Emma Carter, 34, from London fell utterly in love with Israel and its people during her first visit to the Holy Land. She took to social media to share her new found passion for Israel, but found herself under attack by her friends. It got so bad that she had to close her Facebook account altogether.
Carter's good friend, Dafna Endoditch-Rau, a young Jew who lives in the British capital, decided to celebrate her 40th birthday in Tel Aviv and invited her to join her for the trip.
"I was worried about visiting Israel and I hesitated quite a bit before I agreed," Carter said. "As an Englishwoman, all I knew about Israel were the wars in Gaza. But Dafna told me that I would be safer in Israel than in London, and I decided to go and see the country for myself."
Twenty-four hours is all it took for Carter to fall in love with Israel. She said she clicked with Tel Aviv on the very first night.
"Everything I saw was completely different from the way Israel is portrayed in the media," she recounted. "Tel Aviv is a vibrant and liberal city, people here are kind, and the welcome I have received here was more incredible than any other place I have ever visited in the world. Strangers invited me to visit their homes. Israelis are warm and inviting, not aggressive or bad as described in the news."
Carter recounted an experience that changed her perception of Israel more than any other: "During my second evening I met a friend of Dafna's, a reserve officer, who told me about the Iron Dome system and the enormous budget that Israel invests in security to protect itself. He told me that Israel was constantly being criticized by the whole world for its attempts to protect itself. My conversation with him and my personal acquaintance with Israelis influenced me greatly."
Highly inspired, Carter decided to write her impressions in a detailed and well-written Facebook post. "There are a few factors I consider when liking a place - people, food and architecture! All are fully met in Israel. Learnt the most amazing facts today. For example Israeli cities have an 'Iron Dome' in the atmosphere surrounding their cities which intercepts short range missiles. Israelis only ever respond to an attack never provoke. The various defense systems defend the only democracy in the Middle East.
"Israel is considered to be a state at war, and yet I feel calmer here than in London. Why? Because life's values are appreciated here. And there are also ice cream shops open 24 hours a day," she remarked.
Carter ended her post with a recommendation to her friends: "I've just finished spending an amazing day in a country the BBC describes as barbaric just to pander to Muslim viewers. I recommend you place a question mark next to any piece of news, especially when you are watching a news network financed by the government."
When Carter wrote the post, she never could have imagined the wave of opposition it would provoke. Within a short amount of time, a couple of her Facebook friends started to attack her: "Israel murders innocent Palestinian children and steals their land," wrote one of them. Another added: "You're justifying an apartheid state."
A little while later Carter even received a message from Facebook, in which she was told that her post was described as offensive. An hour later she received another message with the same information.
"I felt like I was under attack, and all because of an apolitical post in which I wanted to praise the warm welcome and hospitality of Israelis. I just wanted people to understand that Israel is a safe country and that they should visit places and get to know people instead of relying on the media," she said.
Following the messages she received from Facebook, Carter decided to close her Facebook account. "What kind of a social network site is it if it does not allow one to carry on a debate or express an opinion?" she asked in anger.
"I didn’t attack anyone. Instead of using Facebook, I'll tell all my friends in London personally my impressions of Israel. I'm in love with Israelis and with that beautiful country. I met another British tourist during my visit, and she agreed with me completely, that Israel is an amazing country that suffers from a negative image. You have a public relations problem, as the media depicts your country as evil and shady. This is be due to laziness, the lack of will to do true journalistic work but also due to financial interests. What is certain is that I will be returning to visit."