Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Across the U.S. and indeed the world, there are millions who support Israel, a bastion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, surrounded by nations that are increasingly bent on the Jewish state’s destruction.
Now those supporters, even from thousands of miles away, have a place they can go to not only learn more about Israel, but also take an active role in supporting its people – and maybe even earn free tickets to the Holy Land.
Embrace Israel, according to its website, is a “fast-growing grassroots community connecting supporters of Israel from all around the globe. In an increasingly hostile and violent world, Embrace Israel provides the platform to enable Israel’s supporters to take action to defend and strengthen this island of democracy in the Middle East and all that it stands for.”
The online community includes news and opinion pieces, videos, lists of opportunities to get involved, polls, places for feedback and even a shopping center for made-in-Israel products, the proceeds of which not only bless the local artisans and businesses that create them, but also help support charities doing work on the ground in Israel.
Founder Danny Turetsky, who grew up in the U.K. and moved to Israel in 2005, summarized Embrace Israel by saying, “This new online community is designed to embrace supporters of the Jewish state and allow them to do a plethora of activities. … Embrace Israel helps people support and connect with Israel in ways never before brought together, targeting the wonderfully diverse background of Israel’s supporters from around the globe.”
Joseph Sherman, a Jerusalem resident raised in California, is the editor and content manager for the site. He explains that while the TV news typically portrays Israel as a land of never-ending conflict and strife, Embrace Israel will strive to also reveal reasons to rejoice.
“The news and opinions we cover are multifaceted,” said Sherman. “Yes, the conflict is foremost in nearly every news outlet, but we want to show the holy, human and business environments in Israel so often neglected by the CNNs and Washington Posts. Simply, there is a great deal of good news coming out of Israel that is never reported.”
Embrace Israel launched with a very hot topic, asking the question, “Should corporal punishment be instituted for terrorists?” The site features articles and op-eds on the subject, and those visiting are asked to weigh in themselves through polls, petitions and comment sections on the website and Facebook page.
And in the shopping section, Israeli-made clothing, jewelry, gifts and even military garb are sold to support charities like these:
Efrat, Israel’s leading organization saving babies from abortion
Kav Lachayim, which serves children suffering from cancer, muscular dystrophy, cerebral paralysis and other challenging diseases
Leket Israel, which feeds Jews, Christians and Muslims in Israel by rescuing food from restaurants and caterers who invite Leket to take excess food. In addition, farmers invite Leket to harvest 13 million pounds of crops left for the poor to fulfill the commandment of Leket in the Bible
OneFamily, Israel’s central organization providing personalized care and support to all victims of terrorism in Israel. OneFamily provides direct financial, material, legal, and emotional assistance to the victims.
Marketing Director Jacob Wolf, a former Israeli Defense Forces combat medic and father of 6, explains, “You get two good deeds for the price of one purchase. … All products are made in Israel and support industries and towns locally, yet unlike other shopping sites of Israeli products, all proceeds go to a number of phenomenal charitable organizations doing such important things in and for Israeli society.”
“We have picked some of the most meaningful non-profits in Israel doing tremendous things. It will be my responsibility to ensure they meet the strictest of standards so that those supporting them feel they are contributing to the very best organizations serving the citizens of Israel,” added Operations Manager Yoel Weil, who moved at the age of 6 with his family from Switzerland to Jerusalem. “Those lovers of Zion who purchase from us can expect the very best service straight to their door in time for Christmas and Chanuka.”
One other innovative part of Embrace Israel will be an Ambassadors’ program that will be the community’s eyes and ears to congregations and organizations around the globe.
“We want feedback from local community leaders to give credibility and urgency to our community, whether to generate excitement for the latest campaign in support of Israel or to showcase the latest offerings from quality Israeli manufacturers,” declares Wolf. “Those who assist in Embrace Israel’s growth of sales will get commissions as in any affiliate program.”
To engage people to take an active role as ambassadors, Embrace Israel will be sending two couples to Israel for free. Of those who sign up to be ambassadors, the first set of tickets will be awarded to those who can drive the most sales and donations to the site, and the second set will be awarded to a couple in a random drawing to take place Feb. 15.
Turetsky added, “This is the key to creating a network of caring communities globally, not just individuals. Our ambassadors serve a truly important function. Getting these masses of supporters globally taking on active roles is the whole power of Embrace Israel. This is what makes movements and creates goodwill using the tools we have assembled. Now we only need you!”