(photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)
A student group at Hebrew University has pioneered an innovative way to spread
the word about the Israel they know and love, and not the conflict on which the
international media so often focuses.
In early August, they will provide
an all-expenses-paid, 10-day trip across Israel for one lucky contest winner and
three of the best-known bloggers in the world, each of whom, organizers hope,
will spread the word on the country that they will get to experience for
The 24 Hebrew University students came together this year to
form “Once in a Lifetime – 2010,” a student- run initiative to support Israel’s
“It’s 24 young individuals with actually no experience in
these kinds of projects, and we are all volunteers,” said one of the students,
“This is intended to be the biggest online experience ever
created in Israel,” he added.
The contest for the one open position began
last week and will continue through the first week of July. As of July 1, only
seven participants had submitted the one-minute video clips about themselves
that are central to the application process, to be judged by a panel next
But Baron said the YouTube channel on which videos are posted has
already received over 10,000 hits, making it one of the most visited Israeli
YouTube sites for the week.
So what does a big online experience mean for
Baron? “My aim is that 1 million people will see the project from around the
world,” he said.
The students are hoping that the three professional
bloggers will draw the necessary readers. While the names haven’t been
announced, Baron said that each blogger reaches hundreds of thousands of people
in different parts of the world. Baron compared the journey they have organized
to a Taglit-Birthright trip, which brings Jews from around the world for a
10-day free visit to Israel.
“We’re basically doing a Taglit with an
edge,” he said. “We’ll get them to experience Israel as Israelis see it. Not
like tourists. We’ll try to get them to see and feel what it’s like to actually
The journey will take the participants clubbing in Tel Aviv
and dipping in the Dead Sea, and then will put them up in an apartment
Jerusalem to relate more closely with the local community.
presented a vision of the trip not unlike a reality-television show,
four participants (alongside two Hebrew University students, a tour
guide and a
camera crew) traveling across Israel – and regularly communicating home
The students will also post a five-minute video with a
daily summary of the trip.
While the fourth traveler – the contest winner
– will not have professional experience blogging, organizers hope that
contest will help engage new people with Israel.
The 24 students are
working in conjunction with StandWithUs, an international
organization that has endorsed 12 other projects that use creative ways
defend Israel in the world.