In our technological age, it’s hard to ignore the fact that advocacy for all sorts of causes has become most effective through social media networks. Believing Israeli soldier, Hananya Naftali, who identifies himself as a Jewish Christian, uses this platform for a worthy cause – the image of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the State of Israel.
Last week, Mako, a leading Israel news and entertainment portal, ranked Hananya’s Facebook page fourth out of the top 10 most recommended Israel advocacy Facebook pages. Hananya has been receiving a lot of exposure as his videos are shared by major news outlets, such as the Jerusalem Post. He was even invited last fall to the Ynet News conference.
Hananya’s page now has more than 50,000 followers from all over the world. Most of the followers are from the United States, the Philippines, Brazil, Israel and Canada. Surprisingly, Hananya mentioned he also has followers from Dubai and Egypt.
Hananya first created his personal Facebook page to share short videos and songs from his personal life with his friends. Then something happened, which made him decide to take action. Hananya explains:
After the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge), which I took part in as a tank soldier in 188th Armor Brigade, I realized that the reality was misrepresented to the world. I decided to share the truth and set myself a goal- my Facebook page will be a trumpet of truth, and the truth will reach as many people as possible. The first video I posted was ‘what I learned in Gaza’.
The video was shared by many followers and by other pages, such as StandWithUs and The Messianic Times. The number of his followers multiplied and Hananya was encouraged to continue with daily posts, despite his busy army schedule.
Hananya knew that to reach the world he needed to post in English. Even though it’d be more natural to share with friends in Hebrew, he chose to maintain just one page and use it in a way to reach the most people. He posts short videos and personal stories about his life as an Israeli, service in the IDF, photographs from Israel, encouraging verses from the Bible and interviews.
One of his most well-known interviews was with Mohammad Zoabi, a young man active on social media who describes himself as a “proud Israeli Arab Muslim Zionist”. Mohammad – who himself has 36,000 followers – is expected to serve in the IDF this coming year. He and Hananya have formed a lasting friendship since that interview (click below to watch).
Hananya emphasizes that in his advocacy for Israel he’s not interested in arguing with Muslims and Arabs. He engages and tries to have civil dialogues with those who are against the idea of “a soldier in an army that commits war crimes”, as they claim. Hananya replies patiently and with love to the different comments, and even if they don’t come to an agreement, people appreciate the fact that they hear first-hand accounts. They see that he is a soldier who is testifying truthfully, not driven by a political agenda, but rather he’s trying to show the love of God.
During his military service, Hananya receives a lot of compliments from his fellow soldiers, some of whom even give him new ideas for videos. He has been interviewed several times advocating for the IDF, and even helped with recruitment of two Muslims soldiers.
Hananya is scheduled to be released from the army in four months, and, not surprisingly, is interested in getting a decree in Government and Diplomacy Studies.
Despite his contribution to this important area of advocating for Israel, Hananya has surprisingly been the target of hate speech on his social media accounts from fellow Jews, who claim that his main purpose is to convert his followers.
When Hananya opened his personal Facebook page, he didn’t expect it would transform into such a popular Israel advocacy page. As a result of the page’s success, Hananya considered focusing more on the advocacy activity and less on his personal life and faith. He shares:
While I was debating with myself, I received a personal message from a young lady who had gone through a depressed state, and wanted to share with me how God worked in her and changed her life through the daily verses that I posted on my page. Since that day, I decided to be who I am. A Jewish Christian Solider. Even if I will experience persecution for this reason or it will reduce the number of my followers, I will continue to share verses and videos regarding my faith.