I originally wrote this article for publication in a local newsletter Modiinlife. This shortened version has been abstracted from the original and edited so that it is timely and appropriate.
When and Why
In June 2015 I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. I was hurting, had little energy and I was feeling low. I was sat on the sofa browsing the Internet and Facebook which was my way of being ‘out in the world’ without having to leave my home. It was my way to connect with people when I couldn’t really do it in a face to face way. Facebook is a really great way to stay in touch with people when you can’t actually see them in person and this applies locally as well as for overseas friends and relatives of course. Having a chat in a Facebook group about a common interest is a great way to stay in touch with the local community.
I wanted to ask a question to English Speakers in the city of Modi’in in Israel. It occurred to me that there wasn’t really a good place to post my question. There were some English speaking Facebook groups but none of them were quite what I was looking for. What there didn’t seem to be was a group aimed at English speakers where people could chat, ask questions, help each other and get to know each other, that was aimed at men and women, of any religion or none and covered the whole city. Somewhere that wasn’t flooded with adverts and spam. Somewhere friendly and helpful where people got answers to their questions. Somewhere where people wanted to be.
I had a look at the two English speaking ladies’ neighbourhood groups that I knew about. Both of these groups were and still are, well run and moderated. The idea of them was that local women could post and ask questions as a resource and place to meet. What I noticed is that in addition to the posts I expected to see in these groups there were also posts that had no relevance to the local neighbourhood and those that had no reason to be for women only.
It struck me that it was strange that these posts were in the groups. Then it hit me! There wasn’t anywhere else to put them. People were using these groups for the purpose that they were set up for but also because there wasn’t a city-wide any gender group they were posting everything else there too!
I knew what I had to do.
There was no time like the present.
On the 9th June 2015 Our Modi’in was born.
Our Modi’in was Born
Although fairly computer savvy it was time to learn how to use social media properly. I have learned a lot since then! I quickly learned how to set up a Facebook Group and decided upon a name. I asked Kineret Rifkind, a local photographer if she had an appropriate photograph that could be used for group and she supplied the wonderful photograph that is now associated with the group and heads this blog post and has been there since day one.
I had a long think about the group description and rules. These have evolved a little since inception but in principle remain the same. The idea for the group was to have a friendly English speaking group where we could meet new friends, ask questions, organise get-togethers, promote small businesses, offer recommendations and learn about each other and about our area, whilst feeling comfortable speaking English.
Our Modi’in is Thriving
From the beginning, it was my wish for the group that it would be a friendly and helpful place. A place without hatred. A place without judgment. A place without spam and dozens of inappropriate adverts. My aim was that if people asked a question, answers would be forthcoming. I wanted people to want to help and participate. The group isn’t for politics or property listings from agents. There are plenty of other groups for these. Adverts from locals are limited to once a month because free advertising is something I can offer to local businesses but no one wants the group flooded with adverts or spam and it is my intention to keep the group useful and relevant at all times. It is also worth noting that although of course, the vast majority of the group’s members are Jewish due to Modi’in’s location, not all are, and it is in no way a criterion. In addition, although the majority of the members are native English speakers, for many it is not their first language. I am delighted to offer this service in English to anyone who wishes participate passively or actively, in English.
I often get asked why I won’t allow people to post only in Hebrew in the group. I get a lot of messages trying to explain to me that people should ‘try’ in Hebrew. I explain to these people that if you are comfortable reading understanding and writing in Hebrew there are places to do that. Some people in Our Modi’in have no Hebrew at all, some are fluent Hebrew speakers and some, like me, are somewhere in between. I want the group to be 100% accessible to even those with not one word of Hebrew and this is why I am strict about writing only in English in the group. Hebrew adverts and posters are welcome with full English annotation. The rule is that if the post isn’t 100% accessible in English, then it will be taken down.
Today, Our Modi’in has over 2800 members. Thanks to the new screening questions that are available on Facebook, when someone asks to join they are asked three questions. If I am happy with the answers, I accept them into the group. There are usually about 400 people who haven’t answered any questions and are waiting to join, so if you ask to join, please check your messages. I am waiting to accept you but if I can’t tell from your profile that you live here or what your interest is and you haven’t answered the questions, I can’t accept you. The group has local residents and people that work or study here, people interested in moving here from within Israel or overseas. It also allows people who offer a specific service in Modi’in. As a side note, I also have rather a lot of requests to join from India thanks to Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister.
I am proud to say that the members of Our Modi’in have allowed the group to flourish and today it is the ‘go to’ place for information about Modi’in. The Modi’inApp lists Our Modi’in at the top of the page of Facebook Groups above 42 other groups, most of which are Hebrew groups. The Absorption Department now gives out the group info for people considering making Aliyah to Modi’in. People in the group are able to help incoming olim (immigrants) as there is so much experience ready to share and people generally love to help when given the opportunity.
The group is my baby and I run it alone. I have been lucky enough to have two guest moderators for short periods where I was unable to do this and they did a great job! I am proud of what I have built.
I look forward to the steady growth of the group and active members giving and receiving information.in a friendly manner. I am very proud of both the inception, moderation and continued success of the group.