Haaretz reported today on a new video campaign by the Ministry of Absorption to convince expatriate Israelis to come home. The videos, however, have been met with fierce criticism by Jewish groups like the ADL in the U.S., calling them heavy handed, demeaning and even degrading to Christians.
Why all the fuss? The concern by the Israeli government about large numbers of its citizens living abroad is not a new one. By most estimates, there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have emigrated to the U.S. or are residing there for extended “temporary” stays. Many would love to come home if the circumstances permit.
Universities like Bar Ilan have active and well-funded programs to help Israeli “returning scientists,” which include providing research facilities, staff and even fast-tracked tenure. A hot shot Israeli programmer can certainly find high paying and satisfying work in Israel’s ever-booming hi-tech sector. And Israel’s economy has so far been mostly spared from the travesties of record high unemployment and mortgages under water that has afflicted the world, from Indiana to Italy.
But the Absorption Ministry decided to go the guilt route. In one video, a family of Israelis in America are Skype’ing with the grandparents back home. A menorah looms large in the background. Grandma asks her granddaughter what holiday is coming up to which she receives an enthusiastic “Christmas.” Grandparents and parents look at each other uneasily. The video’s title: “Before Hanukah turns into Christmas, it’s time to come back to Israel.”
ADL director Abe Foxman told Haaretz: “While we appreciate the rationale behind the Israeli government’s appeal to its citizens living in the U.S. to return to Israel, we are concerned that some may be offended by what the video implies about American Jewry.” Not to mention those who are concerned that the Grinch who stole Christmas may soon be depicted wearing a kippa and waving an Israeli flag.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry chimed in too, saying it was blindsided. “We only found out about it from the complaints that reached the consulates,” an official told Haaretz.
The Absorption Ministry was quick to assure detractors that it was only targeting Israeli expats, not American Jews and that, in any case, the videos have been met with positive feedback by the Israeli demographic targeted.
Here are two more videos that are part of the campaign – the American boyfriend who doesn’t know it’s Yom Hazicharon (Israeli Memorial Day):
And one on the difference between Daddy and Abba:
Jeffrey Goldberg has a more spirited analysis in The Atlantic.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think? Insulting or effective? Insensitive or a kick in the tush where one is needed most. Leave your comments below.