Nas Daily’s evaluation of the Start-up Nation

World-renowned Arab Israeli video blogger defines Israel’s successes and failures.

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June 26, 2019 20:09
Nuseir Yassin (a.k.a. Nas Daily) presents at the ROI Community annual conference.

Nuseir Yassin (a.k.a. Nas Daily) presents at the ROI Community annual conference.. (photo credit: SNIR KAZIR)

 
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“The country has failed,” said Nuseir Yassin, 27, best known as “Nas Daily,” in an exclusive interview on Tuesday with The Jerusalem Post. Yassin was referring to Israel – the country where he was born, where his parents still live, and to which he has dedicated 70 of his first 1,000 popular daily travel blog videos.

“The [Arab-Israeli] conflict represents the failure of our country, but it is not the Jews’ or the Arabs’ fault,” he continued, explaining that it is human nature for similar people to stick together. However, he said that a “good government” would “force” different segments of the population to integrate to strengthen society.

“So, Israel, for all its glory, has failed as a social country because it has not built a strong society, but a very weak one,” Yassin said. “We succeeded militarily and financially, and we are the ‘Start-Up Nation’ – but when it comes to social issues, Israel has failed. It is very sad.”

Yassin, who was raised in the Arab city of Arrabe in the Lower Galilee, said he does not describe himself as patriotic. Many of his childhood friends refuse to say the word “Israel,” because they say that Israel does not exist and they love Palestine – a message that he said was instilled in him as a child, too.

“But I never got it,” Yassin told the Post. “Why care about a piece of land on which my parents had sex and gave birth to me? The only reason to care about it is because I was forced to be born here. I am into humans, and I don’t believe in the border thing.”

So why did he make around 7% of his popular one-minute travel video blogs on Facebook about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, discussing religious and racial tensions between Jews and Arabs in his home country?

“Because you are forced to live in this conflict, so you have to do something about it,” he said. “I have a responsibility to do it.”
Did something change as a result of his videos?

“Probably,” he continued. “Yet things are getting worse and worse. Maybe in 10 years it will change – I don’t know. I would like to do something about it, but not yet. I inadvertently made Israel look better without even trying, because I am this Muslim guy from Israel who does not hate Israel!”

HOWEVER, he does have messages for the Israelis, the Palestinians and for both populations together.

For the Israelis: “If a country has elections twice in a year, and if a country has people who don’t mix – and I mean even the Orthodox Jews and the liberals, as well as the Arabs – the country has failed. That’s whether you build a billion-dollar country or an amazing start-up scene – the country is a failure and we should really fix it.”

To the Palestinians, he said they should be more open to learning about the Trump administration’s $50 billion economic formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“Money fixes most problems,” Yassin said, and he believes that the “Peace for Prosperity” plan or something similar could lead to a healthier Palestinian society.

“Poverty leads to protests,” he said.

And to both Jews and Arabs, he said they need to realize that it is possible that neither party is completely right or wrong.

“The minute you think your people are on the right side and everyone else is on the wrong side, you get a disaster,” Yassin said. “A lot of extremist Jews should realize they are wrong, and a lot of Palestinians should realize they are wrong.”

He also said that religion divides because of its exclusivity, which he believes is, in one word, “bulls***.”

YASSIN DELIVERED these messages in the same clear and simple English that has become a hallmark of his 60-second clips – 1,000 of them in 1,000 days, filmed in 55 countries. He was in Jerusalem on Tuesday for the ROI Community annual summit, a program of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation that works to connect dynamic Jewish leaders from around the globe.

At an earlier presentation, he explained that he got his start after “wanting to escape” from his Arab village to the United States. He applied to Harvard at the age of 19, seeking a degree in aerospace engineering and receiving a scholarship. He said that he thinks he got accepted based on his application essay, which detailed his struggle to achieve his dreams, being an Arab born in Israel.

He graduated with a degree in computer science and engineering in 2014 and took a $120,000-a-year job at PayPal as a software engineer.

“I was overpaid and under-worked, single in New York City and having the time of my life,” he recalled. “Then one day I asked myself: Nas, you are having the time of your life, but when are you going to die?”

He calculated that at 24 years old, he was 32% or “one-third dead.”

“When I realized that, I was like, ‘Crap! I need to do something!’” he said. “So, I decided to spend the remaining 68% of my life doing things I am proud of and meeting as many people as possible.”

He started Nas Daily – nas means people in Arabic – with a camera and determination. But he said that before he finished his first 100 days, he “had to go through a lot of pain,” such as loneliness, and face many fears, such as losing energy or being dependent on Facebook, which could close down any time.

“One day, I got one million views on a Facebook video, and then I looked around my South Korean hotel room and I was by myself, feeling cold, sick and lonely – and I had no one to share it with,” he said. “If you don’t have energy to get out of bed, to take another meeting, your project will fail.”

Another day, he slept all day in a Myanmar hospital room he was renting for $10 a night. The air-conditioning was loud and annoying, and he couldn’t bring himself to get out of bed. He lay there with two hours of daylight left, thinking maybe he should just skip a day. But, no, he decided to “suck it up” – he got out of bed and made his 350th video.

“You are not born with success,” he said.

ON DAY 58, he made his first video about Jerusalem and a guy from Secret Tel Aviv shared it. A girl wrote to him after that post and suggested they hang out. Now, that girl is his girlfriend.

“That fixed my loneliness,” he said with a smile.

And a tweak to Facebook’s algorithm later took his daily views from around 200,000 to one million a day, and then more.

“Overnight, millions of people were listening to what I had to say,” he explained. “I grew up in Arrabe where no one cares what you have to say.”

Soon, he was joined by a professional videographer. Then, he started to receive fan mail from people telling him how he changed their lives, stopped them from committing suicide, quelled their anxiety.

“I never signed up for this, never wanted to help people out of suicide, but it did happen,” he said. “This is a story of determination.”
Three years later, he still does not take this for granted.

“The greatest thing about being born as a minority in the world is that you are born with an inferiority complex... and you always have something to prove,” he told the Post. He said that is a lesson for anyone who wants to see success: “You should be hard on yourself, you should think no one cares about you, you should do what you want to do 1,000 times – and you should do it fast.”

He said that he has 14 million “lovers” today, but that means he has around 3 million “haters” – and he is OK with that.

“No one hates a clown,” he said. “But if you are a clown, you are nothing. ‘Nothing’ gets zero opposition. The more opposition I got, especially in this region, it meant the more I needed to keep going.”

Now, he said he has even bigger plans. Yassin finished his 1,000 daily video journeys on January 5 with the tagline, “That’s one minute, see you soon.” On February 1, he started making one video per week. He is planning on doing this for 100 weeks. But his goal is to “build something bigger than me” – a Nas hotel, tour company, university and maybe even an airline.

“I want to have employees and a system of work that can function without me and create value,” he said, “I want to get 500 people in the office every day and do something I cannot do myself.”

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