A new positive force for Israel on social media 

According to Adam Milstein, prominent Israeli-American venture philanthropist and one of the founders of TalkIsrael, Israel does not have enough good content on social media.

 App - talk Israel (photo credit: Talk Israel)
App - talk Israel
(photo credit: Talk Israel)

"Israel is losing the war on social media,” says Adam Milstein, prominent Israeli-American venture philanthropist and one of the founders of TalkIsrael

“On social media, we don’t have enough good content, we don’t have an adequate amount of people to share and promote the content we do have, and unfortunately, we are unable to move the needle and improve the perception about Israel.” 

And while there are many who do post positive messages about Israel on social media, most of the material, he says, does not resonate with young people, including young Jews. Israel continues to lose hearts and minds. 

Speaking with The Jerusalem Post via Zoom from his Los Angeles office, Milstein adds, “Young people just don’t ‘buy’ our content. They believe it’s Israeli propaganda.” In addition, he says, those who do attempt to promote Israel’s positive image on social media are far outnumbered by tens of thousands of anti-Israel voices, both human and robotic, that spread negative and false messages. 

The TalkIsrael Foundation is a new US-based nonprofit that believes that there is a solution to Israel’s social media struggles to improve its image in the world. The foundation focuses on countering propaganda, misinformation and fake news about Israel by engaging young pro-Israel activists to promote accurate, truthful and positive coverage and news about Israel on social media. Its ultimate goal is to positively influence the hearts and minds of young people around the world when it comes to Israel. 

Soon after Milstein’s introductory words on Zoom, another window pops open on the Zoom screen. Milstein introduces 19-year-old Yam Agami, a well-known TikTok influencer from Israel, who has over 56,000 followers on the popular social media app and thousands more on Instagram. 

YAM AGAMI, well- known Israeli TikTok influencer and social media activist (Credit: Talk Israel)YAM AGAMI, well- known Israeli TikTok influencer and social media activist (Credit: Talk Israel)

Agami, who is one of the faces and voices of TalkIsrael, spent the past year in the Jewish Agency’s “Shinshinim” program, volunteering in a Jewish day school in the greater Baltimore Jewish community, where she had firsthand experience explaining Israel’s cause to the world. 

“During the past year,” says Agami, “I spoke to many young people and many adults, and when I spoke to people my age, they didn’t know how to communicate the truth about Israel. They just knew things about the recent war [the Israel-Gaza conflict in May 2021] and had a negative perception of Israel.” 

Agami adds that even many Jewish people don’t support Israel because they don’t know enough about the history of the conflict and are not aware of the positive things that Israel is doing to better the world. She wishes she had more resources to advocate for Israel, to engage with other young people on her social media channels. 

TalkIsrael promotes the many positive elements of Israeli life. 

“It can be the culture, the food, the music, innovation, science, environment, the LGBTQ community, technology, medical, history – anything good about Israel that makes you proud,” says Milstein. 

All of TalkIsrael’s content will be aggregated on its website and a smartphone app that will become available in the next several weeks. The content will be curated from available online resources and posted on the platform in English in a ready-to-share format. Users will receive several content pieces each day, according to their preferences, and will be able to easily share them on popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Some content will comprise text and photos, and other content will be video-based.

Israel Talk Website (credit: TalkIsrael)Israel Talk Website (credit: TalkIsrael)

“TalkIsrael aims to reach and inspire young people,” affirms Milstein, “and the best place to do it is mostly on TikTok and Instagram, and to a lesser degree on Twitter and Facebook.” 

TalkIsrael plans to reach a cadre of young pro-Israel, social media ambassadors, to add positive, pro-Israel messages to their social media feeds using the platform. 

“Studies show that young people spend nine hours a day on social media on average. That’s where they get their news. TalkIsrael wants to engage these young people to download the application and share the content.” 

TalkIsrael also plans to offer incentives to teens and young adults to reach a critical mass of steady communicators of positive content about Israel, using the stories that will be posted to the TalkIsrael website and smartphone app, and to build person- al relationships with others around the globe surrounding the positive aspects of Israel. 

Initially, TalkIsrael will build a network of users in Israel and the United States via training seminars in schools and youth groups. The program will then branch out to other communities and other countries. An Arabic version is also in the planning stages. 

TalkIsrael is looking forward to engaging a large group of users to make a dent in the anti-Israel social media forces and hopes to engage a base of 10,000 pro-Israel users of the app within the first year. 

Agami explains that winning the social media battle for Israel is crucial not only for the present but for the future. Speaking of those who read positive messages about Israel, she says, “Those people will be the future leaders, the future influencers, and the future politicians, and we want them to see good content about Israel. Right now, they are seeing only negative things about Israel.” 

TalkIsrael intends to engage a strong group of young social media influencers from diversified backgrounds and independent points of view. 

IOS app (Credit; TalkIsrael)IOS app (Credit; TalkIsrael)

“Kids in Israel come from all ways of life,” Milstein points out. “Some of them are more progressive, some of them are more conservative, some of them are religious, and some are secular. We have all kinds of people, and they have different opinions and life experiences.

“But I think one thing they all believe is that Israel is a force for good, and they are proud of Israel. That’s what we want them to share.” 

“Nowadays, people connect with personalities,” says Agami. “If I share something good about Israel, they will see me – my opinion – and if it comes from a different person, they will see their opinion or their point of view. It’s more likely for young people to connect to this kind of content that comes from real people, and not from something official that has no face to it.” 

Milstein recognizes that sending positive, pro-Israel messages on social media will not sud- denly turn everyone into lovers of Israel. “To change hearts and minds, you need to build personal relationships and engage in personal conversations with other people. That is TalkIsrael’s call for action for our young activists. If you put a beautiful picture about Israel and share it on your social media channels and you think that, based on that, the world will change its opinion, you are mistaken. Only personal conversations and relationships can do that. And that is the focal point of what we’re trying to create here.” 

TalkIsrael will encourage its users to engage in dialogue with people who comment on their posts and reach out to them and build direct interaction. “We will encourage our young ambassadors and activists to reach out and engage in conversation with commenters and build personal relationships.” 

TalkIsrael will provide its users with additional resources through its platform and a list of talking points to help them respond to difficult questions about Israel. 

TalkIsrael has already set up social media channels on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and is looking to hire staff in the United States to work in the Los Angeles area. 

Adam Milstein is confident that TalkIsrael will succeed. “This project has the financial backing of many partners who want to see it continue, expand, improve, and eventually be extremely successful.” 

Visit www.TalkIsrael.org for more information and follow TalkIsrael on social media: www.talkisrael.org/social

This article was written in cooperation with the TalkIsrael Foundation.