Berry Liberman on Ronny Edry
There are conversations everyone is afraid of having. For me, it’s ones around Israel and Palestine. I’m terrified of the hatred people feel in their hearts. I don’t know what to do with it. The thing is, we need to be having the hard conversations—especially the ones where we feel silenced in advance. Ronny Edry is the antidote to this fear. I heard of him years ago, not by name but by impact.
During heightened tension on the political stage, an online revolution was born called “Israel Loves Iran,” where one guy, just a dude, a father, a husband, a teacher of design at college, put a poster on Facebook that was having profound ripple effects on millions of people. It was a picture of him and his daughter Ella holding the Israeli flag, staring straight to camera. Written beneath it was the message: “Iranians we will never bomb your country, we love you”—a few simple words marking the difference between hatred and connection.
At the start, none of this was Ronny’s intention. He was merely responding the only way he knew how to a situation that was out of his control. Born in Paris, he came to serve in the Israeli army at the age of 18 and over time became a devoted warrior for peace. After pressing ‘send’ on that poster that fateful evening, Ronny went to bed without another thought. Overnight the page was shared hundreds of times, then thousands and, as the weeks rolled on, hundreds of thousands. The powerful messages of love and friendship that poured in were life-changing for him, his family and everyone who came across the page.
It was when young Iranians started sending Ronny messages of friendship that he realised he had hit a powerful chord. What began as a personal act of frustration became the Peace Factory, an online community of people from the Middle East and around the world wishing to connect, break down barriers and friend the “enemy.” Their goal is to make peace viral.
Of course there are critics of his approach to one of the world’s most intractable problems: people who label it naïve, couch-surfing activism and simplistic, feel- good flippery. I can’t help but think that cynicism doesn’t really get us anywhere and Ronny’s work just might stop a war. If enough people want to know one another, maybe we can then begin a conversation about how to live together.