Virtual Citizens of Israel: Growing a Virtual Community
By Anat Goldberg
I recently took my first trip back to America after my first year of living in Israel. While I loved seeing my family and friends I missed home. I missed Israel.
As I spoke to the people around me about my life in Tel Aviv, so many people told me they had missed their opportunity to make Aliyah and live in the Jewish homeland. No matter what the personal reasons were, they still regretted the fact that they pushed off their chance. In my own weird way, I was glad to hear these stories as they made me feel so fortunate that I had been able to pick up my life and move it across the world to the place I felt I belonged.
I then began to think about those who weren’t as fortunate - those who had jobs and family responsibilities that situated them to live outside of the Jewish State. While one can go to Israel parades, and buy Israeli products, somehow it just doesn’t feel the same.
There are so many ways of showing one’s support for Israel, but when I heard about the Virtual Citizen of Israel initiative of Israel Forever, I knew this was something unique and exciting.
This is more than being just pro-Israel. It is being a part of Israel.
The simple declaration of your personal commitment to Israel can ignite and excite the kind of pride in the Jewish people and our Jewish State that many feel lacking other than when they are attending a parade, cultural event or when feeling the air of Israel caress your skin.
We at Israel Forever wanted to find a way to help people FEEL Israel at home, to find new ways to think about the importance of Israel’s existence, to understand the rich background of how Israel came into existence. Every day we are brainstorming the best ways to translate Israel into a virtual experience, a way to encourage people to foster a deeper personal connection with our one and only ancient homeland.
Being a VCI means that you do not only support Israel, you identify with its people, its culture, its significance.
Being a VCI means that you share a vested interest in the wellbeing and sustainability of Israel as a Jewish State, just as you share an interest in the wellbeing of your home country.
Being a VCI means you want to learn more – not only about the technological and medical advancements of which that are so many to be proud, but of the work that has gone into the building of Israel, of the people that make up Israel’s multicultural society, of Israeli literature that is a testament to her long-standing significance to the Jewish People throughout time, and so much more.
Since the launch of VCI in 2013, the community has grown to include thousands of people scattered throughout the world. With members from Denmark, the Phillipines, Australia, the United States, Peru, Ecuador, England, Holland, India, and more, it is clear that people are longing for something more than just being dubbed a “supporter of Israel.” And we know this is just the beginning.
Each of our partnering organizations are also helping to spread the word to their friends and followers, demonstrating the shared mission between their own efforts for the Jewish People and Israel and the concept of being a Virtual Citizen of Israel. March of the Living, Stand With Us, The Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin, JSpace and others are inviting their members and alumni to unite in this one of a kind community.
Every VCI is invited to share their personal Israel connection as a guest blogger, serve as an Ambassador to recruit other VCIs, share recipes, recommend books, and, above all, to connect with the large and growing network of other people who share the love for Israel and desire to learn, interact and help each other understand each other’s perspectives while leaving the politics to the side.
As we work to foster a deepened personal connection to Israel for people around the world, we are also working to strengthen their relationship with those living in Israel. Our goal is to have Citizens of Israel join Virtual Citizens in the VCI community, providing a platform for meeting, sharing, laughing and learning about each other and the ties that bind us in our shared commitment to Israel.
After my years of loving Israel from afar, feeling like a Zionist, and always supporting and promoting Israel from America, I didn’t want to stop utilizing my passion once I was settled as a Citizen of Israel. Working to build the VCI community keeps me connected to others around the world which, in turn, only helps my love for Israel continue to develop and grow. What a way to make a difference!