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. George Washington Carver

    Would it come amiss my brethrens if I suggested we lessen the burden on our finned little brethrens of the seas by inaugurating a new tradition–the wholesome and festive "gefilte peanut"?

    December 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Some people have deadly peanut allergies, while others have big nappy beard allergies.

      December 3, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  2. Lebanese


    December 2, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Thanks for re-posting your videos.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Lebanese

      They are weirdo's see what we have to put up with in the middle east all thanks to the U.K

      December 2, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I agree, those two guys are wierdos. My neighbor is a wierdo too, and my nephew and my brother-in-law too. What is your point?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Lebanese

      They need to back to Russia Germany and Poland it's not there country i dunno why they bothering bringing all the Jews for we Arabs are sending them back where came from.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Yes, I am sure they "need to back to Russia Germany and Poland" and you Arabs are "sending them back where came from." Good luck with that.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Imogene

      I see Klinger's on the loose.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  3. Lebanese


    December 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I think they are mocking Rastafari, not Christians. Hey, isnt' that a Christmas tree in the background?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  4. ann

    Funny, CNN censors the "N" word, but lets all these racist anti-Jewish comments stand.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Do you mean nig ger?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Imogene

      What? Did someone say **** again? Where?

      December 3, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  5. Will J Evans-Halevi

    Is it not time that Israelites are no longer afraid to be religious without need for apology? Are we not waiting on Mosiach to balance out our instability? If we of The Tribes combined our Sparks together so they reflect THE Spark! Then being chosen becomes a responibility, not a symbol of fictional superiority or a reason to apologize!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      You better apologize to me RIGHT NOW mister. That was just uncalled for.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  6. Paul

    Let’s be a little honest. What parent (or nation in this case) doesn’t cringe at the prospect of their children veering from their faith or heritage and would resort to a degree of guilt to make their point? The biggest mistake made by the creator of these ads is their failure to be politically correct; particularly, with an American audience who has given up their freedom of speech to those on the radical fringes such as many of the respondents found in this forum.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Bernie

      Who hasn't heard of the Jewish parents who love to lay guilt trips on their kids? Oy, my back! See what you've done? Oy!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  7. In Soviet Israel, Grandmother thinks YOU'RE the killjoy!!!


    December 2, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Bernie

      Oy, my back! You kids are terrible! What did I do that G-D wants to punish me this way? Oy!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Scott

      @Bernie: “Oy, my back! You kids are terrible! What did I do that G-D wants to punish me this way? Oy!”

      From unfortunately very personal experience I can say that Christian mothers are not entirely innocent of this kind of child abuse. But I’m getting better it. These days I only visit her grave once a year to pee on it (mother’s day of course).

      December 2, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Imogene

      Well that just fits right in, Scott. (sound of crickets)

      December 3, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  8. thespectatorssport.wordpress.com/

    "The ads were inspired by focus groups sponsored by the Jewish state that revealed that many Israelis in America miss home." If they miss 'home,' than they certainly have the right to return to Israel; no one is stopping them! Moving to America does not mean that a person-Jewish or not- has to lose their traditions and culture. If you move to America, then there must be something about this country that is making you chose it over your own. THese ads are distasteful and fatalistic, especially in light of the fact that immigration to Israel is already a touchy topic.

    December 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Elgon

      well said

      December 2, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      well said, well spoken.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  9. Ron j.

    revelation 2:9 and revelation 3:9 says and i quote, "they claim to be of our brother Judah, but of the synagogue of satan".... you are the moron khazar!!!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Seahawks 31 : Eagles 14

      December 2, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Elgon

      Thanks UD, I missed the game and did not know there was even a thursday game until today.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      No prob. I had the Eagles.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Imogene

      That sounds very painful.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:17 am |
  10. racerist

    Based on your level of intellect, that wasn't surprising at all.

    December 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Based on your level of intellect, I am not surprised you are unable to master the "reply" button.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Elgon


      December 2, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  11. Binyamin

    It makes me sick to see how many antisemitic comments get left on any story about Israel or Jews. I can understand these ads because as a Jew because I would never entertain the thought of raising my children in a country full of fat lazy slobs with a serious lack of values and no sense of community.

    December 2, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Yeah, you are so much better then those fat lazy slobs. You don't paint with a wide brush or anything.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Elgon

      lol again. UD, you just crack me up!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  12. Ron j.

    can some one say "khazars"

    December 2, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • khazars

      Why me? You moron!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Imogene


      December 3, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  13. Lebanese


    December 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Binyamin

      They caught a monkey!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Paul

      Got any vidoes out of Syria? I think the number of murders is now at 4,000.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  14. Lebanese


    December 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Binyamin

      Those palestinian monkeys deserve to be treated like that

      December 2, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Muneef

      You got any thing against monkeys? Are you any one of those who deal with animal lab testing? Any way I could have used a harder hurting words to call your people and not from my own making but rather as mentioned in the Holy Book of some of you who rejected the teachings of Jesus pbuh...but rather I wouldn't and would leave it for you to figure it out...

      December 3, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  15. Lebanese


    December 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  16. Jacob Cremer

    Judging by the comments on this story, I don't think most people get what racism is. A small group of people in Israel created this ad and commentators are attributing the statements and sentiments to all of Israel and all Jews everywhere. The ad is used as an example that is a confirmation to beliefs that were inspired by people with similar beliefs and people from that same country. Notice how the story mentions Jews who find this message offensive. Jews don't all think a like. That's true for any self-identified group or any classification of people.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I don't get what racism is.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • racerist

      Based on your level of intellect, that wasn't surprising at all!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Elgon

      It's a racist ad because the "chosen ones" are sad that their American children are turning away from their racist religion.
      What's not to understand? It's as clear as day you lame excuse for an apologist!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  17. Ron j.

    everybody on this blog should read revelatio 2:9, and revelation 3:9.... wow!!!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Everyone on this blog should read the pimples on my a ss

      December 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Sodermist

      It seems that your fat and ugly face aint enough to accomodate all those hives.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Ooh....keep talkin' dirty to me baby.....

      December 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Elgon

      Please post a pic of the pimples. Or you could just tell us what they say... (kidding! I don't want to see that nastay bu.tt) lol

      December 2, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Elgon, I kid, I kid. You do NOT want to see my as s I can assure you!! Good call.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • baby

      Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty!Dirty! Want some more honey?

      December 3, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  18. Ungodly Discipline

    Ask yourself this simple question:

    Why, when you read the Bible, are you not left in awe? Why doesn't a book written by an omniscient being leave you with a sense of wonder and amazement? If you are reading a book written by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe, wouldn't you expect to be stunned by the brilliance, the clarity and the wisdom of the author? Would you not expect each new page to intoxicate you with its incredible prose and its spectacular insight? Wouldn't you expect the author to tell us things that scientists have not been able to discover yet?

    Yet, when we open the Bible and actually read it, we find it is nothing like that at all. Instead of leaving us in awe, it leaves us dumbfounded by all of the nonsense and backwardness that it contains. If you read what the Bible actually says, you find that the Bible is ridiculous. If we are honest with ourselves, it is obvious that an "all-knowing" God had absolutely nothing to do with this book.

    The reason why the Bible contains so much nonsense is because God is imaginary. The Bible is a book written thousands of years ago by primitive men. A book that advocates senseless murder, slavery and the oppression of women has no place in our society today.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Disciple of Godliness

      At first, I was thinking that your comment was honest and intelligent, untill I read the last paragraph. It doesn't agree my first thought.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      D of G
      What doesn't agree your first thought?

      December 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Disciple of Godliness

      @ U.D

      Let me explain it to you, please bear with me.

      Your statement (and I quote), "it is obvious that an "all-knowing" God had absolutely nothing to do with this book." Answers and suppots your questions and thoughts (above it) respectively.

      BUT...for me, you're preceeding statement that says: "The reason why the Bible contains so much nonsense is because God is imaginary." doesn't make any sense.

      How could Someone's existence or non-existence have significant effect on something that He has "absoulutely nothing to do with"?

      Get what I mean?

      December 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Elgon

      I don't get it.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      D of G
      No, I don't get what you mean. Also, preceeding means to "come before" not after. Wowzers.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Disciple of Godliness

      Stand here corrected..my bad, thank you for that (sans the intended pun).
      I have an explaination for such error but I think there's no use explaining, you might NOT get it either.

      But anywayz, I was thinking that you have a voice echo in the moniker of eldon. But since he/she/it was able to reply (preceeding LOL!) prior to you, it seems more to me that he/she/it is either your groupie or just a your alter-ego.

      I'd really love to explain further regarding your original post but I find it better talk to a parrot. Sometimes they show a little intellect through their gestures.

      December 3, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Disciple of Godliness

      "Elgon, rather

      December 3, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Imogene

      said the parrot

      December 3, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  19. hawaiiduude


    December 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Jacob Cremer

      Antichrist = scapegoating.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • ann

      Why is CNN letting these racist comments stand? Hawaiiduude, you are ill.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • ann

      Why is CNN letting these racist comments stand? Hawaiiduude, you need psychological help.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  20. Avrum Rosensweig

    Emotionally disconnection means that one has a belief in themselves that isn't entirely accurate. This extends to others, because it's virtually impossible to to recognize the truth of someone else's character and behaviour if one has an inability to see it in themselves. For someone to list Israelis' 'attrocities' most of them dating back decades, and fail to do the same for their own homeland (Lebanon in this case) is hilarious. Im not sure that there is enough room on these pages to review the terrorism sponsored by Lebanon and other Arab countries. But alas, people who write on this thread, and many of whom live in those countries, don't see any such activites as terrorism. We know that now, since Abbas gave $5,000 to every terrorist released by Israel for Gilad, who came to the West Bank. In short, it's hard to have an enemy who doesn't see, and therefore casts blame on everyone but himself.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Jacob Cremer

      I would like to add that the United States has a negative history as well. The land was claimed illegally at it's inception. God may not be a legitimate claim to land ownership, but neither is any human declaration.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:57 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.