WASHINGTON – An ad campaign launched by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to convince Israelis living abroad to return to Israel stirred a storm among many Jewish Americans who said the advertisements jeopardize Israel's
relations with its Diaspora.
Three videos produced by the Ministry depict "normal" scenarios from the daily lives of Israelis abroad, and urge them to "return home" before becoming "fully assimilated."
Following numerous complaints by American Jews, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) issued the following statement: "…While we recognize the motivations behind the ad campaign, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel. We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.
"For that reason, we have made our concerns known to Israeli officials in the United States, and are delivering a strong letter to the Prime Minister's office asking the government to stop this initiative and to reconsider the strategy behind it. We have also offered to help play a role in rethinking this effort."
One of the videos shows grandparents in Israel with a Hanukkah menorah behind them, talking with their granddaughter on Skype. They ask her "what holiday is it today?" to which she cheerfully answers "Christmas."
At the end of the video, a message appearing on the screen reads: "They will always be Israeli. Their children will not. Help them come home."
Another video that angered American Jews, suggests that Israelis should not marry non-Israeli partners, because they will never understand Israeli holidays such as the Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day.
In a third ad, a child is shown trying to wake up his napping father by repeatedly calling out "daddy." However, the father only responds when the child finally calls him "aba" (Hebrew for father).
American media outlets slammed the ad campaign, directing their anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Business Insider magazine compared Netanyahu to the Grinch, a fictional character created by Dr. Seuss, which is used to describe a person opposed to Christmas time celebrations, while The Miami Herald published an article titled "Benjamin Netanyahu's war on Christmas?"
The Atlantic correspondent Jeffery Goldberg expressed the Jewish community's anger, writing: "The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don't mind me resorting to the vernacular).
"The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters," he wrote.