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In case you are not familiar with these advertisements that were aired in certain American communities by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, I suggest you take a look.

These clips are fairly harsh, a bit exaggerated and certainly leave one thinking.
Of course any country with so many citizens abroad would want to campaign to bring their citizens home. I think the idea of advertising to Israelis in North America to return home is a good one. It shows that the government cares and wants them home. Israel wants back it’s inventors, industrialists and citizens in general. It makes sense to me, although I do not completely agree with the sentiments of the ads.

Having been fortunate enough to grow up in a terrorism-free environment, I am grateful that I do not fully relate to what Israelis go through every year on Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Remembrance Day). There are cultural differences between Americans and Israelis, so yes, there will be a barrier to overcome between an Israeli and American in a relationship- be it in Israel or anywhere else in the world.

As an American with a very strong Jewish identity, I find it problematic to blame America instead of the parents for a child not knowing it’s Chanukah. While assimilation is an issue not to be overlooked, that little girl’s parents could have easily taught her about Jewish culture and holidays. The American culture cannot be blamed for that- that girl wouldn’t have known about Chanukah (aside from sufganiyot and dreidles) even had her parents raised her in Israel.

What interested me about these short clips were the discussions they inspired. They really got a dialogue going, although probably not the one the Israeli government was hoping for. The Jewish Federations of North America were insulted by the ads, and the Anti-Defamation League found them to be demeaning. PM Netanyahu, who apparently had nothing to do with this, had the ads pulled following such negative responses. I’m curious what you all think about the campaign and the various reactions to it.

If you just watch the videos and don’t really think about their implications too much (as we are meant to do with television advertisements) I’m not sure they are really as terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad as Jeffrey Goldberg made them out to be in this piece, published in The Atlantic on November 30. Makom published an interesting analysis last week on the ads and Mr. Goldberg’s take on them, which I enjoyed and recommend.

According to my understanding, the adverts are meant to resonate with Israelis, showing extreme and exaggerated portrayals of what might happen if they do not return to their homeland. I understand that assimilation is a sensitive topic, which is why it may have struck a nerve and insulted or offended Americans, but that is just another one of the many cultural difference that separates Americans and Israelis.

“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…”

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“I can’t answer that yes or no, unless you give me time for a long speech on it” -Ayn Rand in her HUAC testimony

I have very nearly completed reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It was on our bookshelf while I was growing up, but I never paid much attention to it. My mother suggested I read it, which was probably why I didn’t touch it for so many years. When my super cutie-pie niece was born in March, my mom came to visit. Along with the baby gifts for my sister, she brought me some books. Deciding to be open minded for a change, and knowing that many of my friends had read the book and enjoyed it, I gave it a try.

At first I thought it was such an interesting story. I liked the characters and their relationships, and I didn’t mind the wordiness too much. But then the story didn’t end. It still hasn’t, eight months later. It just keeps getting worse. Now I hate the characters and I hope they all die tragically. (I’m not done yet so if that’s not what happens, don’t tell me!) It’s true that I believe most novels would be better off as short stories, but this book takes the cake in terms of being preachy and repetitive. We get it, Ayn Rand! You think government should stay out of business and personal affairs and also that people are stupid. The concept of writing philosophy in the form of a novel is so wonderful and it really could have been amazing, regardless of how I feel about her crazy, unrealistic, extremist philosophy.

But that is not what most upsets me about Ayn Rand (who was actually named Alisa Rosenbaum). Her books may be wordy and preachy, but at least she had conviction, right? Wrong. Ayn Rand was a hypocrite. She spent thousands of pages writing about Objectivism: “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” One who lives according to this philosophy should strongly object to any attempt to directly stifle another’s productivity.

Yet Ayn Rand was a member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the preservation of American Ideals, which stated: “…As members of the motion-picture industry…we refuse to permit the effort of …totalitarian-minded groups to pervert this powerful medium into an instrument for the dissemination of un-American ideas and beliefs. We pledge ourselves to fight…to divert the loyalty of the screen from the free America that give it birth.”

Really, Ayn? It’s ok to prevent someone who has different beliefs than you from “productive achievement” (ie publishing books or producing movies)? Rand was active in several anti-Communist groups aimed at stifling free speech. That’s all well and good if you believe that nobody else is entitled to have a different opinion than yours. But if you believe that everyone is entitled to “reason as (one’s) only absolute”, HOW DARE YOU try and stop someone from pursuing his “noblest activity” by participating in these groups and testifying in HUAC?!

Even Ayn Rand can’t live up to her own ridiculous extremist philosophy. I think Atlas Shrugged is best left as a long-winded novel, not a philosophy book. In an article recently sent to me, Atlas Shrugged was described as such: “Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal.”

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