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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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