Media Comment: Past and future in our media

Our founding fathers arranged for the memorial days and Independence Day to be so close to each other.

hebrew book week 370 (photo credit: reuters)
hebrew book week 370
(photo credit: reuters)
Our media treats our memorial days as the holiest days of the year. There is a huge buildup and attempt to gain interest in the broadcasts way ahead of the actual dates. The serious atmosphere starts rather early.
The broadcasters on the days themselves outdo each other in dealing with various aspects of the memorial days, whether stories about the fallen, the survivors, the moral and ethical issues involved in relating to the Shoah and Israel’s wars and the attempt to put things into historical perspective, whether from a Jewish angle or a humanistic one. Even the music is geared to the atmosphere of the days, with concerts relating to their connection to the Holocaust and so on. Israel’s media is at its best to match the national mood.
There is one aspect which is quite outstanding during the memorial days: there are no advertisements.
The constant barrage of trivia, noise and attempts to brainwash us into purchasing things we don’t need stops. Our media and businesses understand not only that it is not good business to advertise nonsense on such heavy emotional and historic days, some of them probably even identify with the need to relent from daily materialistic pressure on Israel’s population.
It is not an accident that our memorial day for the soldiers and others who fell in Israel’s wars is adjacent to Israel’s Independence Day. This is in the best Jewish tradition whereby the fast of Esther is adjacent to the festival of Purim, Lag Ba’omer is in the midst of the Iyar days of mourning, Succot is adjacent to Yom Kippur. In our Jewish heritage, we relate to the past, respect it, study it and use it to appreciate the present and the future. One cannot appreciate Purim without considering the sacrifice of Esther the Queen in her successful attempt to save the Jewish people.
The same goes for our state. A deep appreciation of Independence Day is not possible without consideration of the events that led to the establishment of the state or the events that occurred after it. The connection between the Holocaust and the formation of the state is self-evident, as is the sacrifice of those people who created our state for us with their lives and who sustained it later on with the maximal sacrifice that a human being can give.
A TRUE appreciation of the miracle of the establishment and survival of the State of Israel is only possible with such perspective. Our founding fathers understood this and arranged for the memorial days and Independence Day to be so close to each other.
This attitude should be contrasted with the Independence Day celebrations in the US, where it is just another vacation day, and most definitely the day on which to do your shopping. The most outstanding characteristic of US Independence Day are the huge sales. Fireworks are funded by companies (Macy’s for one) and used as an important means of advertisement, and many of the parades are business-sponsored.
Independence Day in Israel is celebrated very differently, with arguably the most noticeable characteristic being the family mangal, that is, the gathering together of families and friends in Israel’s parks to have joint barbecues. These should not be trivialized for they bring families and friends together and they are the glue which keeps our society functioning. Independence Day is one day on which our people do not work, do not go shopping, are not immersed in the daily materialistic needs of life, but rather are celebrating with music, good food and camaraderie. This is the way it should be.
It would seem, though, that as in any Jewish society, there are those who are very unhappy with this situation.
These are the advertising companies and the media executives who cooperate with them.
Independence Day should be treated as being as holy as the memorial days. Just as there is no advertising during the latter, there should also be none on Independence Day.
Sadly, advertising in Israel in many ways is the antithesis of the Independence Day atmosphere.
One of the proud achievements of Zionism is the reestablishment of the Hebrew language. Israel’s advertising agencies and their copywriters are doing everything possible to destroy the Hebrew language and replace it with English. Stores use English names, ads are not “in” unless they include some English.
There is no genuine attempt to retain our Hebrew language within our business life.
One might have naively thought that at least on one day – Independence Day – our media would relate more seriously to the Hebrew language, without debasing it through the usual advertising jargon. One might have thought that our businesses would understand this too, but alas, no.
Perhaps though, the language question is the minor one. It is the atmosphere of the day which is the real issue. Advertisements turn the day back into its regular mode: business, materialism and such. The lack of advertising forces the media to use real content. It significantly changes the atmosphere of the day, at least as it appears and is heard on the airwaves.
By law, businesses must be closed on Independence Day. Why then is advertising permitted? One of the usual claims of our media is that forced regulation is counterproductive and that the media knows best how to regulate itself. The fact that advertising is tolerated on this day, not only on the commercial airwaves but also by the public broadcasters serves as evidence that self-regulation does not work.
Our advertisers and media managers, instead of providing their positive contribution to the atmosphere of Independence Day, do the opposite. They trivialize it. Our hope is that the public is so involved in the music and mangals that it does not use the media on this day as much as on other days so that the advertisers not only do not succeed in their commercial objectives, the public undermines it and keeps our Independence Day distinctly Israeli. We do not have to Americanize everything.
The authors are vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of Israel’s Media Watch (