Second Life (SL), with more than 18 million members, is an online virtual 3-d world. Often referred to as web 2.0, these advanced web based communities allow for greater social networking, collaboration, and creativity between its users. SL Israel seeks to capitalize on this trend, bringing Israel advocacy into new and exciting areas with the facilitation of forward looking technology. The original inspiration for the project was a search for venues to promote Israel that were outside the box and didn’t center on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Second Life reaches out to a global audience, so it was decided to build an Israel there that is a fun and entertaining place to visit.
Second Life Israel was launched January 2008 and since then has consistently ranked as one of the top Israel and Jewish sites in Second Life. The purpose of SL Israel was to enable people from all over the world, who had never visited Israel in real life, to visit Israel in SL and perhaps eventually in real life as well. It was to allow people to learn about Israel, especially the fun aspects of this country, which is not reported in the regular news media, and to serve as a meeting place between Israelis and non-Israelis.
SL Israel offers Second Life’s millions of members the ability to teleport instantly into the virtual Israel, and to explore a country that is fun and educational, ancient and modern, imaginative and real. There is a tourism information spot for those interested in a real life visit to Israel. Other major sites on SL Israel include the holy sites of the 3 major monotheistic religions, the Tel Aviv Promenade with the Opera House and Dizingoff Fountain, the Dead Sea and mud baths, the Eilat Underwater Observatory, and the Roman Amphitheater in Caesarea. It also includes an exhibition on 16 cutting edge Israeli companies featured at the President’s Conference in Jerusalem in 2008.
SL Israel has received extensive coverage in the Israeli, Jewish, and SL media and blogosphere, including such outlets as Yediot Acharonot, The Jerusalem Post, the NY Jewish Week, The Forward, and New World Notes.
SL Israel hosts regular events, including Chanukah balls, Purim costume parties, a live comedy performance streamed from Jerusalem, and numerous music concerts. In 2008 SL Israel streamed a Yom Ha’atzmaut concert by former band members of Shotei Hanevuah that was performed at Columbia University. In 2009 SL Israel’s Yom Ha’atzmaut party featured the opening of the ‘Israeli Entrepreneurial Spirit’ exhibition followed by a live audience discussion by Israeli technology expert Dr. Yesha Sivan. Participants were then invited to a virtual dance party with music from Hisham Abu Me’eteg and Assaf Givati, from the group ‘Urban Desert.’
Second Life Israel is run by the Community Internet Engagement Project (CIE) of the Zionist Federation of Australia, a global team of experts on Israel advocacy and online media engagement under the supervision of Dr Andre Oboler. Chaim Landau heads the Second Life Israel Project from Jerusalem, he can be contacted by educators, youth movements and members of the second life community who wish to make use of Second Life Israel : email@example.com.