Perhaps one of the more trendy words in Start Up Nation is relocation. In the Israeli tech start-up context it implies moving from Israel to the US (generally) to grow a company and bring it to the big playing field. Well, I guess I recently did a reverse relocation, staking my claim as a true 50-chetzi Israeli-American by moving for the sixth time between Israel and the US. This time, my family and I moved from Philadelphia, where my partner had been studying for the last four years, to Tel Aviv-Yafo, a city we know and really love.
I'm thrilled about move #6 for so many reasons, but I'm especially excited about what it means for Jiri Creative. I started this venture to help mission-driven organizations reach their audiences through impactful content. Israel is bursting with creative initiatives waiting to make a global impact. But when I was living in Philadelphia, ever-so-slightly removed from the Israeli bubble of New York-San Francisco-Boston, I barely heard about them. That's a shame, and a wasted opportunity for Israeli organizations that truly want to reach American and global markets.
Here's the thing: the world is more connected than at any previous point in history. But for storytelling to be effective on a global stage, it still needs to be localized. I talk a lot about how easily I move between Israeli and American culture, but that took years of practice and refinement, and the movement between is the operative term. Meaning, they are not the same, and adjustments need to be made for a message to land the way it is intended.
I am so excited to support mission-driven organizations in Israel and ensure that their messaging lands the way they want it to:
-A marketing team that can't quite get its content strategy right to engage with its customers.
-A non-profit development director whose donor communications are meeting blank stares.
-A social enterprise that needs highly effective collateral to raise funds.
Let's get to work :)
Although I have been writing my whole life, I started writing professionally as a development coordinator for a small non-profit. I loved writing grant applications and narrative reports to donors because they used stories to impact the life of an organization in a very direct and tangible way. But I also longed to write more creative content so that I could play a more active role in determining what stories to tell, and how to tell them. I decided to venture beyond grants (although I still write grants!) into other types of content creation, an endeavor that became Jiri Creative.
When I first took the leap into the online content creation, I was taken aback – not in a good way. The internet is full of, well, junk. As a regular practitioner of meditation, I noticed my mind pulled in a million directions. I felt frustrated at the thought that, perhaps, I couldn't tell the stories I wanted to without compromising the quality of my writing and becoming a subpar content churning machine. After all, I am a quiet person who, particularly in group settings, only speaks when I have something valuable to share. In the world of content creation and content marketing, where did I fit in?
Last year, I took part in a workshop at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. In groups of three, we conducted a mindful listening and sharing exercise, in which we took turns talking for three minutes about an experience we’ve had, while the other group members listened without responding. After we completed the exercise, the entire room joined together to reflect. I reflected that, when given the opportunity to be deeply, mindfully listened to, I became aware of the value of each word I was saying. As I shared my experience with two other people, I spoke slowly, pausing multiple times and questioning the benefit and value of every word I chose to speak.
I approach my writing similarly. As an online consumer of goods, services, and information, I strive to choose the content I engage with mindfully. Shouldn’t I take the same approach as the creator of that information? When I write, I try to create what I call "honest content". Beyond aiming for my writing to comply with Google's Panda algorithm, which favors high-quality content, honest content includes the following elements*:
As a storyteller and writer, I hold the value of honest content closely, ensuring that my work falls within this definition. I want the words I put on paper to matter. I want to consider the value of each word: what impact will it have on its intended audience? What feelings will it evoke? Joy? Pain? Excitement? The stories we tell are the sum of our experiences as humans, of the actions we take as individuals, organizations, and communities with the goal of building the world we want to see. The words we use to describe those actions should be crafted with the same goal in mind.
*A note on privilege: I was born into privilege, a financial and socioeconomic position that has enabled me to launch a writing business, and to be selective about the work I take on. I fully acknowledge that not everyone is able to make those choices. More specifically, I am aware that not every writer is free to write content of value and from the heart. Because I do have that privilege, though, I feel I must use it to create good in the world. To me that means doing my part to break down oppressive and unjust systems that perpetuate the reality in which another person is afforded different opportunities simply because they were born a different color or in a different place.
2019 Israeli election analysis: More of the same path for Israeli right; challenge and opportunity for left
Progressive and left-leaning Israelis, American Jews, and pundits were, to say the least, unhappy with Tuesday’s election results in Israel. Sadly, though, Benjamin Netanyahu’s most recent victory does not actually change the realities on the ground compared to what has been in Israel/Palestine for much of the last decade. What is cause for more serious alarm – and opportunity – is how the Zionist left fared in this election.
The New York Times wrote on Wednesday that Bibi and the right’s victory “attests to a starkly conservative vision of the Jewish state and its people about where they are and where they are headed.” Israel’s movement to the right since Netanyahu’s first term as Prime Minister a decade ago should concern anyone who would like to see the rule of law, human rights, and social democratic values and norms upheld in the region. That said, this election will not immediately cause a quantum leap forward in a process that has been, and continues to be, already unfolding.
Bibi will continue to make opportunistic alliances to save himself, just as he has done for years. He will align with the far right in an attempt to limit the Supreme Court’s power. This alliance would enable the far right to more easily achieve its nationalist aspirations and liberate Bibi of his legal entanglements. It would test Israel’s democratic institutions, similarly to what has happened in the United States with the Trump administration, but I believe Israel’s institutions are strong enough to withstand such challenges.
What about the threat of annexation? The normalization of the annexation debate in Israeli public discourse is concerning in that it demonstrates the successful positioning of an anti-democratic agenda into the mainstream. And yet, this too is just another example of Bibi’s opportunism. Bibi’s direct appeal to Israel’s far right went unchecked by the Trump administration, breaking with decades of U.S. Middle East policy. But de-facto annexation has been happening in the West Bank for the better part of the last decade (and before that). While it may seem that Bibi will now be newly emboldened to take more extreme actions, a centrist government may have likely taken those same actions. That is because any action that further limits the freedoms of Palestinians in the West Bank and widens Israeli presence on the ground cannot be attributed to an individual Israeli leader, but rather is the natural progression of 50 years of occupation. In the absence of a powerful opposition, we are on this train with Bibi or without him.
The real alarming result of this election was the further erosion of a powerful opposition. The Zionist left suffered a massive blow. The once-powerful Labor party and Meretz, together, will hold between 10-11 seats in the upcoming Knesset, depending on the final vote count – a meager 8%. Labor shrank significantly because of the emergence of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, but more importantly, because of its refusal to form true partnership with Palestinian citizens of Israel. Chairman Avi Gabbay has stated in the past that the Labor party will never sit in a coalition with Arab parties.
Interestingly, Meretz, which was slated for a massive loss, actually ended up with 5 seats according to Thursday morning’s vote count, maintaining its current size. Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg credited Arab voters with saving Meretz, voting for the party in higher numbers than in previous elections. Meretz reached out to Arab voters and kept its seats, as opposed to the Labor party that shunned them and lost half its seats.
Meretz still has a lot of work to do to shed its elitist, white, Ashkenazi, Tel Avivi reputation. In order to grow in numbers and gain influence in the future, it will have to build genuine intersectional coalitions not only with Arabs, but with other marginalized groups in Israel such as Mizrahi Jews, Ethiopians (who were effectively ignored in this election despite mass protests just three months ago that shut down a major highway in Tel Aviv), Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and other socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. Labor needs to do the same if it wants to avoid fading into total irrelevance.
There is not enough of a Jewish Zionist left in Israel. The numbers simply don’t add up. The only way for Israel to maintain any semblance of democracy is by forming true intersectional coalitions, with a Jewish-Arab partnership at their center. Part of that process includes the Zionist left’s reckoning with its own complicity in the subjugation of Arab citizens of Israel and in the occupation. Israeli civil society is doing this work already. The chance that it could trickle into the political sphere is what gives me hope moving forward.