After persuading Maxim magazine to hold a photo shoot of Israeli models in Tel Aviv, Israel's consulate-general in New York turned its attention to a less-glamorous side to Israeli life -- the reality of life under rocket fire.
Last month, the consulate’s media and public affairs department launched a blog, IsraelPolitik, to present the plight of Israelis
One of IsraelPolitik’s first entries was a videotaped interview with Arye Mekel, the New York consul-general, about Sderot and the IDF’s response to the rocket barrages. The blog also includes videos and written entries about other current events, such as the British boycott campaigns and the 40-year anniversary of the Six Day War.
Saranga said Israeli dignitaries, primarily Knesset members, government ministers, and university professors, who visit New York will be invited to sit down for IsraelPolitik interviews. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who arrived in New York last Sunday to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, did not have time for the blog, however.
So far, IsraelPolitik has received hundreds of hits per day, said Saranga. Sixty percent have come from the US and 20 percent are from Europe. The remaining 20 percent of visitors includes readers from Arab and Muslim countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Pakistan, he said.
The consulate’s other blog, isRealli, which focuses on Israeli cultural, social, economic, and scientific achievements, has also received numerous hits from internet surfers in Muslim and Arab nations, including those mentioned above as well as Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, and Algeria, said Saranga.
“I believe the reason we see so many people from these countries entering the isRealli blog is because they are very interested in how Israel succeeded in building an open, Western society in the face of obstacles and wars,” he said. Launched in October, isRealli averages more than 25,000 hits per month from around the world.
The consulate also launched its own video channel on YouTube. Some of its uploaded videos, including interviews with Sderot residents and a video encouraging financial investment in Israel, have been posted on the blogs.
Saranga and his staff have themselves been the focus of media attention – including stories by Newsweek, Salon.com, ABC News, and Ynetnews – for their efforts to improve Israel’s street image abroad.
The consulate established the Jewish state’s official profile on MySpace (for which the State of Israel is a 59-year-old single woman from Jerusalem with over 1,600 friends) and scored a coup that Saranga is especially proud of – convincing the American young men’s magazine Maxim to dispatch a photo shoot crew to Tel Aviv to snap shots of Israeli models around the city. The spread, entitled “Women of the Israeli Defense Forces,” will appear in Maxim magazine's July issue.