Jewish Journal

Israel Links With Cyberkids

by The Washington Jewish Week

Posted on Oct. 9, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Get them while they're young. The Israeli embassy has just launched a new Web site, and the hasbarah -- an Israeli word which means public relations as well as propaganda -- is aimed at children.

Two years in the making, the colorful animated site (www.embassyofisrael.org/kids ), geared toward children aged 6-11, provides a virtual tour of Israel, basic facts about the Jewish State and a chance to learn both the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets. The budget was $12,000.

The site opens with a video of the Israeli cartoon character Srulik boarding an airplane taking off from the United States, and flying across the globe to Israel. "Heveinu Shalom Aleichem" provides the background music for his trip. Once Strulik lands, youngsters can click on such buttons as "History," "Symbols" and "Tour Israel."

The button "tour Israel," for example, gives the option of going to Eilat, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea or Eilat. Click Tel Aviv, and a train takes Srulik to the city, where Tel Aviv is described in terms of finance, culture and, of course, the tayelet (the boardwalk or promenade).

Point to Jerusalem, and a car takes Srulik to the Old City. Users then can click on buttons about the Via Dolorosa, Yad Vashem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple Mount.

"The Web site goes beyond materials related to Judaism," said Guy Shadni, the Embassy of Israel's public affairs officer, "and tells about holy places for Christians and Muslims."

Kids can also send e-mails to the embassy that will be directed to Rebecca Weiner, the embassy's educational and public affairs officer.

Although the site's historical timeline touches on the political situation, the site "is a tool to educate the young people about the vibrant Israel that is consistently omitted from the evening news," said Moshe Fox, the embassy's minister of public affairs.

The intention, Shadni said, is to show Israel as "a joyful country, in which people live their everyday lives, that regardless of what you read in the news, people are living there, going shopping, going to school, going to the movies."

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