This has been a pretty exciting week for Israel advocates around the world. As an Israel advocate on campus, I am normally tasked with simplifying big and nuanced issues (think Iran) in order to share them with my friends. But this week was different. I woke up this past Wednesday morning and followed my normal routine which includes checking my notifications on Snapchat (a popular photo-sharing mobile application that features a “Live” section that highlights different places around the world). I always wondered if Israel would be featured and today was Tel Aviv’s time to shine. A Star of David and #TelAvivLive finally made it to my screen.
Throughout the day photos and videos were shared that highlighted the culture and beauty of the Israeli metropolis. The smell of fresh Shawarma, the beauty of the Azrieli Towers, and warmth of family permeated through the screen of my iPhone. The world was treated to merit seeing the unfiltered beauty of Israel.
While the global Jewish community was beaming with pride that a city in our country was being showcased for over 100 million Snapchat users, the anti-Israel detractors took to other social media platforms and bashed Snapchat for highlighting the beauty of Tel Aviv. Their main cry was that Snapchat was not giving a fair perspective of the Middle-East because the West Bank or Gaza was not also featured. Despite the very verbal petition, Snapchat maintained neutral.
Everyone was in for a surprise on Thursday morning as I opened the same app and was greeted with #WestBankLive. The petitioners got what they wanted, but were in for a surprise. Instead of the so-called ‘oppression’ that they wanted to highlight, I watched happy Palestinians dancing, taking viewers on a tour of their neighborhoods and talking about the holiday of Ramadan. I also experienced the Muslim and Christian holy sites that lay within Bethlehem and Ramallah. A checkpoint location was also showcased and yet, I witnessed not an ounce of violence.
Today, I was able to get a honest, first-hand look into the lives of average Palestinian people that was not filtered by any government, TV station, or Newspaper. The only sense of hostility I felt today was not from the videos and photos of citizens living in the West Bank, but from the detractors and bullies on Twitter and Reddit.
These past two days gave the world a glimpse into what it is like to be Israeli and Palestinian and served as a lesson for all detractors of peace that stigmatizing people that are different than you is wrong. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion but delegitimization leads nowhere. I feel that progress will only be made when “The Israelis” turn into “Simcha and Shira” and “The Palestinians” turn into “Omar and Basma.”