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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. Dean

    What is so offensive about those ads ? If ALL Jews leave Israel , there will be NO Israel ! And that is exactly what antisemites (nazis,muslims and communists) want !

    December 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Stan

      Zionism=Islamism

      December 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Miami1111

      Muslims are antisemites? Hold on a second... Arabs are semites. How can Semites be... anti Semites??

      December 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Ben

      Your ridiculous comment aside... Isn't this ad telling Jews to go to Israel?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Cal

      Well Ben its not tellling them to check out Disney!

      December 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Grey, Atlanta

      Arabs are Hemites. Jews are Shemites. Read your Bible.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  2. David

    Who in God's name would want to move to Israel... for any reason...

    December 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Dean

      Nobody wants an antisemitic pig like you in Israel !

      December 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      That was my first thought too, but then I remembered how much I love New Mexico and I am not really sure why...

      December 2, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Joe

      Have you ever been? Didn't think so.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Adolph Mitler

      What? You don't want to live on sand dune and rocks without water an be surround by racist monied jews and 4 billion Muslims that want to kill you?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  3. Cassandra Chu

    ... stinky is as stinky does...
    ... we have no need for jewbies in otherwise clean America... get out, uglies...

    December 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  4. Dean

    What is so offensive about those ads ? If ALL Jews leave Israel , there will be NO Israel ! And than is exactly what antisemites (nazis,muslims and communists) want !

    December 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Lee

      Dean, most of the original communists (incl Marx) were Jews. In Russia, the Jews were disproportionaly over-represented in the Communist Party. I'm not saying that's bad, but I'm saying that your labeling is PATENTLY FALSE.

      In other words, a FAT lie by you.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Dean

      So Lee, how come all left wing liberal commies hate Israel ?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Lee

      Dean, I don't know any "liberal" commies – No room for them esp with Stalin.

      It's funny what you say though, equating liking Jews and liking Israel. I know right wing Christians who HATE Jews but love Israel because they see Israel as a way to bring about armageddon faster. Then I know people who love Jews in this country (or are even Jewish) but don't care for the current Israeli leadership. These are not hard concepts to master.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Dean

      If you like people (Jewish) you will like their country (ISRAEL) ! If you hate people (Jewish) you will want their contry destroyed (ISRAEL).

      December 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  5. Muneef

    The comforter ;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9ACplWecvA&feature=related

    December 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Lee

      OFF-TOPIC -- LOL, likely post by a poser, a reich-wing provocateur of some sort.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Muneef, you ignorant S O B, didn't I tell you to go learn some grammar before you come back here? Are posting video because you can't talk now?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Stan

      Reich just mean Empire in German

      December 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Muneef

      UD.
      I have not all through the blog seen any thing sensible you said at all..
      All you been doing is teasing and cursing others for their comments... So it is you who has to clean his face from the dirt that's all over it... Beside are you sure that this is your mouth on your face or is it your Azz there...?? My mother tongue is Arabic but trying to get involved with my simple English...and am proud of that... 😉

      December 2, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      Muneef works for a Muslim extremist organization and part of his duties are to come here and do whatever he can to undermine and destroy all enemies of Islam using whatever lies and propaganda he thinks might work.
      He's not very good at it, but what can you expect from a Muslim extremist anyway?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Muneef

      What can be expected from a Crow other than his noisy calls..and irritating actions...

      Am of no organization whether moderate or extreme...I just share my personal views and comments...

      December 3, 2011 at 6:45 am |
    • Muneef

      Storm crow is nothing but a bad omen.

      December 3, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  6. Tony

    Can anyone find any info on this resolution that happened in 2010 or such ad campaign, from a legitimate source, because I can't find anything on-line about either.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  7. Felicity

    I was married 25 years before I became a widow, I am a practicing Roman Catholic my husband was jewish, we spoke before getting married about our future children, I wanted to raise them catholic. We had 2 that attended Catholic schools and International Schools abroad. We lived in the middle east, the only nasty commentary was from an Israeli and TX Baptist.
    My husband made sure that Christmas was great, and I learned to cook jewish dishes. Israel es very agresive to maje sure jews support her in any way they can.
    I am disgusted by the signs that they have in the US about Israel aim to Christians. To all of us it is THE HOLLY LAND.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Why did you feel the need to indoctrinate your children into religion? Kids are people too and they have brains. Let them decide for themselves when they are old enough to think critically and make informed decisions. YOU are exactly what is wrong with the world.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • jim

      great reply you are correct

      December 2, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      I used to know a girl named Holly. She could spell better than you.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  8. Hemyola

    When will we, as humans, grow up and be done with belonging to this or that religion? Jews in America are Americans.
    It doesn't matter if they stay with the Jewish traditions. What matters is that they do what they want and live the lives they want.
    Israelis are wonderful people and those in Israel must let go of holding on to old traditions and move on to tolerance and
    loving all religions.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • oliver

      true words.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Joe

      Lets let you go live in Gaza or Syria for a year; then come back and preech tolerance.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  9. Jagermeister

    WoW – Israel is running ads to invite american Jews to come settle in Israel and illegally settle Palestinian territories? It baffles me to no end. There are a native people living there that are struggling for their miserable lives and yet Israel wants to import more jews from abroad to displace the Palestinians? Am I the only one that sees they hypocrisy in this?

    December 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • noway

      IF you want to be poor move back lol.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Phil

      Agrees 100%

      December 2, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Joe

      I did not see one part in any of the ads where it encouraged American to move into the disputed territories. The ads don't even encourage Americans to move to Israel. The ads encourage Israelis to come back to Israel. That's it. You obviously have an ax to grind.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Cassandra Chu

      ... the isralies have amassed a huge propaganda machine... time will tell... i'm more of a humanist, personally, ...

      December 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Chimo

      No, but you are a hypiocrite and you are also a believer in false propaganda. By trying lying and saying that it is the arabs who are native to the land and the jews who are the userpers, you show yourself to be a very uneducated person. The arab hordes swept across the entire mideast and that is why they are everywhere, Thhe Jews have been living there for over 5000 years. It is the Jews who are the natives, the arabs already own 95% of the entire mid-east, they can do without the last 5%. That is why you are such a moron, because you believe arab lies, try not being a servile dolt.

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

      The morons are all the people on both sides who think that previous occupation means anything in terms of ownership.
      Study the concept of ownership and you'll see that no one has a right to any particular parcel of land anywhere except by using military force and "authority". That property deed isn't worth the paper it's written on without a bunch of nonsense backing it up and everyone agreeing to abide by it's terms and enforced by violence and torture and robbery, but that's a different ball of wax.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  10. Lee

    Bill Maher – American Christian Conservative "Love" for Jews => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPWIibPNAAI

    American Christian Conservatives (those that follow Republican Jesus, not the one the crazy europeans used to worship), support Israel as a vehicle to get us to the end times and Armageddon to happen FASTER!

    It's the Jews job in Israel to be die in the end-times conflagration that American Christianists hope will happen there.

    With "friends" like that, who needs enemies!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      that's a complete misrepresentation or misunderstanding of what christians feel for Jews. christians consider them the chosen people, that Israel is the Holy Land, and that they are beloved of God. christians also hope that they would convert to christianity, but have respect for them nonetheless. While the Jews returning to Israel is part of the story of the End Times, I can assure you that christians do not support Jews in the hopes of bringing on End Times faster. That is utterly ridiculous.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Lee

      Nonsense! If they don't "convert" (as they hope but it's not happening), they expect Jews to DIE in the "end times" that American right wing Christians so crave.

      They "love" Israel and Jews for that purpose but otherwise hate their guts. Travel the rural American South as a Jew and find out how they "love" you... LOL

      December 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      Methinks sockpuppet doth protest too much.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  11. Al

    Jesus Christ was Jewish. Christmas and Hanukkah are both fun holidays. It's all good ...

    December 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  12. SurRy

    Imagine if people spent all the time, money, bigotry and energy they spend on fairy tales on improving real life and real lives?

    December 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Bryce

      Amen to that.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  13. palatot

    Another facet of Israel little known to the world. Just as bigot as any other religious folks. Will FOX show the report?

    December 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Joe

      Wow. Labeling an entire nation of people "bigots" because of one commercial encouraging expatriates to return to their homeland. That sounds, well, bigoted.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Chimo

      Oh please, just becuasw they run an ad asking jews to move to Israel, that makes them bigots??? Get a life you imbecile. Your just another useless fool who listens to what the loudmouthed anti semites blare day in and day out. Jew haters have been around as long as jews and you know what? The Jews aren't going anywhere, they will continue to breed and succeed!!!!!

      December 2, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  14. Joeq

    Yeah I guess giving them free Billions a year, and absolute support just did not cut it.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Chimo

      Idiots like you that say garbage like what you just said don't need a reason to criticize Jews or Israel. Just another wannabe hater with no brains

      December 2, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Joe

      The ad's not criticizing the US you dolt.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  15. Saman

    It's time to return to Israel before USA becomes USI

    December 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  16. Santa's Coming to My House!

    I'm Jewish. Don't care. Like christmas trees. Ho ho ho.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      In L.A. we leave sushi and saki for Santa instead of cookies and milk.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Chimo

      Hey me too, I'm Jewish and I still told my daughter that thier was a Santa Claus until she turned 8. Santa is not a religious figure he's what makes Christmas appealing to kids of all faiths. I still had my bar mitzvah at the age of 13 and we never even celebrated hanukkah, just because it was more fun to get all the presents on one day than to get one a night for 8 nights. besides, we learned all about Hanukkah in hebrew school while studying for the bar mitzvah

      December 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Joe

      @Chimo...I hate to say it, but you're proving this commercial right. Why ignore Jewish holidays and celebrate Christian ones? Why focus on making Christmas fun instead of making Hannukah fun? It makes no sense.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      Because it's impossible to make 8 days of tube socks "fun"

      December 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      What a strange thing for a sockpuppet to say....!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  17. Stan

    Is the USA an alley of Israel? Yes, I don't know why though.
    Is Israel an ally of the USA? No, Hèll No, Fūçk No

    December 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • used to be a jew

      WELL said Stan. SO well said.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Joe

      put your actions where your mouth is. Go to Gaza. Try to stay alive for two years as a kafir.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  18. RayT

    I'm Muslim, and I love Christmas. Even though, I don't celebrate, I think the Christmas itself is beautiful. I feel like people are happier and more content. The decors are amazing, there are lights everywhere, and my kid love it. I wish there is Christmas all year round so people can be happy, content and get along with each other.

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

      Valid observation!

      December 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I hate Christmas.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • george

      From a jew, "dig that sentiment".
      Canada is my Zion.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Jagermeister

      OKAY – Israel is running ads to invite american Jews to come settle in Israel and illegally occupy and settle Palestinian territories? It baffles me to no end. There are a native people living there that are fighting for their miserable lives and yet Israel wants to import more jews from abroad to displace the Palestinians? Am I the only one that sees that in this story?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Okal

      I'm muslim too, and i share the same feeling. Just the spirit and joy of holidays i guess. People uniting together for good times.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      If you are a muslim you necessarily hate all other religions and non-religious people according to the book you consider "perfect" which states as much. Or, you are not a practicing Muslim. You can't have it both ways.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • george

      That's right, all blacks/whites, jews/muslims, coming together as one and beating the bejeezies out of the scottish.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • RayT

      @Ungodly Discipline

      You are not speaking for me; I don't hate anybody or anyone. I think all religions are beautiful, but people are just taking it out of the context to benefit themselves. I taught my kid everyday to respect other and when it comes to other religious holidays, I explained to my son why we don't celebrate them. Do I teach them how to hate? No. My kid is 3 years old, and he loves the Santa and Christmas trees here in Houston. To be honest, if you can’t tolerate living here in the US, I don’t think you can live anywhere else in the planet. This is just my opinion.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • jim

      sounds good to me

      December 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      That is great RayT, but like I said, you are not a muslim.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  19. RayJacksonMS

    So now that Israel has come out against Christmas why aren't all the republicans demanding we stop giving them billions in welfare every year?

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

      Its against the law to put up christmas trees in certain Israeli cities

      December 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • hasbeen

      Oh here we go again, the liberals vs democrats vs republican BS. ITS OLD ALREADY, FAIL..

      December 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Hemyola

      They did not come up AGAINST Christmas. Don't make up stories. They just want their people to stay connected to their holidays. Christians would feel the same way. Don't mingle politics with fabricated stories. USA politics is about USA's power in the middle east, not about Jews.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  20. CarlosS

    "...was removed from the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption’s YouTube channel Friday after it unleashed criticism from many Jews."

    If any Christians had complained, they would have just been labeled anti-semites.

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

      Forsooth, tis truth rearing it's ugly head again. Darn that bad ole truth!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
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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.