Can This Dating App Solve The Israel-Palestine Conflict?

SUZANNE JENNINGS
Tuesday, May 19,2015

NEW DELHI: There may be truth in the adage “love conquers all.” World leaders, policy makers, nobel peace prize-winners and general do-gooders have not managed to solve one of the most complicated conflicts in the world, namely, the Israel-Palestine conflict, but a new dating app is signing itself upto the task.

Verona, launched March 29 and named after the town that was witness to the love of Romeo and Juliet, is seeking to usher in world peace, one swipe at a time. Developer Matthew Nolan’s premise is simple: connect people in the Middle East, whether looking for friendship or love, based on similarities that transcend political and cultural divides.

The App uses Tinder’s familiar “swiping right” to indicate approval and “swiping left” for someone you don’t like. If two users swipe right, they can instantly start chatting and arrange to meet for a date. All swipes are anonymous so no one will know if you swipe left.

“I was talking with my friend who is Palestinian, who had a new girlfriend who is Israeli. We were joking around about [well-known Jewish dating site] JDate. I was like, ‘Maybe we should do a J-P Date, Jewish-Palestinian Date,” Nolan said as quoted in Digital Trends.


“I very much believe that the basis of any relationship is communication,” Nolan told Refinery29. “I feel like there’s a secular, liberal youth base in both cultures who just want change, they just want f*cking peace. And, I want these selfies, images of people who have met, to show that this is bullshit… If there’s war, more conflict, I want people to know that it’s completely invalid. This is going to be the first step.”

Verona has managed to amass more than 1000 users since its launch. As reported in Refinery29, roughly half of the downloads are within the New York area — college students with roots in Israel or Palestine, or people who’ve heard of Verona through word of mouth. A “surprising number,” Nolan told the website, are coming from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the West Bank. “We’re still not sure how they’re hearing about us,” he says.

While the idea of using social love to decrease political conflict may seem far fetched to some, it is rooted in scientific theory. Social psychologist Gordon Allport put forth the “contact hypothesis” as a means to improve relations among groups that are experiencing conflict. The premise of Allport's theory states that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members. If one has the opportunity to communicate with others, they are able to understand and appreciate different points of views involving their way of life. As a result of new appreciation and understanding, prejudice should diminish. Issues of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination are commonly occurring issues between rival groups. Allport's proposal was that properly managed contact between the groups should reduce these problems and lead to better interactions.

As such, Verona is perhaps the surest bet yet to peace in the Middle East.



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