“Hate is alive, Anti-semitism is alive and we cannot be indifferent to the hate crimes!” twenty-one-year-old Hananya Naftali stated in a recent YouTube video regarding the horrific hate crime in a St. Louis, MO cemetery when as many as 200 Jewish headstones were toppled over and desecrated. In just moments his video received 665 reactions on Facebook and over 71,820 views online. That kind of response makes him a powerful pro-Israel voice and advocate for the Jewish people in the online community, a place where pro-Israel posts are typically met with extreme bigotry, bias, and virulence.
Hanaya Naftali grew up in Northern Israel. Today he resides in a town north of Tel Aviv called Petak Tikva. One of four siblings, he grew up in a Yeshua-faith household and is now a prominent voice for Israel, Zionism, and Yeshua-faith.
Naftali opened his youtube channel in August 2012, but he did not post his first video until July, 17 2013. “I absolutely did not plan on my channel becoming so popular,” said Naftali. He served in Operation Protective Edge as a tanker. After his experience in the war, he decided to start making videos telling the truth about Israel and the Middle East.
Today, the war against Israel is an online battle, fought through social media. The virtual war against Israel became apparent during the last war in Gaza. To combat the lies, anti-Israel propaganda, and online hatred, Hananya started creating short videos filled with truth and pro-Israel advocacy:
My videos are not just a reaction to the anti-Israel sentiment that I saw on social media and news outlets but also the fact that there are so many people out there that know nearly nothing about the truth of Israel.
Naftali's most-shared video is called “Israel in 60 seconds.” The video has been shared over 145,000 times and received over 54,000 likes, giving us a clear example that people are hungry for truth about Israel.
When I first started I was a little concerned that people wouldn’t even care about learning or even hearing the truth about a country that is so far away from them, but to my surprise, I encountered support, love and a lot of people found my videos interesting and helped to spread the truth about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Naftali starting becoming popular very quickly, and his YouTube & Facebook pages grew to over 119,246 total likes—an impressive number for a pro-Israel channel. He says, “My biggest motivator in continuing my videos was knowing that people are undereducated about Israel; this was my driving force.”
While in the army, Naftali filmed several videos educating his followers about the reality of army life as well as the human side of the IDF. Several of these videos made headlines in Israeli news sources and have made an impression, not only online, but also within the Israeli public. He was featured on Israeli television channel 20, Ynet news, Mako News, and published in the Israel Defense Force’s magazine.
Typically the IDF does not allow its soldiers to film themselves in uniform or to post videos related to the army. Naftali explains, “At first the channel wasn’t so big so nobody really cared, but when it started to became big and influential, the IDF's spokesperson unit asked me to let them know whenever I want to film myself with uniform on — they were supportive. I’ve only ever had to take one video down. I made a video about the IDF helping treat injured Syrians; this was a sensitive topic and I was asked by the IDF to take it down.”
Most IDF soldiers work closely with their fellow soldiers and spend day and night together. Hananya said, “My fellow soldiers looked at the channel in a humorous way, but as time passed, they changed their opinion and started to give me ideas for videos and topics to talk about. They saw that it actually has an impact on people around the world. They too have been extremely supportive.”
When it comes to Israel’s reputation on social media, his videos provide some light in a very dark world. It’s easy to fall in love with his upbeat, smiling attitude and his ongoing concern to educate his followers. As a Yeshua-follower, Naftali has never kept quiet about his faith. He is refreshingly open about his beliefs. In one of his videos, he says:
Most people don’t understand [how it can be that] I am Jewish and a believer in Jesus; to me it makes perfect sense. After all, Jesus was a Jew. The short answer for explaining my faith is I believe in Jesus, I follow Jesus and it does not make me less of a Jew; the opposite is true! I never doubted if I should be open about my faith or not. I am not ashamed of it, and if people don’t like this about me—they don’t have to follow my work for Israel. But this is part of me with or without them. People did write articles against me, attacked me on social media — but never physically. I called them out on social media, asked them to leave the religion part behind and requested that we unify for the sake of Israel and not attack one another.
Naftali has over 115 videos on his site and continues to post regularly on relevant issues that affect the pro-Israel movement. He interviews and collaborates with other pro-Israel figures as well. He says, “My favorite video that I ever made was when I interviewed Muhammad Zombi, an Israeli Arab Muslim. This video had a lot of impact on people around the world when they saw a Jew and a Muslim talking side by side about the conflict.” That video received 2500 likes and was viewed 111,681 times.
Comments on his Facebook wall include: “My wife has a stepbrother in ISRAEL, I love your page” -HG; “Great job. I love your page.” JS; “I am an American and I stand up for Israel! I will support and protect Israel in any way I can!” JW; and many more from all over the world.
Naftali's videos have contributed not only to pro-Israel education but also to the testimony for Yeshua and his followers.
I think that more people not related to the government, from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side, need to rise up on social media and promote love and peace. Peace doesn't have to come from governments, it's better for peace to come from the people themselves. When anti-Israel people see Palestinians that support Israel, it might have a bigger impact on them, and they might be more open to hear about the truth about Israel.
Follow, like, and share Hananya Naftali on your social media. Let him inspire you to become a personal advocate for Israel too. All you have to do is pick up a camera and speak truth.
To follow Hananya find him social media at:
- Facebook page: facebook.com/hnaftali
- Instagram - hnaftali
- Snapchat - hananyanaftali