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An educational ad captures Israel's culture of fear

In other countries, when you say “education is our future”, you usually mean that it will determine the level of prosperity and accomplishment we can hope to achieve. In Israel, the “future” is meant quite literally, in the sense that without education, we would have no future because we would all be dead.

How deep is the culture of fear in Israel? Every day seems to bring a fresh piece of evidence indicating it is quite deep indeed. Last week, I was waiting for the bus, when I saw this poster on the bus stop:

The picture, taken by me, is unfortunately not very clear. The message at the top says “Don’t leave us behind!” The bottom lines read: “Say no to the chalkboard and chalk! Because education is my future. Yours. [The future of] all of us!” The ad is attributed to “HighQ”, an Israeli corporation (with a name in English, for some reason) which specializes in preparing students for the matriculation exams and SATs. The name of the company is followed by the slogan “Presentations in class are not an extra. They are your grade!”

So far, the poster seems relatively unproblematic, if a bit short on understatement and originality. What is truly scary, quite literally, is the text at the very middle of the poster (which I managed to capture a bit more clearly):

It reads: “Yesterday, they said on the news that Israel has the most advanced missiles in the world. They said that our technological progress is the only reason we have not yet been thrown into the sea. I’m a little scared. I don’t know how to swim very well…” This text is presented as a quote attributed to “Maya, soon to be ten years old”, presumably, the girl whose picture appears next to the text.

For context, I should mention that the threat of being “thrown into the sea”, always by “Arabs”, is a very well-known catchphrase in Israel, indicating the existential threat the country presumably faces.

One could criticize this text for its poor taste and cynical tone. But what is much more worrying is that its creators clearly believe it would hit a chord. In their minds, Israelis are frightened ten-year old children, who feel on the constant brink of extinction. In other countries, when you say “education is our future”, you usually mean that it will determine the level of prosperity and accomplishment we can hope to achieve. In Israel, the “future” is meant quite literally, in the sense that without education, we would have no future because we would all be dead.

Note: unusually, this seems to be a purely off-line campaign, with no mention of it on the company’s website, or anywhere else on the internet. Presumably, it is meant to tout the company’s advanced educational tools, but I cannot be sure.

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    1. Roni

      I think the scariest thing is that they teach SATs and don’t know how to use the imperative tense

      Reply to Comment
    2. David Sheen

      Ha! In the reflection of the display case, you are clearly seen wearing the same shirt as you have on in your 972 illustration. This is further evidence of my contention that you are in fact a robot super-computer, capable of only the soundest political analysis (and who therefore doesn’t need to shower or change clothes).
      Regarding the advertisement… <>.

      Reply to Comment
    3. RichardNYC

      Is truth not a defense?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben Israel

      “Even paranoid people can have enemies”.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Aaron Boiron

      Gotta also love the one mentioning students from Dubai scoring better than the Israelis. Fear and xenophobia cocktail, bottoms up.

      Reply to Comment
    6. RichardNYC

      “Fear and xenophobia cocktail, bottoms up.”
      –>I suppose its xenophobia to worry about the fact that people hate you because they think your tribe used to kill prophets by the thousands in antiquity.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Piotr Berman

      Historian: I did not see anything interesting, but after clicking another link (Iran equips military with home-made anti-aircraft missile), I got a picture of truck-mounted missile battery pointed at me, with caption urging me to get some new credit cards right away.

      By the way, the title is a classic case of idioms getting misused. In USA you constantly see ads of this “home-made” food or that, presumably being as well made as the famous blintzes of your Aunt Irina. Of course, the stuff is factory made. But home-made anti-aircraft missiles! Holy Macaroon!


      I think that Hojatoeslam Test Prep can use exactly same sales pitches (learn to pass the test and design missiles for the Mother Country),

      Reply to Comment
    8. sh

      I puzzled over that ad whizzing past it on the bus. I didn’t catch the paranoid small print – the key to what it was about. Wasn’t impressed with it then, am DEpressed with it now.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Bosko

      Yep, Israeli educational institutions would do much better if they would teach the kids that Israel has nothing to fear, all it’s neighbours are in awe of Israel, admire Israel and love Israel. But even if that’s just a smidgin of an exaggeration, Israel is invincible.
      One has to wonder what the reaction to that would be? What is wrong of informing the kids of reality?

      Reply to Comment