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Driving Mr. Yarkoni

Israel should use the 'Yalla Strategy' in order to enhance its national brand, says Itzik Yarkoni
Illustrative photo: Pro-Israel students at UCLA. (Hasbara Fellowships via JTA)
Illustrative photo: Pro-Israel students at UCLA. (Hasbara Fellowships via JTA)

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of touring with Itzik Yarkoni, founder of BOMAH: The Brand of Milk and Honey, and social media consultant to Hasbara Fellowships.  This was the second of two tours that I have done with Itzik, the first was in October 2013. It is BOMAH’s mission to rebrand Israel through personal stories. Our tours have been with the purpose of helping pro-Israel student groups gain a grasp of social media, helping them rebrand the perception of Israel throughout Southern California. I had expected that the many hours and hundreds of miles traveled together would give me an education in Facebook, Twitter, and marketing; and they certainly did! What I did not anticipate was that one little hashtag would gift me a peek into the Israeli work ethic: #Yalla.

For those who don’t know, “Yalla” is an Arabic word that has been integrated into Hebrew and is frequently used by Israeli bus drivers, shopkeepers, tour guides, shepherds, and my mother when trying to get me into the car to school as a child.  It can be directed at anyone or anything that is moving at a glacial pace. Loosely translated the word means “come on!” or “move it!” It’s like the Israeli version of Nike’s “just do it.”

The #Yalla strategy is Itzik’s call to action. For pro-Israel students this means: wake up, stop just talking, and start doing something for the Jewish people.  For himself, #Yalla is commitment, encompassed in the identity of being Israeli.

Itzik told me, “sometimes I’m invited to a meeting by a company who wants to improve their social media and they list all of the things they want to fix. I tell them what they’ll need to do to improve. And they say, it’s great but we can’t do it right now… sometimes they give me excuses, money/time/manpower. For an American this means ‘thank you so much for your time, goodbye. End of meeting. But I’m Israeli.  I say, OK- let me show what we can do and that it won’t be as much work if they use strategy.” So too with campus advocacy. If you want to get things done you have to push forward, follow through, catch up. You have to move and be smart about it. #Yalla. Watching Itzik Facebook message and teleconference with students and professionals all across the US and Israel, at all hours of the day, I know that “I’m Israeli” means many things, one of which is extremely hard working.

After a long week and 6 different campuses,
After a long week and 6 different campuses, time to take a #Selfie.

#Yalla is the backbone of Israel. It is the reason the swamps were drained, deserts planted, infrastructure built. It is what makes Israel one of the most successful entrepreneurial and innovative nations in the world. The force to “go” and “do” is the reason statehood was declared almost 66 years ago, and the reason that the State of Israel will continue to strive towards bettering itself and the world around it in the years to come.

Building ones social media brand takes commitment and time, but so does anything worth building; including a national homeland. If there is one thing I have learned from Itzik Yarkoni, it has been that we must put our goals into motion. #Yalla, lets make it happen!

For more information on Itzik, BOMAH, and Hasbara Fellowships, visit http://bomah.org and http://www.hasbarafellowships.org

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