The story of those "return to Israel" advertisements has come to an end.
It didn''t take long for the Prime Minister to get the message, and order them withdrawn.
Not only had they insulted American Jews. They also insulted Christmas.
One has to work to find insults in the video clips. You have to be more sensitive than I, but there they are.
One clip has an Israeli young women saddened by Israel Memorial Day, and her American Jewish boyfriend has trouble empathizing. Some may see this as a warning that Israelis should not marry American Jews.
Another has an American Jewish child asked by his Israeli grandparents (with a Hanukkah menorah in the background) what is the holiday. When the child says "Christmas" the grandparents don''t look happy.
The Ministry of Immigration and Absorption asserts that it did not intend to insult; only to remind Israelis of their roots and invite them home.
Both the Prime Minister and the Israeli Ambassador to the United States have apologized for unintended insults, and have criticized the Ministry of Immigration Absorption for insensitivity.
If you can read Hebrew, it''s all here. http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/9/1882023
(This is not meant as an insult. If you can''t read Hebrew, copy and paste it on Google Translator, and you''ll get the drift.)
The episode is worth pondering for its significance.
Among the meanings:
The occasional need of Israelis to do something about the emigration of Jews, even if the phenomenon is likely to be more powerful than their efforts, and even though the numbers are not demonstrably greater than emigration from other countries. Movement in and out of Israel remains positive. There are more coming than leaving, although the data for individual years show variations depending on economic trends in Israel and elsewhere.
The Ministry of Immigration Absorption does not attract the sharpest of Israelis. The best university graduates interested in the public sector compete for places in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Talented youth also stay on in the defense sector beyond their obligatory military service, with the intention of making a career and getting university degrees part time along the way at their employer''s expense. There are also good jobs to be had in the Ministries of Interior, Health, Trade and Commerce, House and Construction, Education, Internal Security, Transportation, and Agriculture.
One can say in behalf of the problematic videos that they reveal what we have known for a long time. The Jews of the United States and Israel have had different experiences, and have developed their own cultures. There is a great deal of overlap between them, but also some distinctions and competitive feelings of superiority. Some Israelis look on American Jews as pampered, not very tough, and insufficiently concerned with the threats and pressures that Israelis endure. Some American Jews look on Israelis as overly simple, somewhat barbarian, and not sensitive to the needs of Arabs or of Americans in their roles as world leaders with numerous interests other than Israel.
Overlaps appear in left-wing Israelis who lead campaigns to boycott their country in order to bring it to its knees on matters of Palestine, and right-wing American Jews whose simplistic views of Israelis and Arabs make the toughest of the settlers seem insufficiently aggressive.
There are also Israelis who feel that the future of American Jewry lies with Israel. They speak about disappearance via intermarriage without programs of cultural assistance from Israel, or even pogroms if Israel disappears. Some Israelis think that the future of America lies with Israel. In this conception, American military and financial aid to Israel provides its primary benefit to the United States, i.e., assuring it a vital front line ally, without whom the war against terror is hopeless.
Believe what you will. No one should expect Jews (American or Israeli) to agree without disputes that some on either side view as insults. Gentiles may be more moderate in their views, but perhaps not if they have lived alongside of Jews.