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. WakeUpPlze

    Wow...this just proves why Israel will continue to be a target. The government of Israel has the audacity and ignorance (the better word) to think they are better than other people, and their religion is the best. I respect the religious holiday of Jewish people, and they should respect Christmas. Try and remember this, Christ DID exist. You don't have to believe (if you are Jewish) that he was the Messiah...but, you can NOT deny his existence in the world. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Nothing more. And they want to call anyone who speaks out about the Jewish faith Anti-Semites...pfft. What a double standard. Classic do as I say, not as I do. I think Mel Gibson was 100% correct...

    December 2, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • JFritz

      I agree that the campaign is pretty irritating, but you think only Jews think that their religion is the best? Seems to be the hallmark of most Abraham-derived religions. How about, "THE ONLY WAY to heaven is through a personal relationship with JC?" What about the religious recruiting suicide bombers in the Middle East? I don't recall the Buddhists or Hindus saying stuff like this, but it's possible they do. Fanaticism is fanaticism, period. The Israelis have no market on it.

      December 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Loreeeeeeeeeeeeeee

      Why is it celebrated in Dec, when he was born in the summer?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  2. jas

    Benjamin : All jews are hereby ordered to move into israel, it is the only way to justify our occupation of Palestine.

    Jews : what about christmas?

    December 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Amanda

      I have to say that you is the best one:)

      December 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  3. rick

    Wow, for the first time I think in my life I am reading posts from both sides of an argument where one side seems as full of retards as the other.

    December 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Wil in LA

    Attention all Jews. Please all move to Israel now. It's the only way to keep the culture alive.

    December 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Mycology

      "pathetic" jews keep embarassing the clearly even more pathetic muslims in every war the muslims start.

      LOL muslims... wheres allah when ya need him?

      December 2, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Muneef

      Muslims are no longer Muslims as they should and the date they will become true Muslims they will find Allah beside them...!

      December 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Hey Muneef, why don't you learn to speak English and then come back and socialize with the infidels. Idiot.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Muneef

      What you need is more discipline and you may need to clean your Azz well which seems to be on your face...idiot

      December 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Muneef

      Are you fine with Tic for Tac...?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  5. Hale

    When it comes to loyalty, which comes first for them, Israel or America?
    Why wouldn't these people assimilate like people from other ethnic groups?

    December 2, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I think having to be Jewish would be a bit like having to go to church. Boring boring boring. With bad food and no Santa. Who doesn't like Santa?

      December 2, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • midgick

      If you were born and raised in America, then America comes first

      December 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • JFritz

      Ungodly, I can smile about what you say but "Bad food?" Oh, man, you've never had a pastrami on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing (probably not Israeli, but I'll bet they have it there)? Falafel? Honey cake?" I'm not Jewish, but I know good eats when I taste them.

      December 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I am down with the pastrami !

      December 2, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • San

      Jews have awesome food. So many are from Eastern European background. Jewish food ROCKS

      December 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  6. JT

    Religious holidays, they are all made up. I suppose there are adults out there that still believe in Santa.

    December 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Virginia

      I do I do!!

      December 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Imogene

      I want a dreidel for Christmas!!!

      December 3, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  7. Junior

    The Israelis are desperate. Pimping ain't easy these days. Now the world gets to see what they really think about non-Israelis. Venture into their holy book and you'll be even more shocked about the true beliefs regarding non Israelis. They are finding it difficult punking the US and other countries into attacking another one of their enemies. If they feel so threatened by Iran, then do what you gotta do. Americans ain't going for the 'banana in the tail pipe" shss again. They're are so desperate that they're trying to re-connect with African Americans after using and abusing blacks for decades to gain status. A house built on sand will never stand the test of time and so the Israeli story goes. The fake Jews (pale Arabs) have a long history of playing Blacks against whites to the detriment of both. They figure if they can split the black vote, President Obama will lose and it would be a slam dunk that a Republican president would be a very willing little biotch to send US soldiers back to war over some more bullshss! Let's watch with much chagrin wow this desperation plays out in the near and long term...

    December 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      Yes, I agree!

      December 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Notoj

      Religion divides people and once that division happens, it is easy to victimize others. Israel is the 4th largest arms producer on the planet. A happy peaceful planet is against their business interests.

      December 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • joe

      if what you say is true than you are no different than them

      December 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • midgick

      Yo Junior,
      Maybe you aren't old enough to remember, but the Jews stood side by side with African Americans before and during the civil rights Movement. We did this for no other reason but you were human beings being terribly oppresed and needed support, which your white christian pals sat by and burned crosses, hung your people and literally beat and murdered your people.
      So, My Brother, get your facts straight not the crap from Farrakan.

      December 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Muneef

      You mean minorities stood by each other in a common interest..since oppression was always then against Jews and Blacks...!

      December 2, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  8. John Gabriel

    I hate Christmas about as much as Hanukkah. Who cares if they criticize xmas? All religion is garbage.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      You are an infidel!

      December 2, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Muneef

      Sad really for some one holding such beautiful spiritual names to be infidel... You ought to change your name I guess...!

      December 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Imogene

      Yes, "hawaiidude" is a beautiful spiritual name! And your hair is like silk and honey...!

      December 3, 2011 at 3:33 am |
    • Muneef

      I meant the names of ( John Gabriel ).... John whom we call Yahia the son of Zakaria PBUH's and Gabriel the Angel whom we call the Holy Spirit....

      December 3, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  9. erin

    couldn't crack news network at least give a link to the video? You all never do this. Get with the times before the other publications surpass you. Thanks to the posters who included links. haven't look at them yet but cnn couldn't even bother.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  10. Hey!!

    Is that lady really jewish! she look half mex.ican and half korean!!!! what is the meaning of this! I want answers!!

    December 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      they look like white russians

      December 2, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Sam Houston

      Where do you think the Mexicans and Koreans came from? Uh huh.

      December 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Muneef

      Actually people from the ex Svt union have many complexions due to bordering many countries close to far east...

      December 2, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  11. Rick

    I invite all Israelites to come to America where you're less likely to be accused of being a Zionist. We also got more grass.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Curious

      Aren't they called Israelis?

      December 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  12. logicareason

    "I can never join Calvin in addressing his god.
    He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be"

    Thomas Jefferson
    in a letter to John Adams
    April 11, 1823

    December 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  13. Bob.

    I live in the USA and am the child of a Jewish mother. About half of Mother's family lives in Israel. Mother celebrated Christmas.
    I absolutely agree with the grandparents in the Israeli ad.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Curious

      Do you want to go to Israel, Bob?

      December 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Muneef

      The Jew do fast the date pertaining to the date when Moses s.a.w has taken his people in exudes from Misr..I do not know what they call that date but we call it Ashora...we as Muslims as well fast it with them although some say we should not and others say we should...!

      December 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  14. Tom

    Zionism at it's worst.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  15. carol sullivan

    who would even read this crap if they don't like it here in AMERICA go back please

    December 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  16. JayS.

    Apparently "Jewish guilt" is more than a cliche – it has becoming official Israeli government policy.

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

      jews cry out in pain when they strike you

      December 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  17. Want to buy a duck?

    I think it is a hilarious ad. The truth hurts sometimes though.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Imogene

      How about a joke and a pickle for only a nickel?

      December 3, 2011 at 3:34 am |
  18. TheyNotHim

    Maybe if the Israeli government would stop persecuting people and perpetuating a state of constant war then their citizens would not flee to safer lands? Just a thought...

    December 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Norman

      It's all about jobs, really. That and not having to live an apartheid state.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Muneef

      Plenty of jobs they have killing Palestainians confiscating their lands unearthing their olive trees to build concrete jungles??

      December 2, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  19. Brian

    We should keep in mind, Christianity is a Jewish religion. Christ considered himself a Jew.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      and those who refuse to accept him as god in the flesh are doomed to hell according to the christian bible. No exceptions. No back door into heaven for non believing jews of today.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      christ also burned the ears of the jews calling their father the devil and that they worship in the synagogue of satan.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Curious

      hawaiidude-Get over yourself, you are just a lousy Muslim troll.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Curious

      Hey – I'm still Curious! I'll troll when and if I feel like it – thank you.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      actually im a christian but I have more respect for muslims who at least revere jesus as a prophet of god than jews who call him a heretic....

      December 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Truth is always harsh

      Jesus was a Jew. Now he is nothing because he is dead.
      Like most Jews of his time, he was a racist bigot.
      He spurned non-Jews calling them "dogs".
      Only Paul and his little circle of swindlers and forgers decided to change the game to include non-Jews after Jesus was dead and it became harder to fool the suckers I mean believers into doing what they wanted by saying Jesus is telling them something.
      Many Jews are racist bigots even today. Even if they do not follow the musty old smelly religion of their racist and bigoted culture they can still fall back on other forms of bigotry like racism, nationalism, or anything that will support their individual and intolerant, bigoted views.
      Israel partakes of all these things. Nationalism is what got Germany into Nazism. Nationalism is just the icing on the bigoted cake of delusion that many of these people insist on using to define themselves as people.
      When a person identifies with something not supported by reality or reason, that group-ident.ity deserves no support by anyone.
      Just my opinion.
      And I have yet to see anything to make me modify this opinion, either. Jesus, like every religious figure, was a fraud. Period..

      December 2, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Mike

      Christ was a Jewish Rabbi. the idea that Christians were separate from Jews came several hundred years after his death

      December 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Beth

      Yes, Jewish people and other non-Christians know that some Christians think that anyone who doesn't think just like you and believe what you believe (and we do not believe what you believe!) will burn in hell. I obviously think you are wrong so go on believing what you have been taught (brainwashed) to believe. (sign) Threats like that won't bring more people to your religion. I think those Christians who personify love are a much better advertisement for Christianity. I belong to a religion that doesn't seek to convert others (Judaism) and I can't relate to it and dislike having the in your face type of confrontations with self-righteous, close-minded Christians like yourself but after years of seeing this type of thing it's like a dog barking. YOu walk by the dog and while it might be a bit irritating to hear the bark you pass by and then the barking dies down and you go on with your life.

      December 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Muneef

      Jesus whom we call Issa s.a.w was from a Jew family..but because he disputed their way of life and religion which was changed far from actual religion since Moses whom we call Musa s.a.w in his way to correct it's path he was called heretic and driven to be crucified...!

      December 2, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Truth is always harsh

      Thanks for showing us that you are a racist and religious bigot. Your supremacist views are duly noted.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  20. Keksi

    Illegal state of Israel NEEDS MORE Jews to inflate it's numbers.

    Jews are minority in Palestine and need more immigrants to rival Palestinians.1.2 million Jews have been imported from Soviet Union to inflate numbers.
    Israel needs to explain world how is it possible for minority to rule over majority.

    How did 20,000 Jews in 1914 got own state over 750,000 Palestinians.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • D

      Israel doesn't want too many more Jews who spend all their time reading the Torah.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      they read the jesus hating talmud.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Muneef

      Were they trying as well to get the African Americans into it as well?


      December 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
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.