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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo )
Leo Sucharewicz likes Israel. A lot. And he wants others to join in his enthusiasm for the Jewish State.
For the past four years Sucharewicz, a communications psychologist, together with his colleagues who work under the name 'I Like Israel', have been promoting Israel and Israeli interests all over Germany.
"Our target is to bring one million people into the street in Germany for Yom Ha'atzmaut," states Sucharewicz, "[in order] to protect Israel with a very powerful demonstration, to improve its image, to bring more tourists, to defend Israel with one million flags. Israel is not alone, Europe is behind her."
Working diligently to create global consciousness about Yom Ha'atzmaut - Israeli Independence Day, Sucharewicz managed to bring 50,000 Germans together in 20 different cities last year. This year they hope to double the number of participants to 100,000.
What began in Munich as a way to promote Israel's hasbara (PR) efforts in Germany, Sucharewicz and his team of Jewish professionals in marketing and project management developed a 'strategic concept' with Israel Day ceremonies at its core.
This year their unique campaign, which takes place on May 4, will stretch to 44 cities across Germany including Munich as well as Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Koln and Frankfurt. And, for the first time, the event will also be held in 10 additional cities outside Germany including Vienna, Zurich, Basel, Copenhagen and Miami.
"At exactly six in the evening, there will be a countdown and two things will happen," explains Sucharewicz. "Each city will be linked via a special network so that everything happens simultaneously. "The public will sing the Stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday together and they will also release blue and white balloons into the air."
The biggest celebration will be in Dusseldorf, where the Jewish community graciously donated a lump sum of 10,000 Euros towards the event.
"In Berlin mayor Wowereit will address the crowd along with Israeli ambassador Shlomo Stein."
Several political dignitaries will be in attendance and most cities' processions will be lead by their respective mayors.
The 'I Like Israel' campaign shows no signs of slowing down as preparations are already in the works for 2007. London, Paris and Stockholm are among several major European capitals slated for next year's event.
"According to our forecast," predicts Sucharewicz, "in 2010, there will be 200 cities worldwide celebrating with us, including Tokyo as well as cities in the new EU countries including Warsaw, Bucharest, Budapest and Prague."
"We almost initiated an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia!"
And how is Sucharewicz and his crew of media experts able to fund such a grand project?
"We are financing everything out of our pockets," says Sucharewicz, who volunteers his time to work on the event. He has not received any support from the Israeli government in spite of his efforts to promote Israel. Still, Sucharewicz is persistent and has hope for the future.
With over 180 organizations taking part in the event, Sucharewicz sees a convergence of opposing parties, all united in their support for Israel.
"You can see youth organizations from the Conservative party working in harmony with their Social-Democrat party counterparts, something which is very unusual."
"Nothing like this has ever happened in Germany before," confesses Sucharewicz.
"We've succeeded in launching an ideological bridge between regular German citizens and Israel. We must defend Europe's democracy, humanism and freedom and this movement must begin from Israel."
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