Israel and Iran: A love story? At TEDxJaffa, one graphic designer’s take on communication in the Middle East
Ronny Edry is a graphic designer in Israel who, one day, decided that he would fight violence the best way he knew how — with images. After overhearing two people in the grocery story discussing war with Iran, he thought about how he could change Israeli perceptions of the country. The answer, he found, was in design. At TEDxJaffa, he explained his process: “I’m a graphic designer,” he said, “so I made posters about it.” He came home and, on Facebook, shared a poster he made with a photo of himself holding his young daughter and a bold message: “Iranians … we [heart] you.”
The image went viral, inspiring responses from people all over the world. Ronny explains in his talk:
Suddenly I see many people talking to me [on Facebook], 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.
…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…
So my first reflex, as a graphic designer, is, you know, to show everybody what I’d just seen, and people started to see them and to share them, and that’s how it started … I went to my neighbors and friends and students and I just asked them, ‘Give me a picture, I will make you a poster.’ … And that’s how, really, [it] unleashed, because suddenly people from Facebook, friends and others, just understand that they can be part of it. It’s not just one dude making one poster, it’s — we can be part of it — so they start sending me pictures and ask me, “Make me a poster. Post it. Tell the Iranians we from Israel love you too.”
Companion Facebook communities began to pop up. Alongside Ronny’s "Israel-Loves-Iran" page came Iran-Loves-Israel and even Palestine-Loves-Israel. This simple act of communication inspired a movement — “[A] whole list of pages on Facebook dedicated to the same message, to people sending their love, one to each other,” Ronny said in his talk.
"And then it became news," he said. "Because when you’re seeing the Middle East, you see only the bad news. And suddenly, there is something that was happening that was good news … We are showing respect, one to each other. And we’re understanding. And you show compassion. And you become friends. And at some point, you become friends on Facebook, and you become friends in life.”
Above, photos from the Israel Loves Iran project, including Ronny’s original poster. For more, watch Ronny’s entire talk here, and check out the Israel Loves Iran project’s Facebook page.