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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Shimon Peres: Israel’s first social media president

Esther D. Kustanowitz is a Contributing Writer at the Jewish Journal. She previously was the Founding Editor at GrokNation.com. She is an experienced freelance writer and consultant specializing in social media, pop culture, grief and Jewish community conversation. She is frequently sought-after as a source on social media engagement and culture, and is known as a Jewish community social influencer.

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Esther D. Kustanowitz
Esther D. Kustanowitz is a Contributing Writer at the Jewish Journal. She previously was the Founding Editor at GrokNation.com. She is an experienced freelance writer and consultant specializing in social media, pop culture, grief and Jewish community conversation. She is frequently sought-after as a source on social media engagement and culture, and is known as a Jewish community social influencer.

If you’re like most people, you probably found out about the death of former President Shimon Peres on Facebook, through news articles, status updates from friends, and more photos of your friends with Peres than you might have expected. But what you may not realize is that mourning Shimon Peres on social media is especially appropriate given the late President’s evolving relationship with social media and his courtship of younger minds as partners in his quest for peace.

Peres wasn’t always hip to the social media scene. Several years ago, at a public speech, he referred to an up-and-coming social media platform, somewhat sadly and yet somewhat hilariously, as “Bookface.” (Jokes centered on the idea of his having read the name of the site from right to left instead of left to right.) 

While this initially seemed like proof that the then-octogenarian was hopelessly out of touch with the younger generation, it became a pivotal moment: Peres and his team fixed social media visibility in their sights, with a series of strange but memorable initiatives that kept the man’s demeanor and tone, but mixed it with contemporary sounds and styles that made an impression.

For instance, in 2012, a new video hit YouTube: as the “oontz oontz” of dance music played, the sharply dressed man stepped out of his fancy car and approached the podium. It’s Peres: he intoned the words “be my friend, for peace; I want to hear your voice” against the backdrop of the intensifying, club-ready music, remixed by Israeli journalist, musician and DJ Noy Alooshe. Also in the video was the proclamation that “we used to be the people of the Book, but now we became the people of the Facebook,” a welcome to his Facebook page, and a request that viewers add him as a friend on Facebook. As of press time, the video has had over 450,000 views on YouTube.

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