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)
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  3. PleaseLeave

    Yes, by all means......move to Israel....all of you.

    December 5, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Muneef

      No I rather think Israel should move and be established in the American lands leaving the older lands in the Middle East to it's real land owners the Palestinians...America has vast land which can accommodate a new Israeli land that is less dangerous and hostile than the elder one in the middle east....!

      December 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Peikovianii

      I think that Ibn Saud was a thief and murderer who got lucky backing the Brits in WW1. For this reason his attacks on other Arabs won him a throne instead of a firing squad. The discovery of oil changed the balance of power in that region. In the north, the division of Greater Syria into several new royal states to compensate Arabia's exiled Hashemites still didn't solve problem of Muslim supremacists attacking and killing non-Muslims. Lebanon was created to defend Maronite Christians, Israel to defend Palestinian Jews. Now take three sux on a Glock and call it a night.

      December 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  4. Victor Schramm

    HITLER COULDN'T HAVE A TRULY ARYAN WEDDING TO EVA BECAUSE HIS MOTHER WAS PART JEWISH. HE KNEW IT BEFORE THE COLLAPSE OF GERMANY. THE BORGIA'S, WHO CAUSED LOTS OF PROVINCIAL CONFLICTS, DEATH AND CONSPIRED TO KEEP THE PAPACY WERE SPANISH JEWS. I didn't make it up. watch the history channel. Discovery channel. It's in books. NOSTRADAMUS, one of the greatest 'Non- judeo-christian-whatever prophets' of all time, whom HITLER and the GESTAPO (Himmler) used as proof that Hitler was to be a Eurpean power was also Jewish. A French Jewish physician and astrologer. KING HEROD WAS A JEW. So were the Pharisees and person's who wanted Jesus dead. And yes, one of the greatest, most influencial men that some argue ever existed JESUS of Joseph was a Jew. Seems a bit insignificant a reason for all the bloodshed for thousands and thousands of years, but hey, I didn't write it. Those are written 'facts'. Seems like self-loathing to me. 'HUMAN BEING' self-hatred for one another as well as hypocrisy. But I'm no Dr. Phil. Think of all the Germans, Allies, Gulf War Vets, Jewish people that have died for THOUSANDS of years because of crazy actions that hurt a person's ego. ??? Crazy. Damage Control time.

    December 5, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  5. MashaSobaka

    One day religion will be little more than an unpleasant memory and our descendants will look back on us and cringe at the fact that we fashioned mythologies for the sole purpose of justifying our hatred for each other. Unfortunately that day seems to be a long way off.

    December 4, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • rh

      Here here.

      Though the original purpose was local, controlling the masses by making believe that there was some kind of reward after death, and listening to the king was mandatory because God or Allah said so. Once countries started to interact with each other, it became a reason to fight, because otherwise people could trade and get along, and that would diminish the power of the kings.

      December 5, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Louis

      I agree.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  6. kayjulia

    Much ado about nothing. Why should there be an apology ? It is true American Jews aren't as religious as their parents and grandparents were and they are celebrating christian holidays more and more. So some Jews inn Israel are saying to expat Israelites come back and be more Jewish. Okay by me, do what you want to do. It's no big deal one way or the other stay go what ever. And why apologize to christians? I don't get it. What is the problem ? I am neither and I don't feel hurt or insulted hay this is a family thing I'm not sticking my nose into this fight. Such thin skin sheesh get over yourselves....

    December 4, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  7. Socrates

    Israel, stop stealing Palestinian territory. You do it every day building illegal settlement for your people. You are occupying another country with the complicity of the US and Europe. Thieves.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  8. Mishka

    Those ads are just TOO shameless. I couldn't believe it! What: do they hope to shame Jewish people into going to a state that NO Orthodox Jew supports? Puh-lease. Good that they pulled the ads but the damage has already been done.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  9. I laughed at this

    I am ashamed of Israel's treatment and occupation of the Palestinian people.
    Shame on you Israel.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  10. Bruce All Mighty

    Converts! converts! converts! Try Africa east north west and South Afrikaa. and Asian and South American Nations. HURRY BEFORE THE MUSLIM EXTREMIST BEAT YOU TO IT.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  11. One7777777

    The 12 tribes had an exodus to America; most are no longer in their old lands. They are here by the gift of God. Most of them are us. Please wake up to your heritage.


    December 4, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Reality

      What 1.5 million of the former 12 tribes have concluded:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      December 4, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • max

      why is that surprising considering this is also the basis for christianity? once portions of these religious texts are proven untrue the entire set of fables across 3 major religions fall apart.

      one such story would be the whole set of nonsense concerning elijah, mentioned in the quran, new testament and torah.

      Elijah appears with Moses during the Transfiguration of Jesus.

      If moses doesnt exist, this didnt happen. If this didnt happen, the new testament is proven to be a lie.

      The Qur'an describes Elijah as a great and righteous prophet of God

      The Torah has Elijah ascending to heaven without death.

      December 4, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Reality

      Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (transfigurations, resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Many contemporary NT scholars have concluded that the Transfiguration was an invention of Mark. e.g. See Professor Gerd Ludemann's book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 58- 61.

      December 4, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Mike from CT

      Reality please confirm that I am reading this correctly

      You believe that a single attestation is automatically false. So from the below

      Numbers in square brackets indicate number of items in that category. The + separation sharply distinguishes items with more than one independent attestation to its left from those with only a single attestation to its right. There are 522 items in all. Of those, 180 have more than one independent attestation: 33 have multiple, 42 have triple, 105 have double attestation. There are 342 with only a single attestation. In summary: only about one third have more than a single attestation [522:180+342].

      but then the first four aren't even in the cannon

      132-. 132 A Sowing Miracle: (1) Eger. Gos. 4 [67-82];
      133-. 133 Vision of Jesus: (1) P. Oxy. 1224, 2 r ii, lines 1-5.
      134-. 134 Spirit as Mother: (1) Gos. Heb. 3;
      135-. 135 Joy in Love: (1) Gos. Heb. 5;
      136-. 136 Grieving Another: (1) Gos. Heb. 6;

      The Gospel of Hebrews really? So as you know to start the math has to be redone because all you are really saying is that the non-creditable sources are not creditable which every agrees.

      But to continue this report is only a single attestation there for making it by itself invalid to its own test. I will get back to you on details.

      December 5, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Reality


      You will have to read the studies of contemporary historians and NT scholars to see how they decide the authenticity of historical events and passagess. Rigorous conclusions rely on the number of independent attestations, the time of the publications, the content as it relates to the subject and time period, and any related archeological evidence. Professors JD Crossan and G. Ludemann's studies are top notch in this regard.

      Some of Professor Crossan's studies and publications

      •Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (Harper San Francisco 2001)
      •The Birth of Christianity (Harper San Francisco 1999)
      •The Jesus Controversy : Perspectives in Conflict (Trinity Pr Intl 1999)
      •Who Is Jesus? (Westminster John Knox 1999)
      •The Essential Jesus (Book Sales 1998)
      •Who Killed Jesus? (Harper San Francisco 1996)
      •Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Harper San Francisco 1995)
      •In Parables : The Challenge of the Historical Jesus (Polebridge Press 1994)
      •The Historical Jesus (Harper San Francisco 1993)
      •An Inventory of the Jesus Tradition by Chronological Stratification (online)
      •An Inventory of the Jesus Tradition by Independent Attestation (online)
      •Common Sayings Tradition in Gospel of Thomas and Q Gospel (online)
      •Seminar: HJ Materials & Methodology (online)
      •A Closer Look at the Mustard Seed (online)
      •Was Jesus Buried? (online)
      •Alchemy and Accuracy (online)
      •A Review of John Dominic Crossan's The Birth of Christianity (Harvard Theological Review 2001, reproduced online)
      •Danny Yee's Book Reviews: The Historical Jesus (online)
      •Simple Choices? A Response to John Dominic Crossan

      Some of Professor G. Ludemann's studies and publications:

      •Jesus After 2000 Years : What He Really Said and Did (Prometheus Books 2001)
      •The Great Deception : And What Jesus Really Said and Did (Prometheus Books 1999)
      •Virgin Birth : The Real Story of Mary and Her Son Jesus (Trinity Pr Intl 1998)
      •What Really Happened to Jesus : A Historical Approach to the Resurrection (Westminster John Knox Pr 1996)
      •Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity (Westminster John Knox Pr 1996)
      •Resurrection of Jesus : History, Experience, Theology (Fortress Pr 1995)
      •Gerd Lüdemann on the Secular Web (online)
      •Gerd Lüdemann's Homepage (online)

      December 6, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Mike from CT

      I will reiterate

      The Gospel of Hebrews really? So as you may well know, the math has to be redone because all you are really saying is that the non-creditable sources are not creditable which every agrees.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Muneef


      You said; The 12 tribes had an exodus to America; most are no longer in their old lands.
      I say; never knew that immigration of the 12 tribes took place during exodus with Moaes headed to America...!!!?
      Another thing if so you say that they are no longer in their old lands then what are they doing in Palestine hassling the Arabs of the land...

      December 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  12. Victor Schramm

    I feel great respect and compassion for the Jewish struggle and their awesome history.


    Self-loathing? Hey, I'm no Dr. Phil. Just a bit strange.

    Seems like these videos were a bit like punching one's self in the face. ???

    What would God say about it all?

    December 4, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • I laughed at this

      Hitlers Mother was not Jewish.
      -A Historian

      December 4, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Genghis Khan

      there were rumors that Hitler's father was born out of wedlock to Hitler's grandma, while she worked as a maid for a wealthy jewish family. the idea being that someone from the jewish family had an affair with her, and so the offspring, i.e. hitler's father must as a result have been jewish. however, historians generally no longer subscribe to this view as there is no definitive proof that the child was a result of an affair with a jewish person. its just guesswork.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  13. Muneef


    December 4, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Muneef

      Correction for English readers;


      December 4, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • Reality

      More reading for those who understand English:

      o Islam gives women almost no rights and treats them like fodder for the male species as so bluntly noted by Aya-an Hi-rsi Ali in her autobiography, In-fidel.

      "Thus begins the extraordinary story of a woman born into a family of desert nomads, circu-mcised as a child, educated by radical imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, taught to believe that if she uncovered her hair, terrible tragedies would ensue. It's a story that, with a few different twists, really could have led to a wretched life and a lonely death, as her grandmother warned. But instead, Hi-rsi Ali escaped – and transformed herself into an internationally renowned spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women."

      ref: Washington Post book review.

      some excerpts:

      "Some of the Saudi women in our neighborhood were regularly be-aten by their husbands. You could hear them at night. Their scre-ams resounded across the courtyards. "No! Please! By Allah!"

      "The Pakistanis were Muslims but they too had cas-tes. The Untou-chable girls, both Indian and Pakistani were darker skin. The others would not play with them because they were unt-ouchable. We thought that was funny because of course they were tou-chable: we to-uched them see? but also hor-rifying to think of yourself as un-touchable, des-picable to the human race."

      "Between October 2004 and May 2005, eleven Muslim girls were ki-lled by their families in just two regions (there are 20 regions in Holland). After that, people stopped telling me I was exa-ggerating."

      "The kind on thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia and among the Brotherhood of Kenya and Som-alia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves the feu-dal mind-set based on tr-ibal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hypro-cricy, and double standards. It relies on the technologial advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam".

      December 6, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  14. Eleanor

    Whoever put up those ads did something in bad taste but for "mm", and obvious Muslim talking to "all you Christians", you do not know what you are talking about. Israel has been seeking Jewish Americans from day one and it is also true that Jewish Americans are totally assimilating into the American culture to the point where intermarriage is rampant. I should know. I'm one of the intermarried. Yes, it is the Christmas holidays here in America and the Menorahs are up for show except for the ultra orthodox. It is a Jewish problem here in America that the growth rate is down. So poor taste yes, but more a reflection on what religious Jews want for other Jews and has nothing to do with the Christians. So paleeeeese.....give me a break.

    December 4, 2011 at 6:03 am |
  15. HotAirAce

    I fail to see what is wrong with one cult trying to protect its market share by reminding its members that they may be losing touch with their traditions by becoming overly familiar with or adopting another cult's traditions.

    December 4, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • AGuest9

      Marking their territory, as it were.

      December 4, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  16. mm

    The article says "The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has issued a statement apologizing to American Jews, and Sivan communicated a similar message." HOW ABOUT AN APOLOGY TO CHRISTIANS AROUND THE WORLD who celebrate Christmas!

    December 4, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • max

      need an apology? feelings hurt? poor baby.

      i hope this is the most offensive set of ads that you see or hear about.

      this whole thing is a big "so what".

      December 4, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  17. mm

    This should serer as a wake up call to all you Christians who are hell bent on supporting Israel! They don't like you but will tolerate anyone who even remotely says they will support an Israeli state. Open your eyes and wake up you Christian folks.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:46 am |
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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.