Saturday, December 03, 2011

Calling All Israeli Expats

A couple of months ago, I first saw the heavy handed ads calling for Israeli citizens to return home.  A friend had posted them on Facebook, saying he found it disgusting. Many answered with equal dismay - all Israelis, but as far as I know, none living abroad.

What's the problem? In one ad, a child calls his sleeping father with the word "daddy", but the father only wakes up to the Hebrew "Aba". In another, a woman looks at her computer and sees the word "Yizkor" ("Remember"). There's also a yahrzeit candle on the table. Her American boyfriend, unaware that these are symbols of Memorial Day in Israel, doesn't understand why she is sad. The third, most irritating ad, shows a girl having a video chat with her grandparents, who are sitting in front of a Chanukiah (Hanukah Menorah). They ask her what holiday it is and she says it's Christmas. You can watch the first two ads below. The third has been removed from YouTube.

I'm not surprised by the uproar the now discontinued ads caused. I'm just surprised by how long it took Americans to notice it. I'm also perplexed by Immigration Minister Sofa Landver's cluelessness. She doesn't understand why American Jews are offended by something that isn't even aimed at them. Well, Minister Landver, even if they aren't the target audience, they can still see the ads, and at least in the Hannukah/Christmas ad, can interpret the campaign as attacking their own Jewishness.

This teaches us something about official Israeli government ads shown abroad. Whether its the Ministry of Immigration, the Ministry of Tourism or any other agency, ads should also be approved by the Prime Minister and Foreign Ministry, including input from the local embassy and consulates. Someone who knows the local culture should make sure the locals won't find the ads offensive.

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