The ministry found that if one types the word "United Kingdom" into a search engine a picture of London's Big Ben appears; "France" results in the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and "Jordan" in scenic views of Petra; but type in "Israel" and unsightly images of bombarded housed in Gaza, or the nuclear facility in the southern city of Dimona, pop up on the screen. Not exactly vacation hotspots.
In order to combat the PR impediment, the ministry, along with the Israeli Consulate General in New York, has decided it was time to fight back: The consulate has long been spearheading various innovative PR projects and now it stands to fly seven media experts to Israel, including video and stills photographers, who will be tasked with capturing the country's more beautiful and unfamiliar sides, on film.
Beauty unknown. Sunset over Caesarea dig (Photo: Moshe Reshef)
The project will see the mission photograph Israel's heritage sites, one of the Negev's cowboy ranches, Sde Boker, Caesarea, Akko and the Galilee; as well as shoot Israel's beaches, parks, cafés etc.
The Foreign Ministry is also trying to organize an aerial tour of Israel for the mission, so it may have a bird's-eye view of the country's sights.
The photos are to be loaded up to prominent websites the likes of Wikipedia, Wikimedia, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, as well as be featured in several blogs.
The Foreign Ministry will maintain the copyrights to all photos, thus making them available for public use free of charge.
"We've protested Google allowing photos of bombarded Gaza to be included in search results about Israel, but it has made it clear that users can upload any photo they please and that it has no control over it," said David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York, who initiated the mission.
"The fact of the matter is that Israeli surfers are rather indifferent, allowing the other side to dominate the web and upload its photos to harm the Israeli narrative. That's why we have decided to bring these experts to Israel. We want to see the internet flooded with the true images of beautiful Israel, free for anyone to use.
"The last few years have made us realize that blogs and the new media have essentially become mainstream media and we hope this mission will help open a dynamic, user-friendly, accessible third-generation porthole to Israel."