Israeli extremists may denounce it as a gateway to "miscengenation," Palestinian radicals might reject it as a tool of "normalization," but app developer Matthew Nolan says his new, free creation Verona is about nothing but peace and love.
“I was talking with my friend who is Palestinian, who had a new girlfriend who is Israeli. We were joking around about JDate. I was like, 'Maybe we should do a J-P Date, Jewish-Palestinian Date,'” the 31-year-old New Yorker told Refinery 29 website recently.
Verona, named for the setting of Romeo and Juliet, racked up more than 1,000 users in less than a month following its March 29 launch – and it's only available in beta for Android.
Users log in through Facebook, choose "Israeli" or "Palestinian," and are shown users from the opposite group in their area. They swap right if they're interested, left if they're not, and if right meets right (directionally, not politically, or probably not, anyway, according to Nolan) they can start chatting, and from there, elohim gadol, allahu akbar, it's in God's hands.
About half the users are from the New York area, often college students from Israel or the Palestinian territories, while a "surprising number," Nolan says, are from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Verona's slogan is "world peace, one swipe at a time." Nolan actually sounds like he means it. "I feel like there’s a secular, liberal youth base in both cultures who just want change, they just want fucking peace," he said. "And, I want these selfies, images of people who have met, to show that this is bullshit — we can get along, and here’s proof. If there’s war, more conflict, I want people to know that it’s completely invalid. This is going to be the first step."
Whether it's the first step to peace, to a debate, or to a cross-cultural quickie, Verona has arrived.