Ten bloggers and fashion designers from all over the world have been invited to Israel as part of a project seeking to present the Jewish state in a different, more positive light to the world.
"Everyone here is nice, Arabs and Jews live side by side and it seems to be fine. I had a good experience in Israel, I'm surprised that Israelis speak perfect English, and Spanish as well that they learned from television programs," said Luísa Lión, a fashion blogger from Germany.
She came to Israel with popular bloggers and fashion designers from various countries, who have millions of followers on various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, Snapchat, and the Chinese Weibo, among others).
They were invited to visit Israel as part of a project called Muza, initiated by students in the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center in cooperation with StandWithUs.
Lión, 26, spoke about her experience in Israel: "I am originally from Hamburg, a full-time fashion blogger. I travel a lot but I had never been to Israel before, I did not know much about it, and I wanted to learn about the country and its people. I met many Jews in the past and of course, we learn about the past, but I wanted to learn more about the culture and history.
"My friends told me that Tel Aviv was an amazing city. I did not hear anything bad, but on the news you hear about conflict. I am not so interested in politics, so I did not have an opinion. I received comments and there were arguments on the blog, but I think it's good, I was able to ask questions in Israel that people asked me on the blog. I also have a YouTube channel on which I will talk about Israel, and I will explain that it is not dangerous here, and it is very interesting. I'll talk mostly about fashion. What's most important for me are people, I don't care if you're Arabic or Jewish."
Laureen Uy, 25 from the Philippines, was also impressed by Israel: "I have a fashion and travel blog, and I write about the places I visit. I have 680,000 followers (on Twitter and Facebook). My family and I heard about Israel, The Holy Land, and I always wanted to visit here, especially Jerusalem.
"I have not heard about the political issues here. Israel's great, we were in Tel Aviv, we're back from Jerusalem and I will write about the places I have visited. Even before I heard good things about Tel Aviv and it is exciting to meet local designers. I was impressed by Israelis' trendiness, but in Jerusalem, of course, the attire is more traditional."
The bloggers visited Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and experienced Tel Aviv's nightlife, with an emphasis on exposing the designers to the Israeli fashion industry and leading Israeli designers. The aim of the organizers, 27 students, is to ensure bloggers who visit for the first time are exposed to Israel in a positive way, through creativity, entrepreneurship and the realm of fashion.
"We thought about how to explain the country in a better way and we initiated the idea," said Sagi Carmen, a student at Herzliya IDC and the director of the project.
"We recruited people with a following of several million people all together on blogs, to visit here and write about Israel. Several of the fashion designers already have followers angry at them saying why are they writing Israel and not Palestine. Before the visit, they answered a questionnaire about what they know about Israel, and we found out that they did not know too much, they just knew that there is a diverse culture here."