The “Bring Back Our Boys” online campaign on behalf of the teenagers who were kidnapped on Thursday night, June 12th, was launched by graduates of the University of Haifa’s Ambassadors Online program.
The campaign went viral almost immediately, attracting global interest and enlisting tens of thousands of people from all over the world in the fight to free the missing teens. One week after launch more than 200,000 people, from the United States to Fiji, had seen the posts.
When fears rose on Friday regarding the fate of Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, who were last seen hitchhiking home on Thursday evening, the Ambassadors Online alumni forum decided that something had to be done via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to publicize the kidnapping and get the world to demand the teens’ return.
A “Bring Back Our Boys” Facebook page was opened and surfers were asked to post a picture of themselves holding a sign bearing that message. In less than 48 hours, more than 50,000 people had “liked” the Facebook page.
“The campaign was based on another Internet initiative to return the kidnapped girls in Nigeria that was entitled ‘Bring Back Our Girls,” explained Dr. David Gurevitz, who founded the Ambassadors Online program when he was still a doctoral student at the University. “The organizers of our initiative wanted to make it clear that terror cannot include kidnapping children – not in Nigeria and not in Israel. Surfers all over the world connected to that simple message.”
According to Gurevitz, one of the purposes of the campaign is to reach audiences abroad whose media does not report such events, which is why the students who joined the campaign put such an emphasis on the posts’ international distribution.
He added that people from many countries have posted pictures, among them the United States, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, England, Morocco, Fiji, Peru, Costa Rica, Russia, South Africa and more. Popular French radio broadcaster Benjamin Strobag also had himself photographed with a sign calling for the return of the kidnapped teens.
Ambassadors Online is a new educational academic project, founded in 2012, in the fields of Israel advocacy, public diplomacy and the fight against the New Anti-Semitism. Its goal is to provide Israeli university students at the University of Haifa with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to become unofficial ambassadors of Israel.
The cadets of the project receive training which prepares them to effectively challenge the de-legitimization claims, engage in a dialogue with Anti-Israeli activists and improve Israel’s image abroad by expanding the positive knowledge about the country. The project’s pioneering approach emphasizes new media as a common ground for establishing a direct link of Israelis with target audiences overseas.
Additionally, the project develops student leadership by educating the young generation to speak for their country and lead groups of activists.
The participation in the project is open for all students from all the background and disciplines.
Among the participants are Jews, Arab Druze, new repatriates, Israeli-born students, Ph.D candidates, graduate and undergraduate students. For additional information of Ambassadors Online, click here.