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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. justme

    I really don't see the harm. Why should I get angry because some one is proud of thier heratage and want thier grand-children to be aware and proud of it also. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • San

      Well, you are very sweet. Thank you. As a Jew, I find that being inflexible and rejecting others' traditions further adds to the feelings of anti-Semitism that quite a few people have. I think it's okay to love the Christmas season and still light a menorah. Christmas exists. It's nice. It's fun. So is Hanukkah. We celebrate both. My cousins, who were Orthodox, were wonderful people but surrounded themselves only with other Orthodix Jewish people. I think it was hard on my cousins, and two of the three have gone on to be open to all kinds of people but one still lives where she grew up, and her world is very small. I see this with other people who are so about their faith that they isolate themselves; it is not limited to orthodox Jews or Muslims or Christian ideologues. This country is a melting pot, and you can observe your faith and still enjoy some traditions of other faiths. I think the commercial does more harm than good. You can be a good Jew and like Christmas and enjoy being around Christians or Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims or Bahai.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  2. Lebanese

    Why now they have been living with Christians for 3000 years they didn't loose anything early 1900s there was only 20,000 Jews in Palestine witch is Israel today.

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

      "Witch".....LOL

      December 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      There is a witch in Israel ?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • ANGRY VILLAGERS

      BURN THE WITCH!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      She turned me into a Newt!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      I have a very small rock.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      It floats.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  3. Jack

    Sounds like the appeal to the Volksdeutsche of the 1930s to return to the Fatherland.......Heim ins Reich!

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

      There father land is not in the middle east stealing our land and causing wars.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Fubarus

      Indeed, the oppressed become the oppressor.

      December 3, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  4. bellestarrr

    all jews go back to your homeland..after all that is the promised land ...not the USA...and by the way take babs streisand and Regis Philbin and Joy...and also Joan Rivers with you....o goy...please....go home

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

      There home ain't in Palestine send them to Germany not the middle east.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  5. g

    People have to remember religion is not the problem. People are the problem. If people weren't so uptight and PC we would be a much healthier race. Jesus in my life has made me compassionate for people, not that my religion is better. I could care less who the hell you worship. I have too much other things in my life to worry about.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Religion is the problem. Please remember that.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Wootings

      Religion is the problem. And you're an idiot for believing in one, and not realizing that you have become part and parcel of the problem itself. There's not the slightest chance in hell the world will ever know peace until mankind grows out of the infantile need for fairy tales...

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

      I agree Jesus is the reason for the season....and retail sales 😉

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

      UD.
      It is you and people like you who are the problem for our world...

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

      interesting to me the christian guy says he doesn't care what people believe, and is about compassion. Then 2 atheists attack him and call HIM the problem. Irony at it's best.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Why Muneef? State your case moron.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • TR6

      @ Muneef: You can live in the world after Srebrenica and say that religion isn’t a problem? Shame on you

      December 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Muneef

      Religion as a religion is no problem but religion as in extreme backward mentality and discriminating hatred,then that is a bad religion causing countries and people to live as in the dark ages...

      December 3, 2011 at 5:05 am |
    • Muneef

      I see the ruddiness of some non religious one's here is being worse than those extremes and can be considered as well are of the worse extremes and backwardness...

      December 3, 2011 at 5:08 am |
  6. Bob

    Ah religion....such a wonderful invention.

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

      Amen

      December 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  7. Josh Ayers

    This is what we get for ensuring their survival? This nation wouldn't exist if not for our historic and ongoing support. I am not very nationalistic, but Isreal needs to show some respect for our country.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  8. glu

    Please leave jewish people, we need to make room for more illegal mexicans.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Right, we need to make room for more Catholics. They are so morally sound.

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

      You must be from Alabama - or wish you were.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Imogene

      It's time to invade Mexico!
      ATTAAACK!

      December 3, 2011 at 2:35 am |
  9. rob

    Only the Jews people are human and the rest are two legged animals.

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

      christins are not animals. they are worst.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  10. Stan

    AIPAC's PR camp will soon take care of this, they are the only ones who can make republicans and democrats work together, by exploiting America and destroying us

    December 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • TR6

      That’s unAnerican! This county welcomes all women who are beautiful and have big boo…. Ti… hoo… personalities

      December 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Imogene

      Anerica, hone ub da plugged doses!

      December 3, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  11. Rob

    Can we have Italy send out an ad directly to the Kardashians and the cast of Jersey Shore asking them to return to Italy? I'll even help pay for the boat ride.....

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

      LOL...only take the east south jersey Italians that can't cook.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Aren't the Kardashians Armenian?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • VinceN

      the Kardashians aren't Italian, they're middle eastern and I believe most of the cast of Jersey Crap are hispanic...but it doesn't matter, send them to Haiti for all I care.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Chuckie

      Does anybody know an Italian who can't cook? Those government officials in Israel must want to upgrade their 42" TV's to the new 100" LED's models! Read between the lines, when any government is involved it always boils down to the money........taxes, consumers in debt, 10% for the Rabbi's, that our global religion! "Come back and we'll up your credit score by 100 points" might work better! Merry Christmas to all.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  12. Ungodly Discipline

    Nobody knows how life started. But we do know it did, and it evolved and humans are one of the results of that evolution and humans have been around for a couple of hundred thousand years. If there is a God, it is not anything like the silly superst itious Gods of religion. It would perhaps be some force that creates rules, but not always the same rules. The rules could be different from one universe to the next. Hence there could be many Gods. As many Gods as there are realities. It should not come as a surprise that we exist given that these "rules" would eventually over the course of billions, perhaps trillions, perhaps for infinity produce every possibility. We are a possibility so naturally, we are here. See?

    December 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      well thanks for showing everyone the truth of the universe

      December 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      You are welcome Sock Puppet. Too bad we can't put religion to rest at this point in our growth as a species. We should all be of the same belief system relative to the realities of science. No war, no bigotry, no poor decisions or foolish politics getting in the way of progress. But alas, religion continues to hold us back and will most likely be the death of our species and many others.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      nhahahaha omg I can't believe you honestly believe that. I mean, bad policy comes from religion. Wars come from religion. BIgotry comes from religion. And the communist atheist countries that have slaughtered their own people did it for what reason then? I mean, really. I am not saying religion DOESN'T cause those problems, but I am not such a fool as to believe that if there was no religion all of the problems would disappear. Absurd.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      SP
      Not suggesting that all of our problems would go away. There will still be humans afterall so your point is well taken.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      She turned me into a Newt!..

      December 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  13. Kamereon

    Ahh, their true colors are showing.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  14. rob

    sfgxdfvsd

    December 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • I see what you did there.

      Very well said!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Imogene

      That is a very clear and cogent point, rob. Good show!

      December 3, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  15. stvnkrs10

    religions are the greatest and most accepted form of racism. they are everything that is wrong with the world.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • JJC

      So true.

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

      Replace the word "racism" with something that fits and you'll have an actual point.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  16. Goodguy1

    2012

    December 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Imogene

      Thanks I almost forgot what year it was. Whew!

      December 3, 2011 at 2:42 am |
  17. Bryan

    "... representing Israel as arrogant and self-important". It doesn't just represent it, they are. Israel has to much influence on world affairs considering its size, making the rest of the world feel guilty NOW because of how they've been treated badly in the past.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  18. Saman

    I'm affraid the human kind race will vanish from earth because of HATRED!

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

      well, DUH

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

      A single Extinction Level Event would prove you wrong. We live on the surface of a nekid planet in a solar system well in reach of solar flares, asteroids, gamma ray bursts and all that stuff while molten lava is a mere seven miles below our feet and earthquakes hit every day.
      There are also billions of different ways we could die, with virtually none of them requiring hate on anyone's part.
      But I get where you're coming from.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Imogene

      I'm afraid all my munchies will disappear because of the economy and the quantum probability field that gives me self-awareness. Oh, and because they exist and were created to be eaten by conglomerations of pixies working without health care. But it doesn't bother me because I am keeping everything in perspective.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  19. Peace

    I wish everyone in this world could be free to believe what they want to believe and that everyone else could embrace all other religions. I for one am always intrigued about other religions and love to learn about their beliefs. Why all of this hatred in this world. In the end, we are all just people. I have a Catholic cousin who married a Jewish girl. She is raising her children Jewish but is also teaching them to respect their fathers beliefs as we all have a right to believe in our faith. Her children actually are better off as they will be much more tolerant to others beliefs. Just imagine if all hatred of other religions went away how peaceful and happy this earth would be – can we try it for a day!!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Embrace no religion, including your own. Let the light of truth shine. Come out of the dark ages!

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

      Ungodly you are the sort of bigoted person they're talking about

      December 2, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • JJC

      Sorry sock, but you fail. Religions by their very nature create an 'us' versus 'them' mentality, and hence create strife and conflict. After all, all religions state they are the only correct religion, and all non-belivers in that particular religion are at best wrong and at worse they are evil.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I am not a bigot. Why do you say that, please state your case or stop name calling.

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

      actually JJ there are many religions that don't believe in any one right path at all, so you're wrong. That happens to be a certain fundamentalist line of thinking that mostly applies to Abrahamic religions. In fact, not even all christian religions believe in being the only "right" religion. You need to study world religions before making blanket statements o which you know very little. There are many religions that don't believe in the concept of sin, or an afterlife, etc etc

      December 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • rdude

      Sock puppet you are the kind of religious nutcase Ungod is talking about

      December 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      you are a bigot by the many degrading remarks you make against people who have religious beliefs. Do you somehow think you are in a separate category because you are an atheist? You are degrading people for having conflicting religious beliefs on the grounds that it causes problems (wars, infighting, whatever), while being condescending and judgmental yourself, which is completely ironic. I don't know how you can't see it.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      funny, where in any o my comments did you come to the conclusion I am a religious nutcase? In fact where did I mention my beliefs at all??

      December 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Sockpuppy, bless your heart, you are not very bright are you. That is ok, insult me if you wish but religion is nonsense and I am not an athiest.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      see you just resort to calling me stupid instead of answering what I said. That's ok. I am used to the people like you on these boards that go around acting like you are somehow better than the rest of the world, while insulting them in the same breath. I love it. Tell me again how once religion is gone it will be a world of peace and prosperity like you did in the other post. Keep me laughing.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      SP
      You are right, my bad.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  20. MassiveSounds

    has anyone had a child that likes to play the victim role over & above the top, or met someone like that .. what did you think about them?

    December 2, 2011 at 9:01 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.