So Ronny Edry started a campaign for peace. He thought, if leaders advertise war, then nothing should stop him from advertising peace. After all, he is only advocating the truth. As far as Ronny is concerned, war was invented by leaders and those in authority to distract people from their everyday worries. If there’s war then no one would be able to focus on the real problems within the country. What’s even better for politicians is that they stay in power.
It’s sad to think that the world has come to such a state where power takes precedence over anything else. Where’s justice in a world where innocent lives are cut short because of war? Some say for peace to arise, war has to happen. Then how come peace remains elusive after our war-laden history?
Ronny refused to stay silent. He used a weapon he knows best. A small act of defiance created a ripple effect. What he declared as his personal stand spoke to others and touched their hearts, prompting them to join him in his call for peace. Cynics call it slacktivism, the kind that gets viral because it doesn’t entail for one to do much except pushing buttons to help spread the word. But for what it’s worth, Ronny Edry’s Israel Loves Iran campaign proves that humanity is not as depraved as what the media or leaders depict us to be.
To be fair with Ronny, he has been working hands-on all day long making posters and creating network. It doesn’t hurt amplifying his call for change, considering that what he is calling for is something good. We could all use some positive news every now and then. One coming from Israel is really a breath of fresh air.
Who is Ronny Edry?
Ronny Edry is an Israeli who grew up in Paris, France. He did not return to Israel until 1989. By the time he became famous in 2012, he was 41 years old.
Prior to being a peace activist, he was already teaching Visual Communication at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Ronny also founded Pushpin Mehina, a preparatory school for graphic design students. He is married to Michal Tamir and is a father of two kids. They live a comfortable life despite the high cost of living in Israel. Ronny is a hard worker. Apart from teaching at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and managing his own school, Pushpin Mehina, he also published graphic novels. He’s a typical father who only wanted the best quality of life for his wife and kids.
Going Viral on Facebook
One of the things that Ronny enjoys doing is surfing the internet, perhaps for design inspiration or just logging on to Facebook. He would often post his designs and he’s happy with compliments from his average pool of friends.
One day while he was in a store, he overheard the owner and a customer talking about bombs. According to the store owner, Israel would soon be getting 10,000 bombs to which the client replied, “No, 10,000 bombs a day.” So, that exchange made Ronny think about the escalating animosity between Iran and his home country.
Unlike Palestine, Israel and Iran didn’t really have diplomatic issues before. The conflict between the two nations seemed to have escalated after the end of the First Gulf War. During the Pahlavi dynasty, the relations between Iran and Israel were congenial. But since the change of leadership in both countries, they have forgotten what it was like to be allies.
Issues of Iran’s nuclear technology exacerbated Israel’s animosity towards their neighboring country. What’s sad is that this conflict from the top echelons was passed on to the succeeding generations. Now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly entangled himself in a word war with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ronny does not understand why he must hate people he doesn’t even know. What’s the point of killing people we don’t hate? Iranians and Israelis have been raised to hate each other but Ronny is not the type who would blindly follow. In short, he does not have hate in his heart for people who he sees as just like him—a daughter/son, a husband/wife, a friend, a person.
He went home and took a picture of him and his daughter who held a miniature Israeli flag in her left hand. The picture had Ronny carrying her lovely daughter and both of them looking straight at the camera. Using his artistic license, he embellished the photo with these words: “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We [heart] you.” Like what he would sometimes do whenever he felt like it, he posted the photo on his Facebook wall. Shortly after, he went to bed.
Ronny tells the story of what happened next after he woke up in the middle of the night to check his Facebook wall:
"... and I went by the computer and I see all these red dots, you know, on Facebook, which I've never seen before. (Laughter) And I was like, "What's going on?" So I come to the computer and I start looking on, and suddenly I see many people talking to me, most of them I don't know, and a few of them from Iran, which is -- What? Because you have to understand, in Israel we don't talk with people from Iran. We don't know people from Iran. It's like, on Facebook, you have friends only from -- it's like your neighbors are your friends on Facebook. And now people from Iran are talking to me.
So I start answering this girl, and she's telling me she saw the poster and she asked her family to come, because they don't have a computer, she asked her family to come to see the poster, and they're all sitting in the living room crying." (SOURCE: TED Talks)
Not long after his first poster went viral on Facebook, Ronny received more photos from strangers asking if he could also make them a poster with “Israel Loves Iran” message on it. What he didn’t expect was how the message would speak to what their state calls as the enemy. The initiative was soon reciprocated by a 34-year-old landscape artist, Majid Nowrouzi, who set up the “Iran Loves Israel” page on Facebook.
The Peace Factory
From hiding their faces, the Iranians soon took the courage to show who they are behind the words “Not Ready To Die In Your War.” This move gave both sides an idea who they are calling their enemies. As Ronny puts it, there is war because there is no communication. The Peace Factory was launched in 2012 as an offshoot of Israel Loves Iran and vice versa. Using Ronny’s talents, Peace Factory aims to open lines of communication and build bridges between people of the Middle East. They do it by showing the faces of people often dubbed by the state as enemies.
Peace begins by loving. Jesus Christ himself left us the greatest commandment, which is to love. As an agent of love, Ronny does not budge despite the adversities. Of course, not everybody supports his cause. He has been taunted and called naïve.
Ronny does not let it distract him from doing what he thinks is right. For someone who’s served as a paratrooper for three years, Ronny has seen what war is like. He did not like it. More than making wars, Ronny believes that both nations must begin to think of ways to address issues plaguing their very own countries:
"The way to win us is always with the threat of war, because when you have a war coming, nobody’s going to talk about social problems, or loving Iranians. Because now you have to be ready. You have to get the guns ready and everything. And that’s how they’re winning. It’s always been the same dynamic, everywhere. They’re putting you in a box of fear. And when you’re afraid for your children, for your future, you’re willing to do everything. So first you go and vote for the wrong guy, the one who says I’m going to kill them.
And then at the same time all social progress is pushed aside. That’s how it works. Iran is very far from us and is not a day-to-day problem, but the fact that I’m talking about it day-to-day and not talking about my social problems demonstrates it’s a way of making me lose focus on the real problems I have. The price of milk, the price of living in Israel. The fact that I have to have two or three jobs and I’m working so hard to finish the month. These are my real problems." (SOURCE: New Statesman)
After all is said and done, it’s still a fellow human being we are killing in a war. And for what, peace? Power? Are those more valuable than life? Why don’t we just stop hating and join Ronny in his love crusade?
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Shenkar College of Engineering and Design
- Pushpin Mehina
- Peace Factory
- Israel Loves Iran
Awards and Achievements
- 2012: Founded Israel Loves Iran
- 2012: Launched Peace Factory
- 2013: Received the Euphrates Institute’s Visionary of the Year award
- 2013: Delivered the keynote address at Principia College’s Public Affairs Conference
- Set up Pushpin Mehina
- His TEDxJaffa Talk has been viewed more than 1.2 million times
- An online petition by Iranian Roya Mobasheri is pushing for a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for the Israel Loves Iran campaign
TED (Ronny Edry)
TED Blog (4 efforts to diffuse conflict in Israel with art_
TED Talks (Ronny Edry: Israel and Iran: A love story?)
Wikipedia (Israel Loves Iran)
Haaretz ('Israel Loves Iran' initiative takes off on Facebook)
Pushpin (Israel Loves Iran)
The Peace Factory (About)
The Huffington Post (Israel Loves Iran: The Peace Campaign Against Middle East War That Began On Facebook)
The New Yorker [Israel Loves Iran (On Facebook)]
NOA (Israel-Iran love story, taking our fate in our hands)
ABC News ('Israel Loves Iran' Campaign Gains Force)
CNN (Can Facebook page help Israel, Iran toward peace?)
Haaretz (Iranians respond to Israeli Facebook initiative: Israel, we love you too)
St. Louis Public Radio (People And Peace-Seeking: Behind 'Israel-Loves-Iran')
YouTube (Ronny Edry)
New Statesman (Israel Loves Iran: an interview with founder Ronny Edry)