"Hello to all my Jewish and non-Jewish brothers in the lovely State of Israel… it's the first time that I can learn about the Holocaust by using your website", one Arab recently wrote in response to the new site.
Foreign Ministry officials are indeed very proud of the enhanced website, launched following months of hard work.
"This is the only official website in the Arabic language that includes such comprehensive information about Israel. There is no other official website of this scope in Israel," said Amira Oreo, who heads the Arab Media Division at the Ministry.
"This effort is very important to us and it stems from the belief in investing more resources to promote dialogue with the Arab world. We regret that we are alone in this arena but we're proud to be the only website with accessible, vast information, and even historic documents like the peace agreement that was signed in Camp David," she said.
"Our vision is to develop this website so it becomes comparable to our English-language site, which comprises more than 20,000 documents after 10 yeas of work," Oron addad.
Following the decision to upgrade the Arab-language website, many documents were uploaded, including documents dealing with Jewish and Israeli history, and information about the political system, women's rights, economics, culture, as well as videos. All that in addition to current information about important events related to the Foreign Ministry.
"We also present Israel beyond the conflict, for example the Schneider Children Hospital that uses its advanced technology to treat Israeli and Arab children," said Timora Shapira, the site's content editor and technical director. "Along with innovations in the fields of science and medicine, we also have content about issues related to politics, such as Israel's diplomatic ties with other countries, including Egypt and Jordan."
Surfers ask about conversion
Oron added: "We decided to also post articles written by liberal Arab intellectuals on the Internet that portray brave positions, even if they don’t necessarily match Israel's views. It's important for us to show that Arab writers also oppose terror and support dialogue, and when an Arab visitor to the site reads an editorial from an Arab writer, it receives greater validity."
The upgraded site was launched only a few days ago, but it already received enthusiastic feedbacks from surfers in the Arab world
"The website is organized and rich in information. Arab websites make use of the site to prepare articles about Israel and the Jewish people. This is real information without distortion," an Arab surfer from Europe wrote.
Another visitor commented: "I'm very impressed with the site. It includes comprehensive information about Israel that most people aren't aware of."
Meanwhile, another Arab surfer was impressed with the videos aimed at boosting Israel's image, and an editor of a small Arab newspaper was granted permission to use content from the website after submitting a request.
The site also prompted other interesting questions and different views.
"Many ask how to convert to Judaism, how to immigrate to Israel, how to learn Hebrew, how to work in Israel and how to initiate economic relations with Israel," explained Shapira. "With the exception of a small amount of hate mail, we respond to every question we receive," she said.
"We politely answer that Judaism is not a missionary religion attempting to convince people from other religions to convert. However, if someone is interested in converting, he needs to go through the process with an authorized rabbi," said Lior Ben Dor, from the Arabic PR Division. "The Arab website visitor understands that in most cases it's going to be difficult for him to find a certified rabbi around his neighborhood."
The Foreign Ministry hopes to significantly increase the number of visitors to the upgraded site. The website's previous version attracted 250,000 visitors a year.