Today I was sitting in my local cafe in Tel Aviv when my eyes started to well and I felt the urge to cry. “You are a grown man, for God’s sake; get a hold of yourself,” I thought.
I’m glad to say that I succeeded in controlling myself. A few tears rolled down my eyes, but they were not enough to attract the attention of those sitting at adjacent tables. Thank God for that.
Those few tears that managed to escape were tears of absolute, unadulterated and indescribable joy. What caused them was the fact that, for the first time, I saw a Tel Aviv bus carrying the “Israel Loves Iran” messages from Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir’s Israel Loves Iran campaign.
In reality, I wouldn’t have been so emotional if not for something that happened five days before.
My wife and I had just finished lunch at our local Mexican restaurant and were laughing at the visual instructions in Hebrew on each table — meant for Israelis who were having Mexican food for the first time. These included nuggets such as “don’t dip your tortilla into your salsa, it’s not hummus” and “don’t break your tortilla, it’s not a pita.” But my favorite was “don’t put too much food on your tortilla, you can’t roll it, it’s not laffa bread“.
As soon as we stepped out of the restaurant, I suddenly saw a face I recognized. It was Ronny Edry himself, having lunch with his family. I introduced myself and told him what I do for a living, and before he had a chance to say much I began to tell him what I think of him. I just couldn’t hold back. Oh, come on, try living in Israel for eight years without picking up at least some of the local customs.
“Your work is amazing,” I said. “I love what you are doing. Our politicians must come and sit at your feet to learn from you. They know nothing about Iran and how to speak with the people of Iran. I am so proud of you. In the 33 years since the revolution, no one has told the people of Iran that they love them: not their government, not America, not the UK. We in Israel are the first in the world, and it’s because of you. I am so proud of you. Look, I am so excited that the hair on my arms is standing up.”
Ronny, who was being followed by a camera crew, was very gracious. We took some photos. We were also filmed. He told me about the campaign on the Tel Aviv buses, but strangely enough, I did not feel much emotion.
But it’s something else when you see it in all its glory. There it is, a big bus standing behind the traffic light in your city, with big signs saying “Israel Loves Iran,” and pictures of Israelis and Iranians arms in arm.
For many Iranian-Israelis like me, it’s a dream come true. I mean this literally.
What I also found particularly moving about the “Israel Loves Iran” bus advertising campaign was that the message was being carried on a Tel Aviv bus. We should not forget that in the ’90s, the Iranian regime paid Hamas to blow up in Tel Aviv tens of such buses that were full of innocent civilians. Now we have Israelis who are going out of their way to use the same buses to tell the people of Iran that we love them. You are our brothers and sisters. We don’t have a problem with you. They are separating the people from a leadership that does not represent them.
The “Israel Loves Iran” campaign shows humanity and intelligence; but what I also love about it is that it’s poison for extremists in the Iranian regime. They would hate for the people of Iran and Israel to be friends. What they want us to believe is that the people of Iran support their hate against the people of Israel. This is why I would like to nominate Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir for a Nobel Peace Prize. In the middle of all the talk of war, “red lines” and deadlines, they have given us a ray of hope and shown the way toward a future we would all dream of and want to have.
(If you feel the same, you can sign the petition here.)
In Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the 2012 AIPAC convention, the Israeli prime minister said:
I want you to think about what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in the hands of those who lead millions of radicals in chants of “death to America” and “death to Israel.”
This statement shows that Netanyahu knows very little about the people of Iran. What he said was music to Ayatollah Khamenei’s ears, as Iran’s supreme leader would love to believe that millions support his calls against Israel. But in Iran, only a tiny minority think like him. It’s unfortunate that the prime minister of Israel thinks that their number is in the millions, and worse, that the Khamenei regime is genuinely popular in its calls against Israel.
Mr. Netanyahu, give Ronny and Michal a call. You could learn a thing or two from them.