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Ronny Edry is making peace go viral
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Ronny Edry is making peace go viral
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“What we’re doing is opening the door to conversation, to communication, to friendship and ultimately to peace.”
Conversations
2 September 2015

Ronny Edry is making peace go viral

Interview by Berry Liberman
Photography by Yadid Levy

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.

This story originally ran in issue #44 of Dumbo Feather

BERRY LIBERMAN: You’ve become somewhat of a celebrity— if you can use that word in the global peace conversation— because you did something pretty extraordinary a few years ago and it’s had a big impact. Tell me about the Peace Factory.

RONNY EDRY: It happened kind of by accident. I started with a poster and people started to share and respond to it. I think as a graphic designer you want to use design to say something. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since I was a student: actually print posters. I mean real posters, on paper, and post them on the street.

The old fashioned poster!

Yeah! That was the idea. So it was really political—about Jerusalem elections and stuff happening in Israel. And we had this campaign, me and a friend of mine, called “Shimon and Shimon.” So we were taking pictures of ourselves like two politicians, Shimon and Shimon running for office. It was really popular at that time on the streets. But with the internet and social media, suddenly you can access way more people. You can, with one post, get to millions. So I always made stuff for the internet and used my graphic abilities to say something about politics. With that specific poster [points to screen], I was really afraid that we were going to war with Iran.

What year was this?

It was 2012, just after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the US Congress and gave the nuclear duck talk. You know that one.

No.

So there’s the saying, “If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” And Benjamin made the same analogy with Iran’s atomic bomb. He’s a good talker. I was watching on TV how people in the Congress responded, clapping, he was convincing those guys that war was coming. At some point, you’ve got to shoot. I was like, “Okay, this is the day that war with Iran might be decided.”

On your behalf.

Yeah! We’re sitting here in Israel, and he’s convincing the Congress in the States that it’s okay to have some preventative strike on Iran. I was like, “Now they’re going to do it. They’re just going to attack Iran.” So I said, “What can I do about it?” I was sitting in my living room afraid, and then I thought, Oh my God, what the people of Iran must feel now! I mean the same father, with a wife and two kids sitting in Tehran—what he must feel. My reaction was to tell them, like in the Sting song: “If the Russians love their children too,”

This story originally ran in issue #44 of Dumbo Feather

This story originally ran in issue #44 of Dumbo Feather

I wanted to tell them that we love our children and I know you do too, so maybe we can get to an agreement before those guys start throwing bombs on our behalf.

That’s how I came up with the poster. I asked Michal to come and take a picture.

Michal’s your wife?

Yeah. In a few minutes, I make the poster and post it. It’s an image of me and my daughter Ella holding the Israeli flag and written under it is: “Iranians we love you. We will never bomb your country.” I also wrote a long letter to the Iranian people. To me, the letter was more important than the image. “To all the fathers, the mothers, the children, the brothers and the sisters. For there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other. We must hate. I am not afraid of you, I don’t even know you. No Iranian ever did me any harm. I never even met an Iranian. Just one, in Paris, in a museum—nice dude.”

[Laughs].

“Sometimes I see an Iranian on TV talking about war. I am sure it does not represent all of the people of Iran. If you see someone on your TV talking about bombing you, be sure it does not represent all of us. I am not an official representative of my country, I am a father and a teacher. I know the streets of my towns. I talk with my neighbours, my family, my students, my friends. And in the name of all these people: we love you, we mean you no harm. On the contrary, we want to meet you, have some coffee and talk about sports. To all those who feel the same, share this message and help it reach the Iranian people.”

So you pressed enter, and then you got on with your day. You made the kids dinner, gave them a bath.

Yeah, it was on my personal page, which we use to talk with graphic design students on Facebook. Most of the people on this page were students and our friends and family, but nobody from abroad. So it came from a sincere place. It wasn’t pre-meditated.

You didn’t go, “Whoa, what’s going to be the impact?”

No, I didn’t even think about an impact. At that time when I was posting some stuff on Facebook I was having some students say “nice!” or “not nice!” Three, maybe 10 likes. But then some friends started to make comments like, “Dude, what’s happening with you?” Really cynical comments. Israel is really cynical about peace and showing love and stuff like that. So it was all, “Ronny, what’s happening with you? Dude! Look at you! You’re holding the flag and everything! Shame on you!” Basically in Israel, when you talk about peace, you must be a naïve 15-year- old to think that it’s going to happen. It’s like peace and love are the stuff of dreamers.

Really?

People don’t believe in it. They don’t see it happening. They will always end the conversation with, “Yeah, but it’s not going to happen. Because the Arab world is not ready, because Hamas, because this or that is in the way.” But at the end of the day, they want peace, they just don’t want to admit it. This is the thing: everybody wants peace, but nobody’s ready to look at it in the eyes and say, “Okay how are we going to make it happen?”

They only have a good reason for why the status quo is what it is. Look at the people voting for Benjamin Netanyahu. Look at the people voting for the Hamas. People still are afraid of each other. They vote for the status quo. And for the parties on the right.

‘Cause everyone’s afraid. So they’re thinking, Whoever can guarantee my security, I’ll go for that.

It’s not even about security, it’s about not letting go. It’s about not being ready to trust. It’s about waiting in the safe zone. People last election voted for Yair Lapid—he was just a TV presenter. He’d talk about socialism and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, when you see what he’s doing, he’s not putting himself on the line about peace, and it’s a waste of a vote to me.

So is this how you voted? With your Facebook post? Was this your way of saying, “I’m going to look at this issue of peace in the eyes”?

Yeah, you can always bitch about Benjamin Netanyahu. I can make a poster about him. But it’s not about him. I really wanted to do something positive. And to throw it to the other side.

So what happened after you made that post?

We had a dinner at Michal’s parents, and I didn’t have Facebook on my phone at that time so I couldn’t check. I remember waking up in the middle of the night because I was thirsty. And I just went by the computer and saw on Facebook all these red dots, you know—hundreds. I thought, Whoa, something is happening! And then I went to the page and I see all these people sharing, reposting the poster and commenting. And at some point I saw on the feed of comments people from Iran. On Facebook, when you’re receiving messages from people who are not your friends, they end up in another box that I didn’t know about. Then I realised there were hundreds more messages! It was just one day, even half a day.

What were they saying?

“We just saw your poster! Thank you so much! We want to say the same. We want to say ‘thank you’.” I called Michal and told her, “You have to read this story.” This girl sent us a message that said, “I was on my Facebook and saw your poster and asked my parents to come see. And in the middle of the night in Tehran, me and my parents were staring at the screen crying.” I was with Michal, and we were crying also! So it was like fucking crying all over! I’m telling you the story and I’m almost crying again.

Since it started I cried so many times! Because it’s really amazing how people just are amazing. People don’t want this to happen. Don’t want war.

Don’t want to hate each other.

It’s stupid to say, but they’re just like us. Those people in Tehran? They just want the same things we want. And it was so easy to access them. After that, I realised there is more to this. It’s a real way of communicating. And now it’s our job to use this to have the conversation, because now it’s proved that there are so many people on the other side and they’re just like us. All those stories about all the Iranians waking up in the morning and drinking Jewish blood is bullshit! I mean, maybe a few Iranians hate Israelis. But you have extremists in every country. I realised that’s how we can use this. We can do something way bigger.

So the first few days were so crazy. It opened the hearts of so many people in Israel. They would say, “Wow. Thank you for saying that on our behalf. Because it’s always the bad stuff on our behalf. What about I send you my picture and you make me the same poster and send it?”

Oh wow.

I was receiving pictures like crazy. And I was asking friends, “Come to my house, help me make posters!” It was crazy. On my Facebook feed were all these messages of “Israel loves Iran.” It was so big.

Amazing. And then what happened?

And then some Iranians responded. Here [points to screen].

I’ll read some: “My Israeli friend. I don’t like bombs. I only want dialogue. Love and peace.” “My Israeli friends, I don’t hate you. I don’t want war.”

Yeah! So I had to get a group of people working with me just to answer everybody. Just to answer the messages. We were having a lot of messages and we were using the messages to make posters.

You’ve got a comment here from an Iranian guy just minutes ago: “I love that blue, I love that star, I love that flag.” Holy shit.

This is an amazing story. He’s responding to this [points to screen]. It’s a woman who was raised to enter a school walking on the Israeli and the American flag. Every morning when she went to her school, at the entrance of the school, were the flags of Israel and the States, and she had to walk over them. And when she saw the picture she said something was really wrong. And she sent us this letter. And the letter is, “Now that I see you and your daughter and this flag, I love that blue, I love that star, I love that flag.”

So we were working crazy, night and day, to repost and manage everything. And then the media called us. They said, “Hey! We heard that you are talking with Iranians! Can we interview you?” So we said, “Okay.” Then more and more media want to interview me, and after a while I’m like, “I can’t go to all those studios.” So I said, “You know what? We’re in the house. We’re working here. Feel free to pop over anytime for an interview. Just knock on the door.” And then there was like, a line.

Of media?

Yeah! CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC. All the time. We weren’t prepared, you know? So it got bigger and bigger. And at some point we had so many friends on our personal page, Pushpin, that we had to open a page dedicated to the organisation. Because you can only have 5000 friends on a personal page. My friend set up the organisation page for us, and I said, “What are we going to call this?” And he said, “I don’t know! What’s the first thing that comes to mind?” “Israel Loves Iran.” He said, “Yeah, that sounds lame. Let’s go with that.”

[Laughs].

And that’s how it happened. We opened a page called “Israel loves Iran”, I made a logo, and then it went big.

What does “big” mean?

Lots of shares. Ten thousand friends. Lots of traffic, lots of people commenting. And then somebody in Iran opened a page, Iran Loves Israel.

Ahhh! Wow!

He said, “I like the idea. Let’s share stories.” So he used the same logo. And then a woman got in touch and opened the page, Palestine Loves Israel and Israel Loves Palestine, and now we have thousands of pages. Afghanistan Loves Israel, Beirut Loves Israel and Iran, America Loves Iran. It’s like a big, big community of love between countries.

And you’ve got some incredible pictures of couples from different countries holding up their passports and kissing.

Yeah, we have so many pictures of people from both sides with their passports. Pictures people have taken of themselves together. And that’s exactly the point. I mean besides all the bad stories you have on the news, you also have that and it’s happening all the time.

I look at this campaign and think millions of people telling each other, “We’re friends, I love you.” It sounds naïve, but it’s true. It goes against all the narratives that we’re told about each other in the traditional media and in the religious wars—that actually we all want the same things at a fundamental level.I look at this campaign and think millions of people telling each other, “We’re friends, I love you.” It sounds naïve, but it’s true. It goes against all the narratives that we’re told about each other in the traditional media and in the religious wars—that actually we all want the same things at a fundamental level.

Yes, though when you’re talking about love and saying, “Let’s be friends,” politicians don’t know how to deal with that. So it doesn’t get through on that level. That’s why we still have propaganda happening. All this brainwashing. What we’re doing is re-humanising at the simplest level. It’s opening the door to conversation, to communication, to friendship and ultimately to peace. When I realised there was something in this, I just kept pushing it with heart and simplicity. I didn’t want to do anything too sophisticated and fancy. It’s like basic, basic. Helvetica, a few big words. A big heart. Don’t overthink it. And it works!

Tell me about your journey. You grew up in Paris?

Yeah. I’ll show you a nice picture. I know you can’t see the picture on the interview. But look at this picture [points to screen]. This is me.

Oh you’re so cute! How old are you there?

Maybe 10, 11. And this is my friend, Malik, he is a Muslim. And this is Mohammed and this is David. Nobody at that time was talking about anti-Semitism and stuff like that. We were just having fun and it was okay. I come from a place where it was really okay to have a lot of Arab friends. We were all raised to be together. It was the ’80s in France. Back then it was nice. Coming to Israel was a big change because in Israel I realised that Jews and Muslims were not talking.

When did you move to Israel?

In ’89. It was just after my study and I wanted to try something else. I wanted a change so I decided Israel. It could have been Canada, anywhere.

And you went into the army.

Yeah I was in the paratroopers. I didn’t do it because I wanted to be a fighter, it was more of a social accomplishment. Here in Israel the army is still something that is very strong. It’s how you define yourself as an Israeli. And I really wanted to be an Israeli. So I went for the most difficult path! And I ended up in really, really crazy situations. I was in the West Bank, I was in Lebanon. And I was looking at Intifada first hand. I was part of what’s happening. It wasn’t the news suddenly, it was my life. And it was really challenging for me because I remember having this thought, How can we change things? How can I be nice to these people? But also I was wearing a uniform and a gun and I was in their village. So they were looking at me like I was the enemy. And I was just seeing them as people on the street. People I might talk to.

A friend of mine told me once, “You’re going to get killed at some point because you’re too nice. You can’t be a paratrooper with a gun on the streets and be nice to everybody because one day you’re going to go and try to help this old woman and you’re going to get stabbed or something!” And that was really…

Disturbing.

Yeah. That stayed with me for all my service in the army. I mean every time we were in the West Bank and places like that, I was really struggling. Trying to do the right thing in the worst situation possible. It’s really, really complicated. When you’re at a checkpoint and you know why you’re there, because you have the mission to not let potential terrorists into Jerusalem, it’s complicated. Because you have to check everybody. So there’s a long line of people, it’s the middle of the day, it’s hot, people are like dehydrating in front of your face. And you have to check everybody. And you want to be nice. But the line is starting to push and people are getting upset and there is this mother with a kid and she wants to be first in the line, and you understand why, because she has a kid. So you want to take her to the front of the queue. But people start saying, “Hey, I’ve been here from five in the morning! And my mother is waiting for me at the hospital!”

So it can degenerate quickly. And if you’re not strong enough you can become this crazy person who says, “Go back to the end of the line. You wait one hour.”

You have the power to become crazy. Because you have a gun and you’re the one holding the door.

You know? And you’re only 18. You’re only 18 and your officer is 19. So it’s a bunch of kids in the craziest situation making the worst mistakes of their life because there is no adult. You know? And I was a good guy. Imagine the…

Assholes!

I had many assholes in my platoon! I was arguing with them all the time! “Why did you do that?” “How can you talk like that to this woman? She could be your mother!” “How…?” It was really, really challenging. I think the whole issue that we have to be there is crazy. And that the army has to do it! It’s not a job for the army. It’s a job for maybe police. It’s also crazy because sometimes you’re in the line and someone takes a knife and you have to shoot first. You have to be aware all the time, you have to be, like, stressed, but you want to be nice. It’s really, really complicated. It’s not easy as media shows you. It’s a fucked up situation because those guys want to get into Israel. They need to get to hospitals or their jobs or to the airports. They’re crossing a border. People need to cross from the West Bank to Gaza. You have to allow them to do that. The other thing is when you’re 18 and you do that job, you’re not sleeping well, you’re eating shit. You’re away from home for long weeks.

There are no grown-ups giving you wisdom, counsel at the end of the day.

You get ugly in a few minutes. It’s easy. Imagine! It’s not that at the end of my shift I go back home and…

Go shopping…

No!

Café latte…

No! At the end of that eight hours I go and wash the dishes for the platoon and then I have two hours training, and then again and again like that for days. Being a soldier in the West Bank interacting with civil populations is really complicated. It’s really, really fucked up. Imagine you’re in the middle of a street, you’re walking the street—because we had to do a lot of walks. We were walking the streets of Ramala, let’s say, policing—to see that everything is in order. You’ve been told, “We’re having a mission tomorrow from nine to 10. Just walk, just be there.” “Why? Because!” [Laughs]. So we’re walking. And now suddenly we start to get hit by rocks. And you see someone who’s thrown one, so we start running after him. And then you end up in front of a house. You know that the person is in the house. So what do you do? You’re with your platoon. You can go crazy and rush into the house with the army. Nobody’s going to stop you. You can do it. Or you could knock on the door and say, “That was wrong.” Or you can try to call the person to get out of the house. Most of the time you’re doing the worst thing ever. You barge into the house with all your army guys and the person who was throwing the stones is just a kid, and he’s hiding behind his mother. And he’s shaking. Because the soldiers got him. And he knows it. So what you going to do now? His mother is crying, “Please don’t take my son, he’s just a boy.” She’s slapping him in front of you just to prove to you that he’s been wrong and won’t ever do it again.

You’re 18 and he’s 10. And all your friends are like, “Let’s take him out! Take him to the station.” And me, I want to say, “Fuck it, let’s leave him.” But the sergeants say, “No, we’re taking him to the station.” And start an argument. And then the father comes. And the brothers. And then the whole village is out of the house. And then some people start to throw stones at the house. That’s how it is! It’s every day.

So how in the world do you go from that experience to the Peace Factory?

Exactly because of that experience! Exactly because of that experience. Because those situations are there. Because we keep on sending our children, at all of 18, to do that again and again because we’re not getting to the point of making peace with the Palestinians. Israel keeps on not telling the world where the frontier of Israel is. That’s a big problem. Decide already what is your border! And Israel is not deciding because politically, for Bibi Netanyahu, it’s suicide. He can’t do it.

So I put a post the other day on Twitter that I was going to be interviewing you and the first retweet I got was from a guy whose Twitter handle said, “How to wipe Zionism off the map.” I got it at midnight. And I was unable to sleep, completely terrified that some scary, hate- filled person just retweeted my tweet to all their hate-filled followers and I’ve just gone on some sort of black list. It was scary. So how do you…

First of all, take it easy.

[Laughs].

It’s social media. People will retweet and it’s not personal. There’s no black list.

Yeah but you put a picture of yourself with your daughter and the Israeli flag and “Israel Loves Iran.”

We also have a lot of negative comments and a lot of people from Israel and abroad say, “We’re going to kill you!”

You’ve had death threats?

All the time. I have a group of people who do admin for the page. And their job was just to erase all the bad stuff they were putting on the page. It was so much.

What was it in comparison to the good stuff?

It was like five percent of the good stuff. But still. You don’t want somebody to go on the page Israel Loves Iran and then you see the body of a baby from a bombing. They post horrible stuff. Graphic stuff. Just to say, “Hey, look at that. We’re going to do that to you.” We didn’t want to close the page, but this five percent can be really, really…

Loud.

And people won’t come back to the page. So we had to erase it manually over and over and over.

And still?

Sometimes. Now I think people understand it. They get it. But at the beginning, it was like, “We’re not going to let you do that.” We also had people who said, “Okay, you talk about Iran but what about Palestine? I mean you’re bombing Palestine every day, basically.” And I said, “Okay!” We had long conversations about it.

A healthy dialogue.

Yeah it was constructive, it wasn’t people coming to the page saying, “You fucking Israeli.” There was a conversation. I mean there are some hard questions. And I’m okay with that. But I’m here to try to connect. So if you’re not ready to connect, if you just want to throw hate at me, I’m not interested. This is the page where people come to talk. And there are other issues. It’s not easy. We’re going to talk about Zionism, we’re going to talk about Israel, we’re going to talk about terrorism, we’re going to talk about Palestine, Iran.

It’s not like the world is shiny-finey. Obviously. But we need to create a place where people can come to talk. To exchange. To understand.

You know, what it is to be a Zionist?

What do you think it is to be a Zionist?

The word “Zionism” is not well understood. People use it like it’s a bad word. They’re using the word without understanding it. I heard in Europe now they’re using it to describe capitalism that goes really bad. It’s going back to basic anti-Semitism. Like, the Jews have all the money and those theories. So they put all this stuff in a group and call it “Zionism.” They don’t understand that you can be for peace, living in Israel, wanting to have dialogue with the Palestinians, wanting to have a two-state solution and be a Zionist. Because basically being a Zionist is just wanting a place for Jewish people to live.

Safe.

Safe place. And we can talk about the border of that place. I’m okay also to have a Palestinian live in a Jewish state. Being a Zionist is not wanting the Palestinian to go live in Jordan. To me you have to make friends with your neighbours. So every time I have people on the page say, “Hey Ronny, thanks for showing the path for peace and not being a Zionist.” I’m like, “Hello! I’m a Zionist! I’m an Israeli and I’m for peace and I’m a Zionist. And here’s the definition of Zionism.” Copy, paste, start from there, and if you want, come back and talk to me.

Do people come back and talk to you?

Yeah! I had lots of conversations. One of the people who’s more active on the page started like that. A good guy from Australia called Rob!

[Laughs].

And at the beginning he was like, “Good page! But it’s good for you that you’re not a Zionist.” And we start talking. And he starts to understand. And now he understands!

What does he understand?

He understands what it is to be a Zionist. What it is to be an Israeli. Because people living in Australia generally have no clue. It’s like, “What do I know about what’s happening in Mexico? Only what I see on TV.” And what I see on TV and what you guys see on TV about Israel is just the bad stuff. It’s also all black and white. There is no…

Grey.

So it’s the bad Israelis, the good Palestinians and there is no middle. That’s what you guys see. That’s what people in Europe see. But that’s not the reality. It’s funny because talking here about peace is way more productive. When you talk about the peace process in Europe, it doesn’t get us anywhere because they don’t understand the facts, the politics, the day-to-day. I mean, it’s a long process.

What would you say to whoever’s reading this conversation? What would you say to them about their role as agents of change and peace? Maybe they’re saying, “I’m just one person, I can’t have an impact.”

That’s the amazing challenge we have now with social media. Every drop in the water can make a change. Every drop can be heard. And every drop has a duty. You can go on Facebook and be a drop that says something—you don’t have to agree. You can say, “I don’t agree with that.” It’s like what Michael Jackson was saying in “Man in the Mirror.” If something is bothering you, do something! Say something! It’s so easy! You don’t have to vote anymore to make a change. You can access a group of people that think the same, form a group and really move stuff.

Are you ever afraid?

No. I mean, life is frightening. Really. Especially when you have kids. I’m terrified. But also I’m in a good situation so I can be terrified and do nothing or I can be terrified and do something. I hate flying. I’m terrified of being in the plane. And I’m flying all the time now. Today I’m going to LA. There is a bigger picture than the fact that you don’t like flying. There’s the fact that you can go there and convince some people that what you’re doing is good. So fly! Go on the plane— even if you’re terrified—and do it.

Yeah.

I think everybody has the ability to create change, to make an impact. In Israel when teachers generally teach the Holocaust, the bottom line is, “Be ready for what’s coming next.” Go to the army, be a soldier, be ready, protect your country. But the Holocaust can also be the starting point for teaching you to be a good person, to be kind, to open your heart, to not be a racist. Because that’s what racism does.

That’s how a group of Germans, who were well educated, ended up killing six million Jews. If you don’t understand the mechanism of what happened in Germany, it can happen anywhere. It happened in Rwanda. Bosnia, it happened. It’s the same mechanism where people were thrown out of their house and killed in front of their children. So what is this “never again”? It’s happening right now! And let’s say we learn the lesson of being ready. But what about teaching the lesson of being open? We have Sudanese coming out to Israel. Do we really have to put them in refugee camps? In the middle of the desert? The Jews putting Sudanese in camps? Look in the eyes of those Sudanese. Can you be a better person? We have a duty to the world not to act like that because it happened to us. And a lot of Israel will tell you the same.

You know, this conversation you and I are having as Jews— you’re a French Jew, I’m an Australian Jew—would probably be considered by certain Jews around the world as outrageous.

Because they ’re like, “We have to protect, we have to be ready!” What are you protecting? I don’t need your protection. Don’t be ready for me. You want to be ready? Come to live in Israel first. You want to do something about Israel? Come to live. But don’t tell me to be ready. Don’t tell me how to interact with the Palestinians. Don’t tell me from the States what I have to do here. Why? You’ve never been here! I mean, most of you don’t understand what’s happening here. It’s not something that’s happening in a dream. It’s happening every day. And the problems in Israel are economic, like everywhere in the world. We have economic issues. So do the Palestinians.

The question I’m wondering all the way through this conversation is, what is it like to talk about love in a cynical world? Especially for you?

I’m cynical. I’m really cynical. But it’s been so heart-opening this stuff that’s happened to me in the last two years. Really. I felt this wave of love. It’s changed me personally. People sending me messages it was like, “Wow!” It’s crazy. It’s so big. It’s happening. I’m going on the streets and some neighbour says, “Wow, you’re Ronny from the Israel Loves Iran page, oh man, thanks! I’m so happy you did that for us!” I feel like I’ve made an impact. And I was really, really cynical before that. So I’m trying to keep this openness, feeling like change is possible. As a soldier I felt first-hand how bad it can be. So I know that there is another path. But I know there is something else that we can do to connect with each other and to open our hearts. And build a better world. I want to keep on that path. I want to keep making posters every day.

 

This conversation originally appeared in issue 44 of Dumbo Feather magazine.

Berry Liberman

Berry Liberman, Dumbo Feather’s publisher and editor-in-chief, drives our passion and purpose. While she’s not immersed in the heady scent of old fashioned flowers, she’s also the Creative Director of Small Giants and a mum to the three cutest kids in the world.

Photography by Yadid Levy

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