What happens when Tinder meets the Israel–Palestine conflict? A new dating and friendship app that aims to tackle misperceptions fueled by segregation and spark meaningful dialogue between young Isrealis and Palestinians.
Designed by New York-based developer Matthew Nolan, Verona is a new app that is specifically meant to connect Israelis and Palestinians. In an interview with the Peace and Collaborative Development Network, Nolan explained the simple rationale behind the app, saying, “I very much believe that the basis of any relationship is communication, so if these two cultures are forced to be separate in all this conflict, forming relationships between them could be the glue that hopefully ignites a shift in consciousness.”
The app was launched in March of this year and is designed based on the widely popular dating app Tinder. Users log in via Facebook and select whether they identify as either “Israeli” or “Palestinian.” They are then presented with prospective matches in their area who identify with the opposite group. If uninterested, the user swipes left. If they like someone, they swipe right. If both parties swipe one another right, they are then “matched” and have the opportunity to message one another through the app.
Although only yet available for Android devices, a free beta test of the app had been downloaded over 1,000 times as of April 24, less than a month after its launch. While many of these initial downloads were within the New York area, a “surprising number” were coming from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to Nolan.
Verona’s slogan, “world peace, one swipe at a time,” captures the optimism and power of a generation of tech-savvy youth. While simplistic, the potential is great. One user, who identifies as Israeli, described her experiences thus far with the app as a series of positive exchanges. “I’ve heard a lot of people’s stories, their family history, so I’m getting some perspective,” said the 27-year-old user. “It’s interesting to hear what it’s like to be Palestinian in that area.”
The power of simple conversation can be great, but often segregation is one of the greatest barriers to conflict resolution. Verona is harnessing technology to overcome the physical and spatial barriers segregating young Israelis and Palestinians, bringing meaningful dialogue straight to their phones. The solution is as easy as swiping right.