Before the recent uptick in coronavirus cases when Israel recently reopened much of the country, it had fared particularly well during the pandemic. According to the founders of COVID-19 Solutions, one reason for this is the country’s glut of innovative minds fighting the pandemic. COVID-19 Solutions acts as a marketplace, presenting a plethora of Israeli-tested initiatives for people around the world to use as a model. Established a little over a month ago by three nonprofits — the Reut Group’s Peoplehood Coalition, ACT-IL and ISRAEL-is — the online platform shares Israeli technologies and know-how.
For Eyal Biram, CEO of ISRAEL-is, the project has the added bonus of boosting Israel’s image in the international arena. This is a happy biproduct for Biram, whose nonprofit trains soldiers to become ambassadors for Israel while on their post-military trek. He founded ISRAEL-is three years ago after being discharged from the army, where he served in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit.
On the first night of his trek in the Philippines, Biram met two fellow travelers from France. When they heard he was Israeli, one walked away and the other “just sat there with his beer looking angry,” Biram said. The only thing they knew about Israel were horror stories from the 2014 war with Hamas. Biram knew then he had to do something to change people’s view of Israel. ISRAEL-is has given some 35,000 active and ex-soldiers PR training.
In March, however, when Biram realized that no one would be traveling for the foreseeable future, he knew he had to pivot. At first, he was involved in rescue efforts, extracting hundreds of stranded ex-soldiers in Peru. But when that was over, he didn’t know what to do. After speaking with former ambassador the United Nations, Dore Gold, he realized that he still could utilize Israel’s strongest diplomatic weapon — its ingenuity — without going anywhere.
When we share Israeli innovation, we’re essentially creating diplomatic tools for Israel.
“I wanted to know how we could continue to influence people’s ideas about Israel,” Biram said. “When we share Israeli innovation, we’re essentially creating diplomatic tools for Israel.”
The Israeli initiatives showcased by COVID-19 Solutions run the gamut from solutions to crises in the agriculture sector, social, technology and tourism. Users from around the world can join free webinars to learn from experts on a range of topics or join hackathons to build solutions themselves. In one case, Ilan, a member of Argentina’s Jewish community, signed up to hear Israeli volunteer organization One Heart discuss ways to help those in need during the pandemic. He then recruited a group of friends to distribute food and supplies to vulnerable populations. He filmed the results and posted them on the group’s Facebook page, which according to Biram, acts as a hub of support and inspires more people to start projects in their own communities. Biram said people from all over the world have reached out and thanked COVID-19 Solutions.
In one video, Mustafa from Baghdad is heard praising COVID-19 Solutions. “I got to know a new people in a positive way,” he said. “I hope to know more about them and expand on the unity and love between our two brotherly nations.”
Being involved in the project has been “one of the most moving experiences of my life,” Biram said. “I never imagined that a connection of this kind could be created among young people all over the world.”