“Sometimes he annoys the viewers, sometimes he makes them laugh, but it is hard to say that they remain indifferent to him,” writes N12 reporter Ori Isaac.
By Terri Nir, United with Israel
Haifa-born Avichay Adraee, the IDF spokesperson for Arab media, is a Sephardi Jew with a deep knowledge of the Arabic language, civilization, culture and history. His current position has been his dream since childhood, according to his website.
In 2001, Lt.-Col. Adraee, now 39, joined the Military Intelligence Service in the elite 8200 unit. Upon completing mandatory service, he began his career as head of the Arab Media department in the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. In November 2018 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
He has been in his current position since 2005, and since then has become a familiar figure in the Arab world, having been interviewed hundreds of times on various Arab TV channels.
Adraee says he has excellent relations with citizens of various Arab countries. “There is a door to dialogue and the real winds of peace that swept the region,” his website says.
He stresses the importance of communication and dialogue with many peoples, even if their governments do not establish normal relations with Israel or are in fact hostile to the Jewish State. He welcomes his “wonderful opportunity” in all ways possible, particularly through social media, to promote dialogue.
In an exclusive interview with N12 journalist Ori Isaac, Adraee explains that he actually invented the role he performs. “He is addicted to social networks. In every spare moment, he uploads a story, a tweet to half a million followers or a rhythmic video,” and has thus become a social media celebrity in the Arab world, says Isaac.
“Without the uniform, one could be confused and think that this is not a senior officer, but one of the teens addicted to TikTok – where he has already gained 2.5 million likes.”
‘The Most Important Decision in My Life’
“My father made a decision about me, that I would learn the Arabic language in high school,” Edrei explains to N12 in his fluent Arabic. “It was a kind of quarrel at home, because I thought the future was in computer science. The most important decision I made in my life, I did not make it – but my late father made that decision, that I would learn the Arabic language.”
Dubbed “Sheikh Adraee,” the IDF officer is stopped frequently on the streets by people asking for selfies. It seems that to the Arabic speakers, it is his personality that is captivating, not the uniform,” Isaac writes.
“Sometimes he annoys the viewers, sometimes he makes them laugh, but it is hard to say that they remain indifferent to him.”
“On the one hand, you have someone who criticizes you and curses you,” Adraee concedes in the interview. “On the other hand, I get thousands of responses every day on private channels, on my phone, from people who are ‘your people’ in the Arab world – even from enemy countries like Syria, you guessed it. And Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, the Emirates, Bahrain, etc. – the new peace countries – and Egypt of course.”
“I sleep in Arabic, I dream in Arabic occasionally, I speak Arabic all day,” Adraee says.
The IDF spokesperson knows how to handle his enemies. In one video cited by N12, while standing across from tunnels dug by the Hezbollah terror group, he teases a Lebanese journalist and social media influencer:
“Where are you, Hosein Mortada? Where are you, do you hear me? Good morning! Do you continue to work on your videos? Have you seen the Israeli army? It has power, technology and creativity, and that is what destroyed your tunnels in 40 days! What a loss … Congratulations.”
‘The War of Minds’
Adraee went down to the Gaza border in the backdrop of the recent escape of six security prisoners from Gilboa Prison followed by violent rioting, including the one in which the late Border Police fighter Barel Hadaria Shmueli was killed. “Here, too, the goal is clear – the war of minds he is waging against Hamas,” N12 reports.
In a video, Adraee answered one of the demonstrators on the fence in Gaza who regularly addresses him in TikTok. Relating to the humanitarian crisis in the Strip and the vast resources Hamas spends on terror rather than on the residents’ basic need, he says: “Look at the [terror] tunnel, the length of the tunnel, and think to yourself – how much money!”
Asked by Isaac if he fears for his and his family’s safety due to his large public presence, especially since there have been a number of threats, he replies – in Arabic: “No. I trust the security forces and I know that there is someone who protects and guards me.
“I got dozens of calls that suddenly took a different direction — a person who called to curse me suddenly became a new friend of mine and told me ‘now I see Avichai as a different person.'”
“And so, the man who did not want to learn Arabic found himself in the heart of the Arab world, and he is sure that language is the solution, that it can be the bridge that will eventually bring the Middle East to a slightly more sane place,” Isaac concludes.
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