Israel pulls ads wooing expats after Jewish criticism
The ad featuring a pair of Israeli grandparents, disappointed to hear their American granddaughter was celebrating Christmas, was pulled.
December 2nd, 2011
04:12 PM ET

Israel pulls ads wooing expats after Jewish criticism

By Heather M. Higgins, CNN

(CNN) - The ad shows a young girl on her mother’s lap, video-chatting with her grandparents, who live in Israel and who are pictured with four candles burning brightly on a menorah behind them.

When the Jewish grandmother asks the child what holiday it is, she replies “Christmas!” instead of Hanukkah; the joy drains from the grandparents’ faces as they turn to each other in disappointment.

This Hebrew-language spot, titled, “It's time to return to Israel before Hanukkah becomes Christmas,” was removed from the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption’s YouTube channel Friday after it unleashed criticism from many Jews.

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, told CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the ad, and a handful of others like it, be taken down.

“The prime minister’s office knew nothing about these ads,” Oren said. “They weren’t brought to the prime minister’s office for approval, we had no knowledge of them, and as soon they were brought to my attention, I brought them to the prime minister’s attention this morning, and he immediately ordered them brought down.”

But two of the Web-based ads, sponsored by the Israeli government as part of the a campaign to invoke nostalgia among Israeli expatriates, were still running on the absorption ministry’s YouTube channel on Friday afternoon.

The video ads went live in September as part of a broader campaign by Israel targeting Israelis abroad. The ads have appeared in Britain, France, Australia and other countries but created a firestorm this week after Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg wrote about them.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League - which combats anti-Semitism – was among the critics.

According to the Israeli immigrant absorption ministry, the ads were inspired by focus groups sponsored by the Jewish state that revealed that many Israelis in America miss home.

Critics said the videos went further, offering a none-too-subtle warning about Jewish life in America and sending the message that Israelis should return home if they want to ensure that their children remain Jewish.

“I’m disappointed in our government,” Seth Farber, an American-born Orthodox rabbi who is founder of the Israeli-based ITIM: The Jewish-Life Information Center, said of the ad campaign.

“It is one thing to touch a nerve. It’s another to be fatalistic,” Farber said. “Why send a message that you’re going to lose everything if you don’t come home, when there are so many beautiful and positive reasons for wanting to move to Israel?”

The Israeli’s government adopted a resolution in 2010 encouraging the return of Israelis abroad.

After conducting market research in cities like New York and Los Angeles about what Israelis miss while living abroad, the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption launched an $800,000 ad campaign timed to coincide with Rosh Hashanah and the other Jewish High Holidays, which began in September.

“The ads are not from our frantic minds but directly from the focus groups we conducted,” Elad Sonn, spokesman for the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, said Thursday.

Another ad on the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption’s website depicts an Israeli girl mourning on Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, while her American boyfriend remains ignorant to its significance.

The title at the top of another ad reads, “It's time to return to Israel before Abba becomes Daddy,” and it shows a little boy whose sleeping father won’t wake up until the boy calls him “Abba,” the Hebrew word for daddy.

“They will always be Israelis. Their children won't. Help them return to Israel,” says the narrator at the end of the ad with the boy. Both those ads were still on the ministry’s YouTube channel Friday afternoon.

In addition to the Web-based ads, the Israeli campaign included nine billboards in the U.S., with signs in Miami and Palo Alto, California, and ads in Hebrew-language newspapers in places with large concentrations of Israelis. The billboard ads were up a little more than a month, until early November.

But Farber says the ads are not representative of the experience of Israeli expats.

“I know many Israeli expats who feel very connected to Israel,” he said.

Some Israelis living in the United States echoed that view.

“Israelis know what they want, so by coming to the U.S., they aren't looking to change their values, traditions and religious beliefs, but they are looking for something different than what they have in their country,” said Neta Yoffe, a director of corporate communications for a media company in New York.

Yoffe, an Israeli with dual citizenship, has lived in the U.S. for 26 years and said the ads reflect negatively on Israelis living abroad.

“Israel is already viewed as an outsider by the world, and these ads just make things worse by representing Israel as arrogant and self-important,” she said.

The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has issued a statement apologizing to American Jews, and Sonn communicated a similar message.

“If anyone is offended, we’re sorry,” said Sonn, who openly acknowledged the emotional nature of the campaign. “We did not intend this to be directed at the American Jewish community. We respect it, and we work with it."

When asked about the implications of assimilation and intermarriage, Sonn continued, “It is none of our business who an Israeli should or could marry. It’s an insult to our intelligence to take it to that place.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Israel

soundoff (817 Responses)
  1. cbr

    Don't know who wrote the ad or paid for the ad but it does not matter. People used very poor judgment. Even though there seems to be a firestorm around the ads we had not seen these ads until the report on CNN. Why these ads exist is the question. Hannukkah is one of the miner holidays and to give it huge significance is a mistake. It is a holiday we celebrate in our homes.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • rasputin

      I hear even non-miners celebrate it.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • mirted

      Rasputin: Also "forth" generation "non-miners"..But, they're probably in West Virginia.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  2. Reality

    The holy/holi-days in the 21st century:

    Christmas, the embellished story of the birth of a simple, preacher man named Jesus.

    As per most contemporary NT scholars, his parents were Mary and Joseph although some say Jesus was a mamzer, the result of a pre-marital relationship between Mary and a Roman soldier.

    "Jesus was not born in Bethlehem at least the one we are familiar with and there were no pretty wingie thingies singing from on high, no slaughter of the innocents by Herod, no visiting wise men and no escape to Egypt.

    Conclusion: the holyday of Christmas is historically a non-event. Ditto for the Feast of the Magi and the solemnity of Mary aka New Years day.

    "Kwanzaa, which will be celebrated for the 44th time in 2009, was established by Dr. Maulana Karenga. The seven-day festival (December 26 – January 1) is secular, not religious, and aims to strengthen African cultural ident-ity and community values while providing a spiritual alternative to the commercialism of Christmas."

    Chanukah (Hanukkah)

    "Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most joyous times of the Jewish year. The reason for the celebration is twofold (both dating back to c. 165 BCE): the miraculous military victory of the small, ill-equipped Jewish army over the ruling Greek Syrians, who had banned the Jewish religion and desecrated the Temple; and the miracle of the small cruse of consecrated oil, which burned for eight days in the Temple's menorah instead of just one."
    "Originally a minor holiday, it has become more lavishly celebrated as a result of its proximity to Christmas."
    Some candles burn for weeks so the menorah "miracle" is hardly miraculous.

    Rabbi Wolpe can probably give us his take on the historical validity of Hanukkah.

    So after thorough analyses of the NT Christmas passages, what are a few of the conclusions of some of the top contemporary NT scholars?

    Matt 1:18-25: From Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 123-124, "The fathering of Jesus from the Holy Spirit and his birth from the virgin Mary are unhistorical". Ludemann gives a very detailed analysis to support his conclusions. One part being the lack of attestations to these events and the late time strata of said story.

    "Lüdemann [Jesus], (pp. 261-63) discounts Luke's account as a legend deriving from Jewish Hellenistic circles that were concerned to hold together the procreation of the Spirit, the authentic sonship of the Messiah and the virginal conception. "

    Then there are these additional conclusions:

    Bruce Chilton

    "In [Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography] (2000), Chilton develops the idea of Jesus as a mamzer; someone whose irregular birth circu-mstances result in their exclusion from full participation in the life of the community. He argues for the natural pa-ternity of Joseph and finds no need for a miraculous conception. In his subsequent reconstruction of Jesus' life, Chilton suggests that this sustained personal experience of exclusion played a major role in Jesus' self-ident-ity, his concept of God and his spiritual quest.

    John Dominic Crossan

    "In [Historical Jesus] (p. 371) Crossan treats this cluster, like 007 Of Davids Lineage, as an example of the interplay of prophecy and history in the development of the Jesus traditions.

    "In [Birth of Christianity] (pp. 26-29) Crossan uses Luke's account of Jesus' conception and birth to explore ethical issues concerning the public interpretation of the past. He notes the tendency of Christian scholars to disregard "pagan" birth legends while investing great effort in the defence of biblical birth narratives. He concludes:

    I do not accept the divine conception of either Jesus or Augustus as factual history, but I believe that God is incarnate in the Jewish peasant poverty of Jesus and not in the Roman imperial power of Augustus. "

    "The following ancient parallels to Jesus' miraculous conception should be noted:

    Birth of Moses (Exod 2:1-10)
    Birth of Plato (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 3.45) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 507]
    Birth of Alexander the Great (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, 2.1-3.5) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 502f]
    Birth of Apollonius (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, I.4) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 505]"

    And some final words from Thomas Jefferson, not a contemporary NT scholar, but indeed a very learned man:

    "And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva
    in the brain of Jupiter.

    - Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      And your point is?

      December 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • cervitup22

      That little scapegrace Tommy Jefferson better watch out!

      December 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • DJCowboy

      I am a person of science, I am pretty much an atheist but I always love coming on here and seeing the lengths people will go to to denounce someone else's beliefs and belittle them. To me, it's quite sad they have that amount of time on their hands

      December 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • GAW

      Another long winded recycled post by Reality.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Godmatrix

      Wow. Seriously... Of course this all happened while a Super Nova blew up killing perhaps millions of wanna fanatics praying to the one true god... Michael Jackson.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • logicareason

      Reality does not want you to know that the rest of this letter clearly states:
      "But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.

      So much for your quotation of Calvin's `mon dieu! jusqu'a quand' in which, when addressed to the God of Jesus, and our God, I join you cordially, and await his time and will with more readiness than reluctance. May we meet there again, in Congress, with our antient Colleagues, and recieve with them the seal of approbation `Well done, good and faithful servants.' "

      December 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Reality

      The point is that said grandparents are fussing over events that have little or no historic authenticity.

      December 3, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Imogene

      You couldn't have just said that in the first place? You need to change your name to Extraneous Waste.

      December 3, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • Reality

      Obviously, reading for some is a challenge!!!

      December 3, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • .........

      The best response to reality garbage posts is to hit report abuse on them

      December 3, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  3. Jona

    "Arrogant" and "self-important" are a kind assessment-those ads are an expression of some grossly malign values. I hope the backlash influences those who have been perpetuating a separatist view of themselves and humanity. Spread love, people – you'll be much happier.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      zionist israelis days are numbered just like south african apartheid.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  4. hawaiiduude


    December 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  5. jen

    people may not like it,but it happens to be true..i grew up in a "mixed family" my mother an israeli jew married my father who is christian,we always celebrated holidays on both sides...i loved it!!! but now as an adult i wish my mother would have married within her faith..bcz i dont feel i know enough of either religion.....

    December 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      there is no marriage allowed in israel between a jew and non jew. It's against israeli law.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Norman

      If your mother had married within her faith then = no you. As an adult, educate yourself if you so desire. You could even learn Hebrew. Is something stopping you?

      December 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Devon

      hawaiiduude, I really hope you're joking because you'd be a complete and total moron if you seriously think that's true.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  6. Norman

    Israel for a visit or Israel to stay? I and my PhD will remain here where there are jobs and a future.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Imogene

      Be careful crossing the street.

      December 3, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  7. DBOneTime

    I laugh with my Jewish friends cause Chanukah is a minor holiday in Israel. It is a assimilation thing. Couldn't let us have this one. Pretty funny.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      One nation under God. Christian God as all the signers of Declaration were not jews.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Loreeeeeeeeeeeeeee

      You do realize, Hawaii, that the pledge did not originally contain the words "under god"?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  8. Walter Shmitt

    Rapture. It's not just for breakfast anymore.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Mark from ATX

    That doesn't sound like the liberal jew media I keep hearing about

    December 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      because wolf Blitzer wont leave.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Imogene

      Occupy Whiskers!

      December 3, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  10. Proud Pali

    Wow, this is amazing. The Israelis are begging American Jews to "return" to Israel, while the original inhabitants, the Palestinians, are banned from returning and are forced to lived in ramshackle housing throughout the Arab world. Israel is so wrong on so many levels, it's disgusting.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • mirted

      All the hundreds of millions of dollars given to the PLO, Hamas, etc. and Palestinians are "forced" to live in hovels? Sounds like their "representatives" were not into spreading the wealth to common and poor folk. Looks to me like the folks who parceled out the middle east, korea, etc. post WW-II did a lousy job looking from the past into the future.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  11. Juan

    as if Israel needed another reason for people to hate them

    December 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      and there is no reason to like them

      December 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  12. Kerry

    It is fine if Israelis want to protect some of their traditions, but to criticize the United States that somehow by living here children will lose their "Jewishness" just plays into myths that the right-wing establishment in Israel seeks to differentiate so-called "real" Jews from Diaspora Jews. It is bad enough that the rifts among branches of Judaism and attacks on secular Jews are part of everyday life in Israel, which is one reason Israel cannot make peace with its Arab neighbors without American and other external pressure. Fanatics breeds hatred and we see it clearly. These artificial differentiations do more to hurt the reputation of all Jews, irrespective of our places of origin. If we don't evolve with the times, more people will turn away from Israel as our homeland. Who wants to live in another Middle-East Authoritarian theocratic state??? I most certainly will not, whether it is a Palestine under an Islamic regime or an Israel under a right-wing religious dictatorship.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • melvin

      To my limited knowledge: GOD with the help of MOSES give the TRIBES of ISRAEL the land of CANNAN.The land of milk and honey with 3 sesaon of harvest.......I donot recall paleatine ..they have been there long before the EXODUX from Egyt...

      December 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • MePat

      Cannan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • RevHellhorn

      Sometimes It's hard to believe that there are still people falling for the world's oldest confidence scheme, however, when P.T. Barnum said there was a sucker born every minute the birth and survival rates were much lower than now.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  13. Pamela Anderson


    December 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  14. EVN

    If Israelis living in America miss home (presumably Israel) then they should leave. If enough of them did it, maybe American foreign politics as it pertains to the middle east wouldn't be largely dictated by an influencial Jewish lobby, and our foreign poicy in that region, or as it relates to Israel can finally become something sensible and not the unflinching knee-jerk support of whatever Israel wants.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • melvin

      Yes take this ad out and the ONe Christin for JEWS..Begging is not what GOD ask of the Jews poeple......I am GOD and there is No Other.....return Israel NOW...while there is time , before jesus Second Comming

      December 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  15. melvin

    Yes it ia time for israel to come home.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      time for israel to go back home to russia

      December 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  16. WillH85

    I think in a lot of ways Israel is the biggest enemy to the Jewish people. So many people associate Israel with all Jews and I think this article makes a good point that not all Jews support every thing that Israel does. Not only that, but I think people need to realize that they can oppose Israel and the brutish things they do with out being opposed to the Jewish people.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Dannytelevision

      Israel does not want peace, Jews do.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • mirted

      As a non-Jew, non-Israeli, I wonder if those Jews who do support peace with Islam shouldn't move back closer to the heart of the matter where they can be more involved in the "peace" process. Or, are there a majority of US Jews who live here for the relative security and income potential...people who want and think they can have it both ways. I also wonder if Jews who want peace think that peace with "Palestine" (if even possible, given the one sided thinking) would bring them peace with Islam?

      December 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  17. longtooth

    A big part of the animosity faced by Jews is their own doing. You cannot ask someone to love you when you exclude them. In Boston, a Jew can be buried anywhere he wants, but I cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery. In some Jewish families, if a daughter marries a non-Jew, her father has a funeral for her. I have nothing against the jewish people. Don't get me wrong. I'm just saying they have to be more inclusive if they want to be included.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Wow, way to paint an entire religion with a single brush. Very open-minded of you.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Mycology

      Ok... it is true that in the most extreme jewish households a father will do that for his daughter.

      Now tell me, what would happen in the extreme muslim households, by a father, if his daughter married a non-muslim?

      Thats right, he'll KILL HER.

      See the comparison? One leaves you be, and one can't leave without killing you first.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Devon

      You realize those aren't public cemeteries, right? The town right next to mine banned Jews from living there up to about 60 years ago, THAT is an issue. An entire town. You're talking about a private cemetery who can bury whoever they so choose. You can't complain about that, or else the entire United States would be able to get into Harvard or Yale or whatever.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  18. Mike in SA

    Huh, weird...Jesus was a Jew, a scholar, and a Rabbi...go figure.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • melvin

      Yes he was BUT his own exepted HIM NOT, so jesus turn to the Nobeliever, gentle and any one that believe in HIM.HE told his apostle Go out and preach to ALL Nation ...same as GOD told Abraham Trought YOU ALLL NATION ARE BLESSED.....Arab, jew, gentle, all human kind... merry christmas...

      December 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Truth is always harsh

      Jesus never turned to the gentiles. As a normal racist Jew, he considered non-Jews to be "dogs".
      It was one of Paul's ideas to pretend that non-Jews could convert to following Jesus, thereby becoming "Jews" by default even though these "Christians" were not required to follow any Jewish law and were not called "Jews" anymore.
      Jesus never said anything about preaching to all nations and never said anything about accepting non-Jews into his personal cult. That was done by others long after he was dead.
      If he had truly been in contact with his followers after his death, things would have been very different for everybody.
      But he died the death of an apostate because that's what he was. He violated god's law according to the Jewish priests who were on the scene and summarily executed after the Jews reported him to the Roman authorities.
      He did not rise from the dead, for if he had, there would have been proof that would not only be self-evident, but that would be testable by every human being on this planet.
      No such proof exists.
      Instead, Christians insist that proof should never be needed or pursued in any way.
      Obvious con-game anyone?

      December 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Curious

      Yes, Paul had a good thing going there. Worked out real well for him too.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • charles

      @Truth is harsh.. you spout utter nonsense, keep your ignorance to yourself.

      December 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Truth is always harsh

      Why don't you point out any "nonsense" so you don't look like a desperate man making a wild and baseless accusation?
      Come on. Don't be scared.
      The truth is always harsh but at least it's truth. If you can show me I am wrong, I will modify my position.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  19. Zenichi-Maro

    Meh. Who cares. I myself will be celebrating the pending arrival of His Noodly Master, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And I am personally inflamed about the War on FSM.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Sean Russell


      December 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  20. mark

    lol, what is wrong with these people? it does sound like a very funny commercial, regardless of what religion you are.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Truth is always harsh

      They are racist and religious bigots. They are also cultural bigots promoting nationalism wrapped in bigotry and racism.
      That's why they pulled the ads. Somebody noticed that they were being bald-faced about it.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.