering making aliya to Israel, but for “veterans” (i.e., over age 35) like me planning to remain here at the moment, the most valuable. With a live Twitter feed running during the session, participants had the option of following the tweet-up from the comfort of their own homes as panelists gave their shpiels about the challenges of on-line Israel advocacy.

The panelists — journalist and author Lisa Alcalay Klug; Commentary magazine assistant editor Seth Mandel and social media associate Bethany Mandel (yes, they are married); and Lower East Side blogger Josh Yuter (in his words, “just a rabbi”) — certainly knew their stuff. And the moderator was none other than Laura Ben-David, the social media coordinator at Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization which helps English-speaking Jews immigrate to Israel and a cosponsor of the conference along with the Jewish Agency for Israel. She somehow juggled the art of asking the panelists questions while monitoring the live Twitter feed and responding to tweets directed to her and the panelists.

Moderating a social media panel with a live and virtual audience would be a multi-tasking nightmare for some of us, but for Laura Ben-David, it’s a piece of cake!
Photo by Shahar Azran/Nefesh B’Nefesh

So what did I learn from the experience? As I mentioned, it was challenging (at least for me!) to listen to the panelists and tweet at the same time, but a few general themes became “embedded” in my brain. See the tweets below:

Anyone can advocate for Israel on-line, as the playing field is completely democratic — the average teen has just as much, if not more, credibility than representatives of the Israeli government. And the power of the masses became most apparent in 2011, as the Arab Spring unfolded in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the rest of the world learned of the events  through tweets disseminated by young Egyptians on the street.

Don’t be afraid to take on Israel’s harshest critics on-line. Bethany Mandel said she regularly sends out “snarky” responses to tweeters who attack Israel. I am now considering responding to one of the deans of my former journalism school, who is hardly shy in demonstrating her bias against Israel in her tweets on the Middle East. (Not the sarcastic type, I might try a spoonful of sugar with my own comments!)

And perhaps the most effective message I picked up (this tweet is my own!):

I heard Laura Ben-David talk about the interviews she gave after she and her family made aliya 10 years ago and, to her pleasant surprise, the positive media coverage they received. Others spoke of personal connections to victims of terror and the lasting power of retelling those stories. And I also learned with whom to pick your battles, as some minds will never be changed regardless of how compelling an argument one has.

We could not be living in more challenging — or exciting — times at this moment, at least from the standpoint of technology. Let us use the modern tools in our possession to advocate effectively for the only homeland we have!