One of the more regrettable results of the incessant propaganda campaign against Israel is that Israeli soldiers, many of them young men and women between the ages of 18 and 20, are made out to be soulless and even bloodthirsty creatures. In many places, it is enough to just say you have served in the Israeli army to be immediately ostracized, or at best not taken seriously.
Over the past few years, Israel has greatly improved its ability to fight the public relations war. Much of that has happened on an official level, with the Foreign Ministry, IDF and Prime Minister's Office taking vigorously and regularly to online social media.
But a growing number of private initiatives are also doing their part to get a more accurate picture of Israel and Israelis out there to the world. One such initiative is "Friend a Soldier," a new website that allows visitors from anywhere in the world to personally connect with active Israeli soldiers and reservists.
The exchange is simple. Visitors to the site choose one of 20 or so Israeli soldiers and fill out a short form with their questions. The soldiers, who all volunteer for the website, then post their answers to "Friend a Soldier" for the whole world to see. The experience is made more personal by the fact that each soldier has a profile and recent photograph posted to the site.
Friend a Soldier has already received thousands of emails from around the world, including many enemy nations right here in the Middle East. Many of the questions are accusatory, as would be expected, but the young soldiers do their best to answer politely and honestly in order to show the human face of the Israeli army.
The founders of the website say it is impossible or anyone to truly understand Israel's complex conflict without getting to know the people involved. They are hoping to make a difference by facilitating such connections.