Israelis Should Not Marry Americans, the Netanyahu Edition


Oh, Israel… Seriously? Ed[/url] just came into my office to ask if I’d seen Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest post for the Atlantic.

I immediately looked it up, and, well, OY.

Basically, the Israeli government wants to convince its citizens to remain in, or return to, Israel. That’s not so bad – most countries likely share that desire. So the government has launched a campaign, targeting Israelis living in the US. Jeffrey makes some suggestions for great campaign slogans:

How about, “Hey, come back to Israel, because our unemployment rate is half that of the U.S.’s”? Or, “It’s always sunny in Israel”? Or, “Hey, Shmulik, your mother misses you”?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the route taken by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Instead, they’re running ads that claim Israelis will lose their Jewish identities if they stay in the US too long. Worse,

The Ministry is also featuring on its website a series of short videos that, in an almost comically heavy-handed way, caution Israelis against raising their children in America — one scare-ad shows a pair of Israeli grandparents seated before a menorah and Skypeing with their granddaughter, who lives in America. When they ask the child to name the holiday they’re celebrating, she says “Christmas.” In another ad, an actor playing a slightly-adenoidal, goateed young man (who, to my expert Semitic eye, is meant to represent a typical young American Jew) is shown to be oblivious to the fact that his Israeli girlfriend is in mourning on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day.

So here are the videos. The translation of the Hebrew text at the end is mine.

They always remain Israeli.
Their children do not.
Help them return to Israel.

They always remain Israeli.
Their spouses do not always understand what that means.
Help them return to Israel.

I watched the videos, read the article, and was amazed and disgusted. Forget intermarriage, these ads seem to be saying that Israeli Jews shouldn’t marry American Jews!

I wasn’t sure what else to say about it. Thankfully, Jeffrey came to the rescue there too:

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.

Gross. Shame. Shonde.

5 thoughts on “Israelis Should Not Marry Americans, the Netanyahu Edition”

  • Dear Friends: As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network — large group for adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage — I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry looking at the videos.

    My group has spent years combating attacks on us by American and Israeli Jews for the ‘crime’ of having interfaith parents.

    Never in my lifetime did I expect to see ads suggesting that Israeli Jews not marry American Jews.

    I guess I should have anticipated that the huge web of negative laws and social policies directed against interfaith couples and adult half-Jewish people in Israel would eventually extend to American Jews with two Jewish parents.

    Once bigotry regarding ancestry is institutionalized for mistreating one group of people, it can then spread to regarding another group of people as ‘not good enough.’ Very sad.

    Robin Margolis

  • Via the JTA, Netanyahu pulls ad campaign for Israeli expats that angered U.S. Jews:

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is canceling an ad campaign aimed at luring Israeli expatriates home that some American Jews have found offensive.

    The ads, produced by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, attempt to convey the message that the children and families of Israeli expats will not have Israeli identities if they stay in the Diaspora. This week, the Jewish Federations of North America called the ads “insulting,” and the head of the Anti-Defamation League said they were “demeaning.”

    “The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption’s campaign clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities, and we regret any offense it caused,” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement. “The campaign, which aimed to encourage Israelis living abroad to return home, was a laudable one, and it was not meant to cause insult. The campaign was conducted without the knowledge or approval of the Prime Minister’s Office or of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Prime Minister Netanyahu, once made aware of the campaign, ordered the videos immediately removed from YouTube, and he ordered that the billboards be removed as well. The prime minister deeply values the American Jewish community and is committed to deepening ties between it and the State of Israel.”

  • On one hand I understand why they feel so strongly about their message but they went way way over the top on delivery.

  • Absent any context, the videos are all the things you said.

    But, we’re not all that far away from the conversion bill controversy.  In that context,  “They always remain Israeli, Their Children do not” feels lest wistful (although cringe-inducing), and much more threatening.

  • And another video. In this one, the son keeps saying “daddy” to get his sleeping father’s attention. He finally switches to Hebrew, “abba,” and succeeds to wake his father.

    They always remain Israeli.
    Their children do not.
    Help them return to Israel.

    And, oy!, a friend on Facebook mentioned spotting the accompanying billboard ads in Aventura, Florida. It’s all in Hebrew, and says:

    “Before ‘abba’ becomes ‘daddy’, it’s time to get back to Israel” (‘daddy’ is in English, the rest is Hebrew).

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