The group created a new website, Friend a Soldier and is encouraging visitors to ask them anything.
According to 24 years-old Daniel Nisman, CEO of www.friendasoldier.org, “Many people see soldiers as nothing more than a uniform. I wanted people to see the human side of the IDF.”
With this notion in mind, IDF veterans Nisman as well as Yagil Beinglass and Josh Mintz founded Friend a Soldier.
Friend a Soldier is an interactive website that essentially allows users to ask the former Israeli soldiers, who now act as goodwill ambassadors, anything that is on their minds whether it's about their service, the army life or the army’s legitimacy as well as the Middle East conflict, Israeli politics and more.
The visitors who want to ask a question pick an ex-soldier (each with his own expertise) and then submit their question. That soldier then responds to the question, as best as he knows how to, based on his knowledge and personal experience. The site is not affiliated with the IDF nor the government and the views expressed on it don’t represent official army policy.
Friend a Soldier currently houses eight former military personnel, some of which are active reservists. Each one of them has his own unique perspective on the IDF and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
What led to the creation of the site was the fact that before they came up with the website, the three founders constantly found themselves battling with people in online forums and social sites such as YouTube in an effort to push-back ridiculous ideas or accusations against the IDF.
They soon realized that responding in online chats was not enough to create a real shift in people's perceptions of the IDF and Israel, so they turned to what they call “people’s diplomacy”; believing that forging personal connections and achieving mutual understanding can lead to grounds for peace.
Mintz also described how people became apathetic to the Israeli government sponsored advocacy (the “hasbara” in Hebrew), claiming not many people outside of Israel believe it anymore. So, “we are trying to be digital ambassadors,” said Mintz.
In the future, as the site becomes more established the founders hope to see Arabic-speaking former soldiers join the site, as well as Bedouin and Druze soldiers. Finally, Nisman, Beinglass and Mintz see their site as an honest tool for telling it like it is and helping expose the human side of the IDF and those who serve in it.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life
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