Two years ago, Hemi and Oksana Zemach from the Negev community of Kadesh-Barnea were watching coverage of the Marmara flotilla. Like every other Israeli, they said to themselves "We have to do something to improve Israeli public diplomacy." Unlike the rest, they actually did.
Many tourists come to the Kadesh-Barnea area, and through the strong ties Hemi and Oksana have built up over the years that they've been living there, as well as through friends and family, they planned a family toad trip with a clear purpose: to present a different picture of Israel than what is shown in the media.
- Comptroller: Israel lost flotilla hasbara battle
- Diaspora Ministry reaches out to Israelis abroad
- NYC celebrates Israel with annual parade
Over the course of seven months, they traveled through Europe and the US. They would have pressed on if their budget hadn't run out – they were paying for everything themselves. Now they are trying to raise money from anyone who cares about Israeli public diplomacy.
The trip was planned carefully over the course of two years. The family – Hemi, Oksana, and daughters Gali, Tamar and Michal – also tried to raise money from the Foreign Ministry, the Jewish Agency, and businesspeople, but no one helped. Hemi and Oksana didn't give up. They invested more than NIS 600,000, some from their own savings and some from bank loans.
The trip itself actually began last August. In three months, they logged tens of thousands of kilometers on Europe's highways, where they spoke at schools and communities in every city they visited. "Everyone thinks that Israel is just missiles, Qassams, wars, and conflict. There is a mistaken impression about Israel in the world," Hemi says.
After the European leg of the trip, the family returned to Israel from two weeks to get organized and try once again to raise donations. Once again, their attempts failed, and they took out more loans and flew to the US. There, they visited 20 states, drove tens of thousands of kilometers more, and met thousands of people.
The girls missed months of school, but the family took schoolbooks with them and the parents acted as teachers.
But the money ran out, and in February they were forced to return to Israel. Since then, they have tried to organize delegations of businesspeople to help them fund the next part of their public diplomacy campaign. This time, the destination is Australia, China, Russia, and the nations that border them.