I was born and raised in Israel, an amazing, but very complicated country.
As a child of an Orthodox religious family, I grew up in the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but from the side that seeks to be right and not always smart. I was educated to think that on the other side, there are only terrorists, and the word PEACE is a concept of naive songs and stories and not a sustainable thing to strive for.
When I was 18 years old, I joined the Israeli Defense Force as a combat warrior and a sniper ... and in fact, this was the first time in my life that I encountered the "Palestinian enemy" ... ordinary people ... like myself ... who just want to live well, eat well, bring some money home to their family and go back ... and within this realisation, I was holding my M-16 … on the one hand, protecting Israeli civilians but also preventing other people's freedom.
I remember that specific moment when it hit me; it was still a preliminary thought, but I was still able to understand. Something in my head changed, and I knew something in this reality had to change.
Years passed, and the process that began in the army became a huge snowball and intensified.
I travelled the world, independently, and on business ... I found myself sharing a table, at the edge of the Annapurna in Nepal, with Iranians and Lebanese, or sharing a beer on the terrace at the Cannes Lions Festival with Palestinian immigrants, Jordanian and Egyptian - people I had learned to fear. They also had only 3 days to solve a brief; they even live the dissonance between family and career; they also have no patience for their children. Only then you realise that this conflict ... is a conflict of governments, of politicians, and not of people.
I realised that we must change something here must be brave enough to do something else.
In 2012, before and after a few campaigns in which I persuaded people to drink "the strongest coffee ever made" and to try the car "that has brought the technology of the future now", I got to lead one of the most significant advertising projects in my career and I guess in my life. "The Blood Relations" project was created, not to bring peace to the middle east ... that concept still remains as a sublime vision. Rather, it was created out of my inner truth, my gut, the things I truly believe in – that a sustainable peace should come out of a natural process of genuine closeness and mutual respect between people, regardless of what their politicians dictate. Humanity and interactions between people – THAT was the main goal of this campaign. So, we took it to the next level by creating a mutual blood bank for Israelis and Palestinians out of the simple understanding that you would never want to kill someone whose blood runs through your veins.
Don't know if any of you have had the privilege to see a consumer buying a product that you just advertised, but it's a great satisfaction. In this project, however, the feeling of satisfaction received a whole different meaning – it was inexplicable. It shook me to my very core, to the point in which I constantly cried, laughed, smiled, and cried again. One particular scene I can’t seem to forget, was when I saw two people; a former elite unit fighter in the IDF and a former FATAH fighter, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. This Palestinian organisation that I was told that all supporters were terrorists - these two were lying side by side, smiling at each other, a bit embarrassed, their hands were connected to blood tubes leading to the same pump that draws the same blood. What a moment. Wow.
We work in one of the most powerful jobs in the world, piles of money surrounding us, connected to media forces that have a significant impact on public opinion. We have to understand it, and occasionally stop to look around and realise that this is not a cliché - we can change the world! In our ongoing briefs and clients on the other side of the table, together we can transform society and make it more tolerant and liberal and inspire with our actions those around us. Give it a try, please.
Eran Nir, Chief Creative Officer, GITAM BBDO, Israel