At some point, every member of the networking website Facebook is invited to join noble campaigns such as "Save Darfur!," promote causes such as gay rights, support Barack Obama's presidential bid, or join a "save water, drink beer" group. Virtual activism is on the rise thanks to Facebook and other social networks, but in many cases it is not more than another bland item on the profile page.
The founder of Mepeace.org, a Web site that connects Israelis, Palestinians and people from other parts of the planet, believes that independent social networks are still relevant. A former yeshiva student, Eyal Raviv says he has gone through a long process of secularization and devoting himself to promote peace.
Raviv, who immigrated from the Untied States three years ago, initially conceived his Web site as a forum for Israeli peace activists only. But when he took part in a meeting between Israelis and Palestinians, he says, "a Palestinian told me I was the first Israeli he had met, and that made me realize the site could build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians."
Despite the green background and the abundance of images of olive trees, Facebook users could feel at home while visiting www.mepeace.org. Featuring updates on the activities of other users and a notice board of peace events, it is a social network in its own right.
But the striking resemblance to the most popular social network is not coincidental. "I call it 'the Facebook of peace'," Raviv says.
Why not just create another Facebook group?
"I already have a Facebook group, and we use it to promote Mepeace; to this end we fully integrate Facebook's photo album, video and music applications. But I do deliberate over this question every day. I could have created much more popular Facebook groups, but here we have peace makers, not momentary visitors - people who are dedicated to reaching out."
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