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. hawaiiduude


    December 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  2. mfx3

    It's the War on Christmas, led by of all nations, Israel. How will the conservatives reconcile this blasphemy!?

    December 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Dan Jones

      Christmas isn't even really a "Christian" holiday. It is fun and our family enjoys it, but it as pagan as it is christian. Santa, reindeer, elves, yule logs, mistletoe, and jingle bells are not in the Bible. And as any schollar will tell you, Jesus was not born on Dec 25th, not even close. We need to lighten up folks. Most Americans would be very upset to see their children marry into a Jewish family and start celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas, so don't fault some Jews for feeling the same in reverse.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  3. fred

    I don't see the problem. It would be awesome if all Jewish people returned to Israel.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • VegasRage

      Just when I thought the commercial was stupid, then you came along and one up'd it.

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

      better yet they should return to russia!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • djwazu

      right said fred! lol

      December 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Dan Jones

      It has been one of the most remarkable things in the world to see the Jews come home. It has never happened with any other displaced people in history. But this event was prophesied and it has happened. I don't think every Jew should go back to Israel, but those who do go home have my blessing...

      December 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  4. Anita Hanjob

    Christmas > Hanukkah. Deal with it.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Anita Happy Ending

      December 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  5. ron

    I neither like or dislike the Jewish people, and have zero ax to grind with them. But I it seems to me, that Israel has become more and more militant over the years. Every time I hear about their "supposed" nuclear capability, their secret police, their constant war with their neighbors, their missles & bombers, even hit squads & kidnappers. It seems that many times in fact, Israel has been the aggressor, the instigator. I think it is high time the US disengage from supporting them, and if they seek war with their neighbors, the results should be on their heads alone. Unfortunately, th US has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, trying to broker peace between them and their neighbors, and the country we are backing, is FAR from peaceful. Oh they'll be quiet for a little while, but not long. HOW many of our Presidents have tried, and failed to bring peace to the middle east? It would be a joke, were it not so serious, as well as costly. This latest stunt, while pretty tame in comparison to some of their other activites, is plainly propaganda. Mind games.

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

      Israel is involved in crimes against humanity as confirmed by the US.

      The U.N. has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than it has all other nations combined, including Iraq.

      The paradigmatic example of a "crime against humanity" is what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish People. This is where the concept of crime against humanity came from. And this is what the U.N. Human Rights Commission determined that Israel is currently doing to the Palestinian People: Crimes against humanity. Legally, just like what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • fred

      They certainly have nukes. They stole the technology from the US. And since AIPAC and it's supporters have purchased every member of Congress, you can be assured that we will continue to use all our might to support Israel's agenda.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • sanjosemike

      I understand your frustratiion. Many American Jews are frustrated too. But it helps to understand Jewish history. I'm not suggesting ath Jews continue (forever) bathing in sorrow over the Holocaust forever. But persecution of Jews remains, and it is hard to igmore it.

      There is a persistant virus that always appears with each new generation. This virus is the most pervasive in history. It is hatred against Jews. You can see it "refreshing" itself each and every day. In Europe, the ME and now sometimes even in America.

      All I ask is your understanding. Most of the World still wants to be rid of the Jews. That is a fact that you and I cannot ignore. And it is the most persistent virus of humankind.

      If Jews close their eyes to it, their dead. It's really that simple.


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

      I know! I know! This is what I'm talking about!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Secular Truther

      All that militant mentality comes from that Torah (Old Testament) which is nothing more than glorified war stories from uneducated barbarians that originally weren't even Jewish tales. All the stories like Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark, Cain & Abel, David & Golaith, Samson & Delilah, Jonah & the whale, the tower of babel, Moses, Mesopotamia, King David, etc.... Israelites basically plagiarized their neighboring tribes' religious and war stories and clamed it was Yahweh instead of the other deities that the neighboring tribes like the Sumerians' worshipped.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Elgon

      For someone with a "zero ax to grind" you sure did a lot of grinding!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  6. nodat1

    Nothing new, nations often recall their people esc when they are about to start something that will require a world response

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

      American first now and forever!!!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Imogene

      You guys need grammar lessons. Seriously.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  7. Lebanese

    America for God Sake stop the Zionists from running your government!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Adam9

      Are you a Lebanese? That's hawt! I watch Lebanese stuff online all the time!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • ann

      Stop your racist propaganda now... stop blaming the Jews and Israel for your problems.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Imogene

      Klinger is just a section 8 sort of guy.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:25 am |
  8. Lebanese

    What country is the MUSLIM state or the CHRISTIAN state?

    December 2, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      there is none but racist israeli state didnt you know?

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

      Islamic Republic of Iran is an Islamic state and the Jewish State of Israel is of course a Jewish state but no known Christian State....

      December 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Imogene

      Colonel Potter is looking for you Klinger. Colonel Harry Potter. He has a scar you don't want to see.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  9. Secular Truther

    Does it really matter when it comes to religious holidays which holiday you follow? All religions are based on stories so far fetched with inaccuriate history and fictionaly coincides with myths like Zeus and King Arther. If you actually think there is truth in any of the bible other then some of the locations than you might as well think The Chronicals of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings is based on a true stories. Though I have realized that most Christians haven't really haven't really read the bible except for a few scriptures that there lead clergy member asks them to read and reflect on. How many religious leaders read the bible cover to cover like it's a novel? Because most people do not know that the OT and NT are complete nonsense. I like the website the skepticsannointedword.com because it literally explains everything in the bible that's complete bs.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      lots of christians read the Bible cover to cover. That's pretty common actually

      December 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Elgon

      sockpuppet that is total BS. Christians are known for their crashing ignorance of what's actually in their Bible.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Get Real

      THIS is why non-believers speak up to try to put a damper on, or even an end to, the insane scripture-based religio- and ethno- centric garbage. It's difficult enough to get along and share natural resources on this planet without the all of the ridiculous supernatural fantasy. It's all imaginary nonsense - just drop it.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:39 am |
  10. Anita Hanjob

    Horrible example of bigotry and hatred aimed at Christians. Perfect example of two wrongs don't make a right. Jews continue to overreach in trying to react to past injustices against them. It's been awhile and those guilty are long dead. Move on already and stop thinking your religion can be put forth as superior. If Christians did this we would be labeled neo-nazis.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Dirk Diggler

      Well put Anita. I'm not a practicing Christian nor base my beliefs on any religion but definitely sounds like an insult to all Christians to me. Several people have told me that they are God's chosen people....... %@$^!!!??

      December 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  11. Monzur

    I feel happy when it is a Holiday be it Christmas, Hannukkah, Dewali or Eid. When I see happy people around me during the Holidays, I feel happy too. I am a Muslim and I believe we are human beings first, religion is just a personal matter.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Lebanese

      Agreed but they cant bring all the Jews from around the world and kick out Palestinians.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • San

      Thank you for a lovely post, Monzur. 🙂

      December 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  12. Lebanese

    Israel has been a terrorist state from its beginning, and has its foundations in terrorism. Three Israeli prime ministers were or are terrorists.
    Menachim Begin took part in terrorist acts in the 1940s, including the attack on the King David Hotel which killed 91 people
    Yitzhak Shamir was the operations commander, and later leader, of the Stern Gang, a terrorist group which was responsible for a string of political assassinations
    Ariel Sharon initiated the Sabra-Shatila massacre in which between 1000 and 3000 people (mostly Palestinians) were murdered, and led a terrorist campaign against all Palestinians living in the occupied territories of the West Bank.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Shhh!

      Shhh! Those truths are supposed to be secret! SHHH!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  13. Lebanese

    Israeli intelligence penetrated the United States military-industrial complex in the 1980s and engaged in industrial espionage to boost Israel's domestic defense industries. Following the Pollard affair, industrial espionage continued, with Israeli intelligence defying instructions from the political leadership not to spy on the United States. According to a 1996 Defense Department security memo, Israeli intelligence was "aggressively" collecting information on U.S. military and industrial technology, including spy satellite data, missile defense information, and data on aircraft, tanks, missile boats, and radars. Drawing on the example of the Pollard case and four other Israeli espionage operations in the United States, the memo said that Israel's techniques to recruit spies in the U.S. included "ethnic targeting, financial aggrandizement, and identification and exploitation of individual frailities", as well as "placing Israeli nationals in key industries". The memo alleged that Israeli agents stole "proprietary information" from an Illinois optics firm in 1986, and test equipment for a radar system in the mid-1980s.[82] In 1998, the FBI claimed that Israel was a major player in industrial espionage against the United States

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

      The problem is AIPAC and their supporters don't see this as a problem because they believe we should be giving all this info to Israel anyway. Therefore, they feel they deserve to know all this info so if we don't give it to them , they steal it.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Imogene

      The problem with people who look up these sorts of things on the web is that they are already paranoid schizophrenics when they go looking for the "answers".
      Now if you become that way AFTER you find this stuff, then I might listen......Klinger.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  14. LouAz

    Religious fanatics just like everyone else in the Levant !

    December 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  15. rami

    They can go to Florida, it is the promise land.

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


      December 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  16. Lebanese

    Israel has developed an elaborate system of racial discrimination, embedded in its legal system, exceeding Apartheid South Africa's laws. These laws include the Law of Entry, the Law of Return, the Citizenship Law, the Military Service Law, the Law of Acquisition of Absentee Property, the Law for Acquisition of Land, and a host of legally sanctioned, discriminatory rabbinical rulings.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  17. Lebanese

    United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted on November 10, 1975  "determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination".

    December 2, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • ann

      Same UN who voted to form a Jewish homeland, and to promote Ghadafi to the Human Rights council – and SYRIA!

      Syria has killed 4000 citizens in the last few months – where is your outrage you hypocrite!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  18. Andrew

    Antisemitism...in reverse?

    December 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      it's called anti-jesus christ or antichrist for short.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Imogene

      said the Muslim

      December 3, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  19. Joe

    Rob your an idiot, the Kardashians are not Italian.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  20. Norm

    Yes...how appealing.
    Leave the beautiful free land of oppertunity and go to the desert war zone surrounded by people that want to eliminate you.
    great idea.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:19 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.