Huffpost UK

Israel Loves Iran: The Peace Campaign Against Middle East War That Began On Facebook

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Israel loves Iran is not a refrain you'll hear often from politicians.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called Israel “a cancerous tumor”. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Iran "brutalizes its own people, colludes in the murder of thousands of innocent Syrians and leads millions in chanting ‘Death to America, death to Israel’.”

But politicians are not the people, at least, that's what Ronny Edry, an Israeli graphic designer, believes.

not ready to die in your war

Some of the campaigners in Israel and Iran, who are trying to stop war between their countries

Edry is an unlikely peace activist, but along with his wife Michal Tamir, he created a website and Facebook page "Israel Loves Iran" which might spark a revolution.

He posted a message on the social networking site, asking Israelis and Iranians to declare their love for each other, and to promise never to bomb each other.

Their mission statement reads: "To the Iranian people. To all the fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters.

"For there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate. I'm not afraid of you, I don't hate you.

"I don't even know you. No Iranian ever did me no harm. I never even met an Iranian…Just one in Paris in a museum. Nice dude.

"I see sometime here, on the TV, an Iranian. He is talking about war. I'm sure he does not represent all the people of Iran.

"If you see someone on your TV talking about bombing you …be sure he does not represent all of us.

"I'm not an official representative of my country. I'm a father and a teacher. I know the streets of my town, I talk with my neighbours, my family, my students, my friends and in the name of all these people …we love you.

"We mean you no harm. On the contrary, we want to meet, have some coffee and talk about sports.

"To all those who feel the same, share this message and help it reach the Iranian people."

israeliran

Ronny Edry, and his daughter, in their anti-war campaign

It wasn't long before Iranians living abroad began to send similar messages to Israelis.

Some Iranians even posted from within the country, but usually covering their faces. And another website was launched: Iran Loves Israel.

One of the images posted on the Facebook page went viral.

kiss

A kiss between an Israeli and an Iranian went viral from the site

The photo depicts a man and a woman kissing, while holding their passports up to the camera. The woman holds an Iranian passport, and an Israeli passport is seen in the man’s hand.

Now the campaign is moving into its second phase, after a summit in Munich three weeks ago where Israelis and Iranians met each other to concoct a plan.

not ready to die

One of the pictures posted on the site

Israelis and Iranians, from around the world and at home, sent in pictures of themselves with their families, at work as doctors, nurses and teachers, studying at universities, laughing with friends, with a strong message underneath "Not Ready To Die In Your War."

Edry told the Huffington Post UK: "We started the campaign just a few weeks ago and we are receiving hundreds and hundreds of pictures of people who want to add their face to the campaign.

"But the most beautiful thing for me is there are now so many Iranians. For the first campaign it was mostly Israelis sending in their pictures and the Iranians who did covered their faces. But I think they are not so scared anymore, we are getting hundreds of pictures from Iranians who are sending them from Iran.

"It has been disappointing no Israeli politician has contacted us. Not a single one. And it's not like they don't know it is going on, it's been on every Israeli channel, on Al Jazeera, on CNN.

"They call themselves leaders but they don't lead. But I don't really care.

"We want every Israeli to see the posters in billboards across the country. It would be so great to have them in Tehran, I'm not sure it's possible- unless an advertising agency out there would like to take it on.

"The campaign has become a full time job, I'm working on it all day, every day. But I do feel sort it is like my duty. I'm not complaining."

The campaigners want to take the posters on to the streets of Tel Aviv, and are trying to raise £75,000 to put the posters on bus stops and billboards.

billboards

A mock-up of the advertisements the group want to buy

Edry said: "They advertise war. We must advertise peace. We are taking the posters from the Not-ready-to-die-in-your-war campaign to the streets of Tel-Aviv, starting with 400 posters in bus stops.

"It is crucial that we move NOW, before this war ever starts. We have to say to our governments loud and clear that the people do not want war.

"We are millions of people who will be hurt. Will be drafted, will have to fight ,lose our lives, our relatives.

"We, parents from TelAviv and Teheran will have to run with our children to the shelters and pray the missiles will miss us. But they will fall somewhere, on someone."

He said on Facebook that he deliberately picked the phrase "your war".

"To me it is pointed at my government, meaning Bibi [Netanyahu].

"Iranians are pointing at theirs, and people in general are taking part in the movement because they feel threatened by this imminent war, and they should, because if that war happens, it is gonna be a big one.”

ronny

Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir, the husband and wife campaigners

Edry has posted a picture of himself on the site, holding his young daughter who trails an Israeli flag in her hand.

Soldiers, women in hijabs and couples kissing have contributed ideas for the posters, and mock-ups of what the photos would look like on billboards in Tel Aviv have been posted on the indiegogo fundraising site, where around £2,000 has been raised.