(TEL AVIV, Israel) — As diplomats and journalists dissect every word spoken by top Israeli, Iranian and American officials for signs of a potential Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, an online campaign to prevent just that has gained steam in Israel.
On a sunny Friday in Tel Aviv, a few dozen Israelis gathered on tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard to shoot a video to be posted on YouTube. It was the latest effort in the “Israel Loves Iran” campaign that Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry and his wife, Michal Tamirm, launched last week
“For there to be a war between us, we must first be afraid of one another, we must hate,” Edry says in a fundraising video already on the site. “I’m not afraid of you. I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you. No Iranian ever did me … harm. I never even met an Iranian, just one in a museum in Paris — nice dude.”
Sitting one by one in front of the camera, the mostly young Israelis took turns holding “Iranians, We Love You” placards and saying a few words to the camera in the same vein.
“The message of this campaign is people to people,” Moti Khemo, who manages the movement’s website, told ABC News. “We believe that we’re not that different, and most people just want to live in peace.”
The site and its accompanying Facebook page are filled with photos of Israelis from all walks of life and the “Iranians, We Love You” slogan, with the subheader: “We will never bomb you.” On Friday evening, the page had almost 28,000 “likes,” and the campaign has raised more than $16,000 to print posters and “keep the movement grow[ing].”
Organizers say responses from Iranians around the world have poured in.
“Unfortunately, the stupid politicians in both countries are trying to separate these two rich cultures!” wrote one responder.
One of the more popular posts ricocheting around Facebook is of a man and woman kissing, with him holding up his Israeli passport as she flaunts her Iranian passport.
According to a recent poll, 19 percent of Israelis support a unilateral strike on Iran.
“No one wants to live under any kind of nuclear threat,” said Shai, who was passing by the “Israel Loves Iran” shoot. “We don’t want war, we don’t want anybody to die. Not here, not there. But we are under a threat, what are we supposed to do?”
The participants recognized that it’s a simple message for a very complicated issue, and of course, they can’t promise “we will never bomb you.”
“In today’s world, it’s really more about public awareness, public consciousness,” participant Talia Gorodess told ABC News. “The more people join this campaign, the more, I hope, my government will think twice before doing anything foolish.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com