You can tell that I’ve only been blogging for 2 months…

I got up this morning, went to my computer, had a look at my email and twitter, and discovered what makes a die-hard blogger. It’s getting home at 10 or 11 PM from the NBN (Nefesh B’Nefesh) 1st International Jewish Bloggers Convention and blogging about it before going to bed!

As you can guess, I didn’t blog about it last night, although that could be partly due to the fact that I decided to walk home (1 hour 20 minutes), after which blogging was really the last thing on my mind.

Anyway, back to the convention. Firstly, it was impressive. There were 200 bloggers in the room, and another 1000 bloggers listening in over the web for the nearly 5 hours of the convention. I raise my hat (figuratively) to the organizers, for pulling off a feat like that.

And before I continue, thanks to Jacob Richman for the photos.

The Agenda

There were 2 panels on the agenda. The first was called “Taking JBlogging to the Next Level”, and the second was “Building Israel One Post at a Time”. Being completely new to the work of Jewish Blogging, or “Israeli Blogging”, as Oleh Girl called it, I was totally amazed by how many people are blogging about Israel.

Each of the bloggers on the panels was asked to say a bit about how they started their blogs, and for quite a few it was “out of sheer laziness” as Treppenwitz quipped. Of course, lazy is the very last thing you can call the prolific bloggers from the panel and audience, but in context, it makes sense – lots of people start blogs to let their friends and families know what going on with their new job, new city, new country, health situation, or anything else, and it saves them having to write to, or phone, each and every one of their families and friends.

Treppenwitz also explained what “Treppenwitz” means – you know what it’s like to think of that witty repartee 10 seconds after you’ve slammed down the phone or walked out of the door? That feeling of “Damn, why didn’t I think of saying <whatever I though of too late>?”… well that’s Treppenwitz!

Apart from the panels, there was THE GUEST, Ex prime-minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, who it turns out actually has a blog (hebrew), but he said he doesn’t have time to write, and he doesn’t like using ghostwriters. The best part of Bibi’s talk just had to be the first words. He turned to the panel, and asked

My Urban Kvetch?”… “Jewlicious?”…

To which Jewlicious replied “Netanyahu?” (ok, maybe you had to be there to get it)

After the break was a light commedy performance by FrumSatire (I like him, he uses the same WordPress theme as I do!), followed by a presentation by Zavi Apfelbaum, Director of Brand Management at the Foreign Ministry, who talked about “Branding Israel – From Vision to Reality”. Donna – where where you? She could have used your help!

So, lets start with a summary of the panels. Then anyone who wants hear a bit about what Bibi and Zavi said can find it at the end !!

A Summary of the Panels

How to Promote your Blog (a.k.a. Taking JBlogging to the Next Level), moderated by Esther Kustanowitz of My Urban Kvetch and JDaters Anonymous

  • Don’t promote if it’s about promoting your ego!! It’s OK to promote if it’s for A Cause or Your Agenda, or to help you make a living …. this was the start we got from “Hirhurim – Musings”.
  • However, if you MUST promote your blog, put your blog URL at the end of your emails, send it to the Jewish and Israeli blog aggregators (like JRant), and email your posts to people who might be interested (but don’t overdo it).
  • Jewlicious, a blog born out of wanting to show young people that you can be a “Cool” Jew and still be in touch with Jewish Tradition and Israel, kind of a daily dose of Traditional Judaism. They organize Festivals and get Jews to come to Israel and relate to their Jewish Identities. I think they’re definitely “Cool”. Anyway, David (sorry – didn’t catch your surname)’s tips for growing your blog: Being passionate about what you write about, being part of the blogging community, link to blogs you like on your blogroll, interact with other blogs by having ongoing conversations, real-world interaction.
  • David Bogner of Treppenwitz: You have to love what you’re doing, be nice on your blog, don’t be too controversial (you can do that on other peoples blogs !!!), visit other blogs, and feed your blog because you love it.
  • Carl from IsraelMatzav, the only political blog on either of the panels, which started off as a mailing list called “Tachlis” for helping new immigrants to Israel. Carl’s main suggestion was to try and get your blog picked up by one of the big blogs. He emails his posts to Little Green Footballs as Spinoff Links, HotAir, and Gateway Pundit.

Building Israel One Post At a Time, moderated by Yishai Fleisher (kumah) was the 2nd panel. News, he said, is about negativity – that’s what sells. Blogging is about the real news – the real life of Israel is in the hundreds of blogs – the shuk, kindergartens, the cats! He asked the panel to mention how they are helping get the message out, and “making aliyah” every day.

  • Gila, author of My Shrapnel was the first up. She is an amazing woman – you MUST read her blog, especially the introduction pages. Gila’s main point was that she doesn’t write in order to help Israel’s PR, she writes to write. She immigrated to live in a normal place. She lives here. She volunteers here. She works and pays taxes here. It’s normal life. That’s it.
  • Next up was Yisrael Meidad who writes My Right Word. His message is the 3 Ms: Magnetize, Motivate and Mobilize.
  • Oleh Girl wants secular Americans to know what it’s like in Israel (some people who’ve read her blog have made aliyah), and she also wants to reach out to the non-Jewish world who can support us. Her tip was to speak in the language of your audience, and not propaganda-speak.
  • Treppenwitz said that bloggers are doing a good job of showing people what the real Israel is like, so that they don’t just see Israel through rose-tinted glasses. Israel is like a mosaic – when you look real close, each bit may not be very pretty, but when you look at it from a distance, it’s beautiful.
  • Last but by no means least, was Benji Lovitt, a comedian and author of WhatWarZone, who really is funny. He came on Aliya 2 years ago this week, towards the end of the 2nd Lebanon war, and started his blog as “Hasbara” (explaning the situation). Then he added humour. His tip was to find avenues to get your message across, like to Jewish places around the world. An example is to get on the JPost blogroll.

Bibi Netanyahu

Bibi turned up in the middle of the first panel, and talked about the history of rights to the Land of Israel, his main point being that if you want to argue about rights, you need to know the history. Many people are only familiar with the history of the Jews in Israel up till the destruction of the 2nd temple, and don’t realize that the Jewish population of Israel was the majority until the end of the 8th Century. He talked about Mark Twain’s visit to Palestine in 1867, in which he called it “a barren land”, and of Arther Penrhyn Stanley who visited in 1880 and said pretty much the same.

The rest of Bibi’s talk was “how important it is for Israeli bloggers to come to Israel”, “New immigrants have the opportunity to influence the Jewish future, to secure the prosperity of the state, to jumpstart the momentum, and improve the educational system”, and “no, the government hasn’t thought of about using blogs for pro-Israeli PR”. Of course, there was the usual dose of politics, changing the governmental structure, etc. etc. etc.

Zavi Apfelbaum

Zavi told us that there is a 2-year plan in place, with some PR Guru, to define the Brand of Israel, by using focus groups etc. She showed us videos of focus groups that were arranged in America, in which people were asked about going to “House Parties” in 40-50 different countries around the world. It turns out that what Israel is like has a terribly negative image in the eyes of “Main Street USA”. They may be very pro-Israel, but they don’t look at Israel as an attractive place to visit, and many think that they wouldn’t be welcome at an Israeli house party!!

I, for one, was shocked at the negativity, especially as compared to the image they had of other countries. My friend and fellow blogger Devra wasn’t surprised at all – she’s from Kansas, and says that my background (I’m from Golders Green – the quintessential Jewish neighbourhood in London, and have lived in Israel for 30 years) means that I never came into contact with “regular” people.

Zavi caused a slight upset when she started giving a few examples of what types of Persona the foreign ministry is looking at for “The Brand of Israel”: Passion, Fusion, Ingenuity. One of the bloggers in the room got very upset and started shouting “Israel is a Jewish Country” over and over again, as in – why do you need any other brand than that? It certainly made for some excitement!

OK, that’s more than enough. I had a great time (by the way, the food was also excellent, and the shmoozing was a highlight).

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