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Israel cancels marriage ad after angry response from US Jews

The Israeli government on Friday announced that it would cancel immediately a group of television commercials introduced and paid for by the Ministry of Immigration, after the Embassy in Washington received a number of angry comments from American Jews.

Speaking on CNN, Israel’s American-born Ambassador to Washington, noted:

The Ministry of Immigration has been charged, in its mandate, to bring Israelis home, and has various funds to do so. And in this case, the campaign did not take into account sufficiently American Jewish sensitivities. We regret that. But still, we are committed to trying to bring Israelis back home and reuniting families. Again, I know what it feels like: I have children living in Israel, I’m serving here, I have family living in the United States, my parents and my sisters … so I know the value of the Jewish people together understanding one another and committing to one another as a people.

Oren explained that neither the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, nor his office were involved in the campaign or informed of the campaign. He justified Netanyahu’s lack of attention to the ads by stating that the Israeli leader is busy worrying about other things, including Iranian nuclear weapons and threats on the border.

There are many things on his plate everyday,” Oren said, “and he cannot be expected to be aware of every campaign going on.

The controversial videos are narrated in Hebrew and in the past few days received a lot of attention in the American press. One of the ads shows an American boyfriend “understanding” why his Israeli girlfriend wanted to stay in, as he sees her hunkered-down in front of the computer setting the mood with soft music and a candle. His comment to her is ignored, as the camera zooms in on her looking at a website commemorating Israel’s Memorial Day. The narrator says in Hebrew: “They will always be Israelis but their partners won’t understand. Help them return to Israel.”

In another ad, Israeli grandparents are Skyping with their granddaughter (who is seated between her parents, who it is assumed are Israeli expats). , The grandparents speak in Hebrew, with a nine-branched Hanukkah menorah in the background. They ask the granddaughter, “What holiday is today?” She responds, “Christmas!” The parents then looked dismayed, suggesting that this is clearly their fault for leaving Israel and exposing their child to “goyishe” identity.

The grandparents, too, are shown as being shocked, as the narrator says in Hebrew, “They will always remain Israelis but their children won’t. Help them return to Israel.”

This ad has been removed from the Ministry of Immigration’s youtube page. It was up there on Thursday, so its removal appears to be a direct response to the government’s announcement.

The adverts sparked outage from prominent American Jews. Jewish New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind told WABC News that the ads were insulting:

They want to attract people coming back to Israel, that’s fabulous, but don’t insult American Jews, don’t insult our community.

Even to this day, the Hebrew language is skewed towards the elevated status of living in Israel. Immigration TO Israel is referred to as “aliyah,” or “ascent.” Emigration FROM Israel, alternatively, is referred to as “yeridah,” or “descent.” Israel is referenced as “Ha’aretz,” which literally means “the land,” and “abroad” is translated as “khool,” an conjunction for “khootz la’aretz,” or “outside of the land.”

Technically, the marketing strategy of recruitment is nothing new, though the audience that is targeted could be considered different. A video advert from 2009 from the government-sponsored Masa Agency encouraged Israelis living abroad to report to the agency diaspora Jews who are a “disappearing,” with a direct illusion to interfaith marriage statistics. The agency offers to essentially cure them by bringing them on a Birthright-style trip to Israel.

It is likely that this approach caused less offense because it targeted Israeli and “active” Jewish (i.e. those involved with the diaspora Jews communities) and essentially called on them to save the “inactive” Jews from assimilation. Obviously, inactivate Jews don’t collectively organize and have not established an effective lobby.

Still, what Friday’s move shows is that when prompted by an act of Israel with which it disagrees, the “active” American Jewish community can and will exert pressure via a number of channels to get Israel to reverse course. That, some will argue, is encouraging news.

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As always, +972 encourages responses and comments from its readers. In this particular incident, because the ads are in Hebrew and targeting Israelis living abroad, please do identify yourself as such if you fit into that category … as we would like to create a separate post in a few days highlighting some of those particular responses under the caption of “Israeli expats respond to marriage campaign”

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    COMMENTS

    1. Piotr Berman

      “He justified Netanyahu’s lack of attention to the ads by stating that the Israeli leader is busy worrying about other things, including Iranian nuclear weapons and threats on the border.”

      Perhaps this should be the centerpiece of the campaign to come to Israel, marry there and be merry: the only place in the world where Jews can be truly safe, and really really safe because our PM will soon complete solving the problems of “Iranian nuclear weapons and threats on the border.” Plans are in motion, IDF is broke only TEMPORARILY…

      Reply to Comment
    2. Shoded Yam

      Contempt for American Jews is considered to be de riguer for any self-respecting Israeli. Exclaimations of shock and surprise are products of a deep-seated cognitive dissonance on the part of a community mired in its own delusions.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Philos

      As a former ex-pat Israeli I can say that if I’d seen these ads before I moved back to Israel in 2007 I’d have probably never come. On that note I’m leaving again next year and have, finally, considered the possibility of never coming back. Especially, after hearing some Diaspora Jews in Israel, aka “olim”, claim that the ad is the fulfillment of the Israeli government’s mission and could not understand why it’s not the mission of any democratic government to meddle in the personal choices of any of its citizens. A view, it seems to me, now widely held by many of my fellow Israelis. And with that I bid this country adieu and good luck. You’re going to need it because it’s clear you’ve locked yourselves in with the lunatics in the Middle East insane asylum.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Piotr Berman

      This is somewhat tricky question: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is most Jewish of them all?”. I think that the answer is Hegelian/Marxist: there is thesis, antithesis and synthesis. First we have very fine Jews, with full potential to be Chosen, but, alas, unredeemed. Their anti-thesis, a higher state of existence, is a Jew who underwent aliyah or a Sabra. But once we reach this more elevated state, is everybody equal?

      Clearly, among the ranks of the Redeemed we can see some more singular exemplars of acumen, sagacity and prosperity. Personages of such stature are often endowed with a multiplicity of passports, dwellings and businesses. Their heart (and one of the dwellings) is in Jerusalem, they have fun in Tel-Aviv (and a dwelling), but they can be also spotted in Provence, New York and what not, so they are in the Diaspora as well.

      Now, are we about to suggest that Michael Bloomberg should drop his significant companion and find some nice Jewish girl? (It would be nice if he made a girlfriend swap with the former mayor of NYC, but do we really want to call Upper East Side a zone of moral iniquity? Sometimes silence is a better part of sagacity.)

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mariana

      Bibi is worried abouth Iran’s nuclear weapons. and what about his own country’s nuclear weapons?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Louis

      If only the US Jewish community and establishment would get as upset over Israel’s negating human rights and democracy as it does over Israel’s constant negating the the Diaspora we would be much better off…

      Reply to Comment
    7. Nora

      Amazing how it’s all right for anyone but white gentiles to unabashedly espouse doctrines of racism, exclusion, and ethnocentricity.

      Reply to Comment
    8. directrob

      The jewish community in Leiden wants the Israel Museum to return a 18th century Torah Mantel that was stolen during the war. They were told by James Snyder that the Jewish Museum is caretaker of all pre-war Jewish cultural inheritage and the object would not be returned …. (NRC)

      Reply to Comment
    9. Mitchell Cohen

      “Especially, after hearing some Diaspora Jews in Israel, aka “olim”, claim that the ad is the fulfillment of the Israeli government’s mission and could not understand why it’s not the mission of any democratic government to meddle in the personal choices of any of its citizens. A view, it seems to me, now widely held by many of my fellow Israelis.” [End of Philos]

      How is the Israeli government meddling in the personal choices of its citizens with these ads? There is a difference between coercing and encouraging Israeli ex-pats to come home. If the American government had ads trying to encourage American ex-pats to come home to America, I wouldn’t be offended.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Piotr Berman

      There are two somewhat separate issues. One is if the ad was offensive, the second, was the ad offensive to some powerful people who have a sufficient influence to “put kibosh” on the idea.

      At least one media mogul (and mayor of NYC) could perceive the ad as a personal criticism, and there may be quite a few more. Under that theory, two-three irate phone calls from personal assistants of those people would suffice. Criticism at sites like 972mag or Mondoweiss would definitely not do it.

      Why a prime minister should be in any way involved in an ad campaign that has, at best, a marginal importance to the functions of the state, I do not know. My interpretation is that people irritated by the ad were more important that the minister in charge of relations with diaspora.

      I also see a certain contrast with the reaction of the “diaspora” to NGO legislation which seems negative, but in a mild way. On one hand, it is clearly against the convictions of people like Bloomberg, i.e. some of the most important Zionists in USA, but to them it is more of an abstract issue rather than personal affront.

      Reply to Comment
    11. AYLA

      the response ad targeting U.S. Jews should be, “I know you love Israel honey, and I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but Israel doesn’t want to marry you; S/he just wants you for your money.”
      *
      Louis–absolutely. but propaganda ads along the same line as these that feed what jewish american Israel Supporters (with a capital ‘S’) already believe, or want to believe, simply work. this one challenges their ego / belief that they are part of Israel, somehow. It hurts their feelings. One woman who felt this way told me, in response to these ads, that she was shocked, in part because “they were so untrue.” When I told her they were no less true than any of Israel’s other propaganda, I was wasting my breath. people believe what they want to believe.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Shoded Yam

      “…If the American government had ads trying to encourage American ex-pats to come home to America,I wouldn’t be offended”
      .
      False argument there, uh mitchy. The problem here is not the coercion. I don’t think most American Jews would mind if a bunch of Israelis went back to their own country, considering the amount of time, energy, and money thats been spent on keeping them there in the first place. As for myself; my wife and I met while we were in the Army and only got married and moved to the states many years later, after we had established ourselves in life. Quite frankly, if the Israeli government would like to try and entice my wife to dump my sorry ass and move back to that Talmudic Disneyland you’ve got goin’ there, all they have to do is grow a nine-inch personality, defund the settlement enterprise and enact a seperation of church and state. Short of that, they’re shit-out-of-luck. 😀
      .
      You see sparky, heres whats happened. Not only did your moron absorption minister let the cat out of the bag,(I mean its one thing for Benny Morris to make a few off-the-cuff remarks at the GA. Its entirely another to have those sentiments plastered on a f*cking billboard off of I-95. Get the picture?) the goddammed thing is now urinating in the face of every secular American Jew who ever put a penny in a JNF box, who ever marched down 5th Avenue on Israeli Indepenedence day, who ever voted for the pro-israel candidate, even though the other guy would’ve been a better choice for their friends, family and neighbors. That f*cking cat is now whizzing in the face of every American Jew who ever put the interests of Israel before that of their own country.
      .
      I imagine those were Bibi’s exact words to his Absorption Minister some time late yesterday.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Shoded Yam

      “…I mean its one thing for Benny Morris to make a few off-the-cuff remarks at the GA.”
      .
      Correct that to read;
      .
      “I mean its one thing for A.B.Yehoshua to make a few off-the-cuff remarks at the GA.”
      .
      In their collective mad rush to cement their legacies, it’s sometimes difficult to keep an orderly record of which historians sold out, when they sold out and where, as well as the circumstances of their cerebral acrobatics.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Mitchell Cohen

      “….the goddammed thing is now urinating in the face of every secular American Jew who ever put a penny in a JNF box, who ever marched down 5th Avenue on Israeli Indepenedence day, who ever voted for the pro-israel candidate, even though the other guy would’ve been a better choice for their friends, family and neighbors….” [End of Shoded Yam]

      Correct me, if I’m wrong, but I venture to say that most secular American Jews are married to the Democratic party (regardless of Israel)….

      Reply to Comment
    15. AYLA

      @ShodedYam–your comments would hold a lot more weight if they didn’t come with unwarranted, obnoxious condescension; Mitchell Cohen is a sincere, respectful commenter here. If we in the Jewish world can’t talk to thoughtful commenters whose politics differ from our own, how can we honestly say we want to bring any reconciliation, much less healing into the world?

      Reply to Comment
    16. AYLA

      @Mitchell–I’d love to know the percentages on how American Jews politics divide right now, but a few recent local elections in Jewish constituencies that have always gone democrat went republican; thus, the Obama we saw in September at the U.N.. There exists a fierce Pro-Israel group of Jewish American voters who vote on Israel first, and not the way I believe is best for Israel… These Jews, who are voting republican regardless of how they identify, tend, generally, to have more money than Jewish American democrats; they control AIPAC, and AIPAC in large part controls the white house on Israel. They believe they’re supporting Israel when they shop in their local shops with Israeli products, or when they buy uninhabited property in Jerusalem (as we’ve discussed), or when they visit, pray at the Kotel (and pay a struggling Yeshiva boy to do this for them from afar in their absence), eat in expensive Jerusalem restaurants, and return to the States high on Erretz Israel. Believe me, these ads hurt their feelings and let them outraged, and Bibi did what he and the U.S. government do whenever they upset this constituency: lie/apologize, deflect blame, and say, Just Kidding.

      Reply to Comment
    17. AYLA

      p.s.–sorry–I’m off my proofreading game again. So much dust in my keyboard, the effort to make changes is Herculean. I need a support group for writers in the desert. Or a new keyboard.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Mitchell Cohen

      @Ayla, the American Jews you describe in your post (especially the ones that buy apartments in Israel that overlook the Old City and occupy them a few weeks a year) are more likely Orthodox, rather than secular. And, I don’t think AIPAC has anymore “power” in the White House then Saudi oil. Yes, it would be interesting to get more precise statistics on American Jewish division in politics, but the general rule of thumb is that American Jews (and the less observant or affiliated the more this rule of thumb applies) overwhelmingly vote Democrat. And, I reckon that even now (especially now), the first thing the average secular American Jew thinks about when waking up in the morning is hardly Israel, but how to support their family, keep their house, keep/find their job, etc.

      Regarding your keyboard, don’t worry. I’m sure some Israeli entrepreneur will invent a keyboard that is dust proof. Maybe you and I can go 50/50 on a patent….:-)

      Reply to Comment
    19. AYLA

      @mitchell–:). True, re: Saudi Oil, and in fact I’d go even further to say that oil motivates the U.S. much more than AIPAC or much else. However, it seems to me that somehow, even though there is essentially no oil in Israel (except shale oil and do not get me started; That the act that kept Moses from entering The Land was hitting the rock when God asked him to speak to it is not incidental)–somehow, in some backward way, the U.S. focus on oil contributes to its support of Israel. I do believe that your ideas about american jews being largely Democrats are dated. Personally, I hope you are right. It’s true that there is a growing number of non-observant jews (I hate this ‘secular’ / ‘religious’ terminology–many non-halekchic jews have strong faith and/or tradition) could live easily without Israel, but you should know that that is largely because they can’t identify with Israel’s current values. And you are right: orthodox jews care about Israel regardless of the current governmental regime, and their love for the land is more timeless than any current government. Still–I’m aware of a big group of wealthy American Jews–Federation Jews–who mostly identify as Conservative religiously yet feel that Israel is their primary cause; they have a deep, cultural ideology that supports Israel fairly uncritically.
      *
      if you hear anything about that desert wandering keyboard, I’d appreciate the tip ;).

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