HU Students Launch Innovative Advocacy Tool

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HU Student AdvocacyHU Students Launch Innovative Advocacy Tool 

August 9, 2009 - Did you know that the Flash Drive is an Israeli invention? Did you know that Israeli-developed pierced irrigation piping has helped save a significant amount of water all over the world? Or how about that Israel is the second biggest book publisher per capita in the world?

These tidbits of information may not be well known facts for now, but a group of 23 students at the Hebrew University has created its own way to change that. The team, currently Fellows at the StandWithUs international educational and advocacy organization, turned its final project into an innovative form of Israel advocacy called ISRAPEDIA.

The idea is simple: create an application for Facebook — today the most prevalent social networking site — that publicizes positive facts about Israel on a user’s status updates. “Facebook is a unique social media outlet because every time your status is updated, all your friends receive an update as well,” says 25-year-old Yoni Zlotogorski, a StandWithUs Fellow and second-year BA student in international relations and Middle Eastern studies who is also a Hebrew University student ambassador. “Therefore, one person’s updated status reaches hundreds, if not thousands, of people.”

At the end of last month, the Hebrew University StandWithUs students officially launched ISRAPEDIA at a conference held at the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus that was attended by some 200 people, including representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, World Jewish Congress and professional communication companies. The conference focused on the modernization of advocacy with guest speakers Deputy Director of the Public Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ilan Sztulman and International Director of Future Generations at the World Jewish Congress Peleg Reshef. 

According to 24-year-old Shirley Saar, a first-year student in psychology and economics and a StandWithUs Fellow, the conference “significantly upgraded public interest in our efforts, in the application itself and also in our attempt to encourage people to help improve Israel’s image around the world.” Indeed, just days after the conference, the students had made the news themselves, with stories in Israel’s leading newspapers such as Ha’aretz and Yedioth Ahronoth and an interview on Israel’s Channel One evening news.

Along with the media response, Facebook subscribers throughout the world have been joining the project and adding the application to their Facebook pages. To date, over 3,000 people have installed the application and the numbers continue to grow. “Everybody is on Facebook nowadays and ISRAPEDIA allows each user to become an Israeli ambassador in just two mouse clicks,” says Saar.

The ISRAPEDIA facts range from information about medical breakthroughs, technology, sports, media, culture and Israeli achievements. “The focus on these apolitical fields is not an attempt to try and hide the complex reality, but rather to disseminate information that sheds light on Israel’s accomplishments and goes beyond the conflict,” says Saar.

“ISRAPEDIA has been extremely successful. We have achieved every single goal we set for ourselves and more,” says Zlotogorski. “We are now reevaluating the project and plan to put ISRAPEDIA on Twitter. We want to translate the messages into different languages and expand our audience. It's all about getting accurate information to as many people around the world.”

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CFHU is dedicated to supporting IMRIC through direct funding and by developing key collaborative medical research partnerships between Canada
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