There are two types of peace agreements. One is signed between politicians and serves high-level strategic purposes, and the other brings peace between people.
That is why, following the signing of the Abraham Accords, we at “ISRAEL-is" began to establish connections and bridges between young Israelis and the young citizens of the Gulf states. What started with a few Zoom calls has now become the foundation for relationships and peace in the region.
By bringing thousands of Israelis and Emiratis, Bahrainis and Moroccans to events, webinars, and person to person conferences on a variety of universal issues, we are proving that peace in the Middle East is not just a political interest but a concern that lives in the hearts of the young people of the region.
The global rules have changed. People connect with other people before they connect with ideas and products. Israel's success and its standing in the world depend not only on the initiative and genius of its citizens but on the ability to tell the Israeli story and create a common language between Israelis and people around the world.
In 2017, I, together with friends from elite units in the Israel Defense Forces, created "ISRAEL-is" This nonprofit organization educates and trains young Israelis to develop the ability to tell the Israeli story and create a common language with people around the world.
Our mission is to connect young Israelis traveling after their military service and investors, entrepreneurs, and other citizens, with millennials from around the world to create a conversation about Israel. We realize that Israel’s greatest asset is its people and culture. This resource has not been utilized enough to improve Israel’s reputation in the world. Each interaction is an opportunity to positively influence Israel's perception and create bridges between Israel and the rest of the world.
Excitement pulsed in the region when the Abraham Accords were signed. After years of war and despair, Israelis found themselves able to connect with the people of areas that were impossible only a short time ago. Without knowing what to expect, we began reaching out to young people in these countries to converse with them. It was a fascinating process. It was very complicated with much suspicion, and the outcome was unknown.
Within a few months, hundreds of people of influence from these countries wanted to participate in the Zoom events whose purpose was building bridges and human-to-human connections with youth from different industries (culinary, music, high tech, business, culture).
In collaboration with the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, the Youth Ministry of the UAE, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs of Israel, Erel Margalit, Founder and Executive Chairman of JVP and Margalit Startup city, as well as other international organizations in both countries, “The Leaders of Tomorrow Initiative” was created. It offers topic-related forums, bringing together leaders from different backgrounds but with shared interests.
Our program equips participants with the skills to learn about their new allied nations. The event led to the event, and the Zoom calls led to businessmen and organizations contacting us from the entire region. They understood the power of the foundations we had already created.
Together with our partners, Erel Margalit one of the chief architects of Start-Up Nation, and JVP, an internationally leading VC fund, among the pioneering firms of the Israeli VC industry, we create the first virtual hack-a-thon to develop platforms for the region.
Participants from Morocco, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel will participate, working together for 3 days. The focus will be on two main challenges. The development of digital educational platforms will form the basis for learning for the general public, and two, platforms for business meetings and tourism contacts between the countries.
We will soon have our first conference in Dubai, bringing together social media influencers from both countries, and following that, a historic first delegation from the Emirates to Israel.
At the end of the day, these events and the Leaders of Tomorrow initiative prove that the best way to advance peace is on the grassroots level. In a way, our initiative was a social experience. It teaches us much about the dynamics of the region and how a non-suspicious, non-cynical joint desire of young people to meet can overcome the challenges in the region, and in a way, serve as a formula for peace in the region. This will assist in creating a reality in which peace is not just on paper.
Eyal Biram is the CEO & Founder of ISRAEL-is.