A Web site that aims to help Israelis defend the country’s image abroad – which Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said would be online in April – finally premiered on Sunday.

The site (http://masbirim.gov.il/eng/) provides hasbara material related to current events, tips for the “novice ambassador,” myths and facts about Israel and the Arab world, and lists of Israel’s most prominent achievements in science, medicine and agriculture. A Hebrew version of the site has been online since February.

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“Lately, Israel has been subjected to incessant attacks from people and countries around the world who cast aspersions on its policies and its very right to exist,” Edelstein said. “The Goldstone Report and Turkish flotilla incident illustrate just how vital it is for each and every Israeli citizen to take part in Israel’s public diplomacy.”

Edelstein stressed that the Web site was not only for Israelis and not only for Jews.

“English speakers around the world are an important audience for Israeli hasbara,” Edelstein said. “Aside from Israelis who speak English, there lies great potential in English-speaking communities that are not necessarily Jewish, but which support the State of Israel and can find helpful tools on our Web site for presenting the country to others.”

The ministry’s training courses in defending Israel and its booklet of information that is distributed at Ben-Gurion Airport are now also available in English and Russian.

Edelstein blamed the delay on technical and bureaucratic glitches. A Russian-language version of the site also premiered Sunday.

“There was a bottleneck,” an official in Edelstein’s ministry said in July. “Everything is very, very slow, unfortunately, but that is part of Israeli bureaucracy. When talking about official ministry business, a project has to go through a lot of people.”

The initiative came after a poll sponsored by the ministry found that 91 percent of 495 Jewish Israelis surveyed believed that Israel had a bad or a very bad image. The plan seeks to use the services of more than three million Israelis who go abroad every year, to improve the nation’s image. When asked whether they would want to help represent Israel when they were abroad, 85% said ‘yes.’ Sam Cross contributed to this report.

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