Typical Israeli hasbara (public diplomacy) is dominated by eloquent advocates representing Israel to audiences abroad, focusing on media outlets and college campuses. Eyal Biram, the charismatic founder and CEO of Israel-is, has come up with a new approach.
Israel-is, started in 2017 by Biram together with other graduates of elite IDF units after their discharge from the army, is a nonprofit organization with new offices in Tel Aviv. It seeks to boost Israel’s image by facilitating meaningful encounters between ordinary young Israelis and their peers worldwide.
Biram, 29, was born and raised on Moshav Ramot Hashavim in central Israel, established by immigrants fleeing Germany during the Fifth Aliyah in 1933. He is one of four brothers, all officers in the Israeli Air Force and IDF Infantry.
“We were all educated from a young age about the value of serving the country,” he says. “My military service, as with many Israelis, shaped my life in that I feel like I’m in an endless Formula One race, always hyped on adrenaline.”
He served in the IDF for six years and became an officer. “I fought in the war in Gaza and took part in classified operations that taught me to work under pressure,” he says. “But the main thing was the realization that there is nothing more important in life than working for something that has value. Serving in some of the operations that kept the prime minister up at night made me want to continue to stay up at night and serve missions that have value. In the case of Israel-is, it’s strengthening Israel’s image.”
The idea of spreading Israel’s unique story via direct, people-to-people connections was born while Biram was on furlough from the army. He took a short trip to the Far East, where he was first exposed to Israel’s image problem. “Tourists raised an eyebrow when I spoke of my identity, my country and my military service,” he recalls. “I realized I was not prepared for what I encountered.”
This led him to establish Israel-is upon completion of his military service, using the social platforms and language employed by young people today.
“Our belief is that the way to help the world like Israel is by having them like Israelis,” Biram says. “We are a group of young people, all under 30 years old. Our life experience makes us want to raise generations of Israelis who can tell their personal Israeli story and do good for the country.”
The COVID-19 pandemic posed a new challenge to an organization focused on overseas trips. “We never anticipated something like Covid,” Biram says. “But in Israel, we learn that every challenge can be turned into an opportunity.”
That opportunity came with the Abraham Accords signed in 2020. Curious about the people on the other side of the treaty, Israel-is began tweeting and sending messages on social media to Dubai, Bahrain and Morocco. “We were the first to meet these people on Zoom, talking about universal issues such as cooking, sports and entrepreneurship. Our work was picked up on social media pages such as Ivanka Trump’s, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s and the BBC.”
Besides training discharged soldiers, Israel-is also provides workshops to IDF officers, companies and organizations, honing interpersonal skills and helping Israelis create genuine bonds with their counterparts abroad.
“What started as a small organization now prepares tens of thousands of discharged Israeli soldiers a year with the tools they need to create productive conversations with young people around the globe,” Biram says. “We create a bridge between the world and the people of Israel.”
You can read more about Biram’s admirable organization on its website, israel-is.org/en.