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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. fineart

    Religion is man made slavery. You don't know who the ALL is and you probably won't in this lifetime. An emissary was sent by the ALL to show that there is a duality in this shell we call a body. It is the exact likeness of the ALL (silent, compassionate, loving) and is capable of doing everything the ALL has sent it to do. The one and only way to gain access to the inner spirit, is through the act of meditation. For those of you that want to know more about saving yourselves; google Nag Hammadi Scriptures. The answers to every question that has ever been asked can be found within.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Truth is always harsh

      I think you should shorten your name to "fart".

      December 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bob

      You mean Nag Hammadi Scriptures will tell me how many more species of lichens will be discovered in the Sierra Nevada?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Imogene

      LOL
      That truth is not harsh but funny. Maybe you should change your name, too.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  2. Hey!!

    All I know is I'd rather eat ham than that gefilte fish! You know it's wrong just looking at it!!! LOOK AT IT!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ISIS LOOK AT IT!!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Jack

      BUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA cough cough BUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      December 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Ameripride

      Religion is for people that are insecure with the truth. It is the biggest problem with the humanity and makes peacefulness impossible for us agnostics. The reality is that humans are most surely engineered by extraterrestrials and most humans, especially religious ones, are too comfortable with what we are used to. We look up and say oh! There's an airplane, but don't stop to realize how extremely amazing that is because we're acustomed to it. You don't see bonobos apes making airplanes, computers, and mars rovers. We are extremely unique animals and for people to say , oh! It's because god did it! God is what peope use when they don't know what's happening. Yes , god! God is our extirestrial creator! Why does it have to be anything else? It certainly is not some Islamic freak child molester murderer. I love the thought of being created by extraterrestrial life and it makes me feel proud to know that i am part of some extremely advanced civilization elsewhere in the universe. The time is coming very soon that we all Learn the truth.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  3. flip1

    Roses are red, violets are blueish, if I weren't Italian I most likely be Jewish.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Starstuff

      Sounds like the Family Guy episode.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • zeke

      lmao!!! Good one.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  4. msadr

    Well, I'm not Jewish. I'm a Christian. But I think it's true. I mean, USA and most of Europe is Christian. If Jews live there, they will start to favor Christian traditions as the culture is Christian. So, it's probably the truth. If they want their kids to feel "At home" with Jewish traditions, they need to stay with Jews. I would feel the same way if I lived in a muslim country with my kids. I would want to come home to a Christian country so that my kids feel at home with Christian traditions. What's wrong with that?

    December 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      I beg to differ. I have known many American Jews over the years, and they all pretty much kept their own Jewish traditions and avoided christian traditions without any problems. I mean, of course it's always hard on the kids in school, but that's true of anything that makes you different from the pack. I see the same within other religions (ie Jehovah's witnesses, Mormons, etc0–keeping to their own beliefs. I don't think you need to move out of AMerica if you are anything other than christian.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Truth is always harsh

      You apparently don't know the power of bigotry over the minds of ignorant and intolerant people. Just hanging around others does not automatically mean they will change their culture or narrow-minded world-view. This applies to anyone.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Really??!!!

      Not sure where to start, but I am pretty sure "USA" is made up of people from all over the world, representing many cultures, ethnicities and yes, religions. It is part of what makes America one of the greatest places on earth to live and raise a family. I would hope you would teach your "Christian" children to reject ethnocentric bigotry. Missing home is one thing, but hiding from others because they are different is just evidence of your own ignorance.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  5. Starstuff

    Nuke Israel... wait a minute they own all of our nukes.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • stvnkrs10

      fail

      December 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • justme

      you sound like an iranian

      December 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      I think we'll be seeing war in Iran soon.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Grey, Atlanta

      Nuke Israel because they want their citizens to return home?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Starstuff

      Actually I am an antisemitic Jew.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Josh

      you realize you only make yourself sound like a fool with such statements.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  6. BradKT

    This us what happens when religious fundamentalists of any religion act out their political agenda when it has the imprint of government behind it. This is not unique to Israel.

    It was just plain wrong.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  7. Tel an

    The Jews in Israel are right in ways. The United States is no place for a religious fanatic or for that matter any religion other than the religion of Mohamad. Secularism is also practiced in this country as well. If you really want to stay a Jew go back to your roots. In the long run your children will be better off.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  8. Moe NY

    Once again religion is out to divide people. I really wish ALL religions would just mind their collective business and stop dividing people. News Flash...there is no true religion...get over it! What religion has done, and is doing, to all countries is just plain disgusting. How can people not see the damage religions are doing to the world as a whole? Please people of all religions...keep your religious beliefs to yourselves, should be private and personal anyway.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • msadr

      Seems to me that when a group of people is going in the wrong direction, it's a good idea to divide yourself from it. the usa is on a downward spiral when it comes to morality and religious education. It's smart to divide yourself from mainstream USA culture right now. Divisive can be a very good thing.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  9. tkessler45

    ...and we have a state policy to support this country why?!?

    December 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      Shhh! It's a big secret! A big illegal secret. That's why you will never find out. Shhh!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • justme

      because we're allies... friends you know what a friend is right.... they don't always agree with you but the want the best for you.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  10. Nacho1

    I am a Catholic and my grandmother said I would go to Hell if I did not marry a Catholic and so I married a Protestant and have been married for nearly 50 years. I guess I am going to Hell.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • tkessler45

      oh I'd say you've got that just about right.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • wellwell

      Well if you had your choice would you rather be in heaven with ten million others like your granny?? Me neither, hop in Nacho, I'm driving!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      You already live in a hell created by people like you. Enjoy.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • wellwell

      Oh STORMCROW, such drama, grow up already..

      December 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Imogene

      Your grandmother is the Pope? She's really ugly and I hear she used to be a Nazi.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:57 am |
  11. William

    I dont have a problem with their add its what i call the Jewish influence over our Govt. and its policy thats what offends me about Israel.And that we GIVE them BILLIONS in military aid every damn year no wonder were broke.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Grey, Atlanta

      America does not give any money to Israel. It gives Israel military aid, stimulating its own military-industrial complex. If America were not arming all the Arab dictatorship around Israel that threaten to destroy Israel and have attacked Israel many times in the past 63 years, Israel would not need American assistance in defending itself. All this military aid is the way for the US. Government to reward the "defense industr" for it's campaign contributions. It's the corruption in the top echelons of the US elite you should be blaming – not Israel.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  12. Pavel

    Every normal country wants its expats back. Every normal country tries to preserve its culture and traditions. What on green earth do CNN and all the bigots posting here see wrong with that?

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

      There is no such thing as "Israeli culture and tradition". Israel is just a fabrication that religious nuts made up. Israel takes Arab food like humus and falafel and calls it Israeli food.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Stormcrow

      Why would any country want it's expats back? And how would that apply to all those Israeli-American Jews holding....wait for it....DUAL CITIZENSHIP? They aren't expats. They are just given special privileges and considerations by our respective governments. Special bigots with special influence and special wealth get to have lots of things "both ways" and will gladly complain if anyone seeks to equalize the situation. They only call it class warfare when we fight back.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      I think it's normal to want to preserve your cultures and traditions. I think the problem is that they made the sort of assumption and almost accusation that Jews in America are unable to do so, which is just untrue. and Stan, really? Everything comes from somewhere. Traditions and cultures develop over centuries of cobbling together various other cultures. Nobody "owns" falafel

      December 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  13. Nacho1

    Since when should a religion take away from a child's happiness? Since when is Christmas a sin and since when is Judaism the ONLY religion in the world?

    December 2, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Ameripride

      Religion is for insecure people that are not comfortable with the truth. The reality is that humans are very

      December 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Ben

      I agree Ameripride, their all just very....

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

      You anti-semitic, moron. For one brief second, try to imagine a role reversal. People always try to cling on to who they are. It's Ok. This isn't about making Xmas a sin, but the grandparents taking pride in their faith. You just see this as a way to knock Jews. Losing ones religion in the 21st century happens everywhere. try to be more open minded. PS....anti-semitism in the 21st century is more (than ever) about a double standard. So, please take it to heart when I say you made a real rude comment.

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

      Uh excuse me MORON, but sticking your nose up at another's religion is NOT pride but stupidity and ignorance. And that's exactly what that commercial does..

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

      He's just joshin' you.
      Ironic, that.

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

      stormcrow can't get any attention, aww now go back to playing scratch n sniff...

      December 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Grey, Atlanta

      Christmas as a sin since it is a commercial holiday in the US. And before that, Christmas was a sin because it is a birthday of the Sun god that the Catholic Church rebranded in the birthday of God the Son. Then again, Jews do not believe in Jesus and consider him an idol and a false Messiah; therefore, Christmas is a sin no matter how you spin it.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Josh

      Again, you are missing the point. But, I can't teach the ignorant and stupid. So, good luck.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  14. snaporaz

    As bad as the ad was, it would have been worse if it had been truthful: "Come back to the 'Holy Land', Join the Hatred, Violence and Eternal Bloodshed In the Name of Religion". No wonder children of Israelis are immigrating here – and welcome to them.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  15. Norm

    I understand perfectly what Israel wants: It wants everything without giving anything. It wants to conquer, seize other people's lands, brutalizes them, describes them as "terrorists", unlimited money, and weapons from the dumb ol' USA, claims being democratic while imprisoning tens of thousands of freedom fighters, then after all of this, it snaps back at the U.S for the opportunity that the United States gives to their dual nationals to live in peace and prosperity.
    Hypocritical? What else? But it's nothing new. We expected Israel to be that way. Bite the hand the feeds it.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Norm is Gay

      Are you cross-eyed or dyslexic? The article says "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."

      December 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  16. toshmaster1

    Hmmm... sounds remarkably like the Muslim extremists. God i hate religion.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Adolph Mitler

      Atheism is a religion.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • dick

      and a very poor religion and that.

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

      Funny, I thought worshipping a higher power was religion. What do atheists pray to, the iphone 4?

      December 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      you can make a god out of anything, Jack. And I would say after witnessing the idolotry of Steve Jobs after his death, he would definitely qualify

      December 2, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Imogene

      Yes he would definitely qualify as a dead person. Very much so. Just like Jesus who is dead. Very good analogy there.

      December 3, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • Get Real

      sockpuppet
      "you can make a god out of anything,"

      I suppose you can - we just don't.

      Admiration, respect or acknowledging a person's achievements is not idolatry. Nobody expects Steve Jobs (or any other dead person) to DO anything.

      December 3, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  17. fukital

    don't blame the jews who are in banking. blame your grandparents and great grandparents, they were the ones not letting the jews into the craft trades, banking was the only type of jobs left open to them. i don't like big banks and never will. just don't blame a person for the type of work they do.

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

      I hate mimes, quiet stupid pale faced little farts..

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

      Yeah, don't blame the actual criminals, blame other people who had no power to prevent the criminals from doing stuff. Sounds like a Republican talking...

      December 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  18. r

    There's the Christian celebration of Christmas and then there's the secular celebration. Each has their own origin. Celebrate one or the other or both. Peace on earth and goodwill towards all.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  19. dick

    Gotta have more people to take up the space from the Palestinians after their homes are bulldozed and the families are resettled into a much nicer paradise complete with razor wire, machine gun towers, occasional rocket fire from helicopters, tanks and missile strikes from F-16's. Otherwise you just aren't Jewish anymore out there celebrating CHRISTmas in other parts of the world. And what's wrong with celebrating a Jew anyhow? Jesus was the coolest of the coolest of all the Jews. Next thing you know they will be revoking His status as a Jew.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Adolph Mitler

      Well the Jews did murder him indirectly.

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

      They are a stiff necked people indeed.

      December 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Grey, Atlanta

      Dick, your name says it all.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  20. marciamarcia

    ♫You may say I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one ♫

    December 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
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About this blog

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