Six social media influencers from the UK, with 16 million followers on various platforms, recently turned their focus to Israel.
The six serial posters visited iconic Israeli locations, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee as guests of Vibe Israel, an Israeli non-profit dedicated to helping Israel spread the message of what life in Israel is really like.
For Richard Sales, Luke Vernon, Beth Colley, Callum Ryan, Victor Oluwatowoju and Luca Peterson, whether on a Tel Aviv beach or at a traditional Friday night dinner, Israel wasn’t what they expected.
Vibe Israel CEO Romi Barak explains that they ask the influencers they invite to meet a minimum number of social media posts to share about their experience. “They’re having a great experience and [posting about their experiences] is something they do.” Still, if they don’t enjoy or feel good about something, they’re under no obligation to post about it.
The participants share their thoughts
Yet, when asked for their candid thoughts, each of them had something they wanted to share.
For RSales, a TikToker with 8.4 million followers between his two TikTok accounts, the emphasis that Israelis put on community and family was profoundly inspiring.
Sales’ accounts feature him reacting to videos of home appliances, kitchen gadgets and things of that nature that he finds interesting or useful.
“I think Friday night dinner should be introduced more back home,” he said, referring to the tradition of a communal Shabbat dinner. “It’s nice to see the faces of family and friends. I feel like a lot of us put off family time back home, so I feel like that was a really nice eye-opener to be with friends and family so often.”
Coincidentally and unbeknownst to Sales at the time, one of the brands whose products he reacted to in a video he posted during his week in Israel was Israel-based SodaStream.
Colley and Ryan, a couple who are each popular creators on TikTok in their own right, said they were planning to post about their trip after returning home.
“A lot of our content together is travel related, so we kind of cover all aspects of travel and lifestyle,” Ryan explains. So, regarding what about their Israel experience they intended on sharing with their followers, “we’re just going to build on that, explaining about the different aspects of Israel that people don’t see.”
Recent videos posted about the trip
That’s exactly what he’s done. Among a couple of recent videos he posted about his trip to Israel, one shows his viewers the various cuisine options to be found in Tel Aviv. The TikTok video concludes with an inside look into an Israeli Shabbat dinner and has, to date, received over 450,000 views.
Colley, when asked what most stood out about Israel to her, without hesitation said, “Definitely the Dead Sea. We went there at sunrise and we kayaked, which was really cool... And floating on the water, that was one of our favorites.”
@bethcollley would you ever try this? honestly the most unreal experience thanks to @Vibe Israel #vibeparty #deadsea #travel ♬ original sound - favsoundds
Vernon, whose account is known for the humorous sketches and interviews he posts, was shocked to find that the Israeli people were not what he expected.
“The people, oh my god!” he exclaims. “Everybody’s so attentive, always wants to know what you want. [They’re] really happy, happy, happy people. I’ve not met somebody who’s moody... Everyone here just seems to be smiling... They really want to know things about you, as well.”
VERNON’S PERCEPTION is backed up by data. According to the 2023 World Happiness Report, Israel ranks fourth among the world’s nations in terms of happiness.
He went on to explain that while he had previously believed the entire country to be very religious, he was surprised to find a diversity of ideas, including an environment where things such as secularism and gay rights were the norm.
Luca Peterson, who shares his passion for photography with his several hundred thousand followers, noted the diversity he saw between the different locations and cities in Israel.
“Jerusalem is very historical. It’s very ancient, you know?” Peterson said. “Thousands of years of history piled on top of each other, whereas Tel Aviv feels a lot more like a modern city, a Mediterranean city.”
@lucajpeterson What an incredibly fascinating place this is! Thousands of years of history layered upon each other in such a compact area, was a phenomenal experience to walk around this city and photograph these historical landmarks first hand! @Vibe Israel #travelphotographer #travelphotography #ukphotography #ukphotographer #vibeparty ♬ original sound - Luca J Peterson
Providing this experience of Israel is part of Vibe Israel’s effort to advance into the new age of Israel advocacy.
“The purpose is to change hearts and minds about Israel amongst the next generation and to do it using social media,” Joanna Landau, the founder of the organization said. “There’s an anti-Israel narrative out there. And for decades, the way that people have been dealing with this is through advocacy work. And we believe that’s very necessary but young people are on social media and they’re influenced by digital influencers. And so, the way we connect with them is [by] bringing [the influencers] to Israel and letting them tell Israel’s story.”
So, instead of simply hearing things such as “all citizens have equal rights under the law, women have rights, LGBTQ people have rights, the country is a democracy,” the influencers are able to see it for themselves.
This type of approach to Israel advocacy has been echoed even at the highest levels of government.
Last year, during his address to the UN general assembly, then-prime minister Yair Lapid remarked, “Whenever I meet someone who has criticism of Israel, I always have the same answer: come and visit us. Come and meet the real Israel, you will fall in love. A country that combines breathtaking innovation with a deep sense of history. Great people, great food, great spirit. A vibrant democracy, a country in which Jews, Muslims and Christians live together with full civic equality.”
Vibe Israel takes the come-and-see approach and applies it using influencers as proxies for their large followings.
It’s a simple approach but Landau points to the concrete data the organization has been collecting from its social listening software to demonstrate its efficacy.
Barak noted that over the past 10 years using its influencer strategy, Vibe Israel has generated more than a billion positive online mentions about Israel.
Landau explains that Vibe Israel isn’t asking the influencers it invites to get on a major network and defend the country against libel and slander. “We are [just] asking them to learn about Israel from their own experience and share that with their followers.”