They weren’t supposed to be friends.

While the governments of most Arab nations maintain hostile positions towards Israel, the same cannot be said for all of their citizens. Many citizens of these countries are becoming increasingly frustrated with their government’s policies vis-a-vis Israel, taking it upon themselves to create a dialogue between their societies and Israel.

Sarah Idan, who won the title of Miss Iraq in last year’s Miss Universe contest, reunited this week in Israel’s capital with her friend, Adar Gandelsman. Gandelsman won the title of Miss Israel in the 2017 contest.

Idan ignited controversy in her native Iraq after posting a selfie with Gandelsman to Instagram. The photo was captioned “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.” Her family soon received death threats forcing them to flee to the United States.

Miss Iraq refused to remove the photo from her social media account. Despite the fierce backlash Idan received for creating a bridge between the two countries who share no diplomatic ties, Idan is hopeful that her small action will have a lasting impact.

It is changemakers such as Idan who are working to foster societies more open to engagement with the Jewish State.

“My hope is I get to see my Jewish brothers and sisters roam freely from Jerusalem to Ramallah, to Babylon and to the Nile, and for my fellow Arabs and Muslims to walk through Israel without fear of having an Israel stamp in their passports,” Idan continued.

“My hope is… for my fellow Arabs and Muslims to walk through Israel without fear of having an Israel stamp in their passports.”

Idan represents a growing sentiment in the Arab world that is more open to engaging directly with Israel. This is the case in Iran, where citizens are defying their extremist government’s calls for Israel’s destruction, many expressing their support for Israel on social media. Similarly, in Iraq, citizens are expressing interest in Israeli culture and democracy (some even listening to the music of Israeli singer, Sarit Hadad).

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has been engaging the Arab world through its Arabic-language social media platforms to create a bridge between citizens of hostile nations and Israelis. During the events on the Gaza border, the Foreign Ministry reported an unusually positive sentiment toward Israel among Arabic-language engagement. This is indicative of an overall increasingly positive view of Israel.

Contributed by CAMERA intern Joshua Gannon.

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