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Israeli gov’t warns Israelis in U.S. not to marry Americans but come home

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Wow this is great reporting at the Jewish Channel. They focus on the ad campaign sponsored by the Israeli gov’t (which we mentioned last week) which is aimed at getting back all the Israelis who have moved to the United States–as many as 2 million!

Watch the ads from the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, between :25 and 2:40 — they’re cute, mostly, and in Hebrew, so I’m counting on the Jewish Channel’s translation. In one a dad doesn’t wake up when is son says Daddy over and over again, then he does wake up when the kid says “Abba.” The Israeli gov’t’s message: “They will always remain Israelis. Their children will not. Help them to return to Israel.”

Then there’s another one in which Israeli grandparents’ faces fall when their grandchild says on Skype that she’s celebrating Christmas.

The third ad is the craziest/most interesting. It suggests, says the Jewish Channel’s anchor, that “marrying American Jews could make Israelis lose their sense of identity.” [Update: Commenters have explained that the Jewish Channel’s translation is faulty, see Krauss and Shmuel translations below] In the ad, a couple comes home to an apartment and the girlfriend stares with grief at a computer screen, realizing it’s Israel’s annual day of remembrance for fallen soldiers. The boyfriend seems to be remonstrating with her. He doesn’t get it. The message, translates the anchor: “They will always remains Israelis, their partners won’t always understand what this means. Help them return to Israel.”

These are the same fears of assimilation that bedevilled the Jewish community inside America for decades. Some day I have to tell you the joke whose punchline is, As soon as I’m hanging up the phone I’m putting my head in the oven. (Mom to son who has announced he’s marrying non-Jew)

This issue is huge. John Mearsheimer first told me about it two years ago. Reverse aliyah, the marrow being sucked out of the Israeli miracle, by Israelis. No wonder the billboard version of these ads are in Palo Alto, Boston, L.A., New York. That’s where the software engineers and professors are. This brain drain is also cited fearfully by Bernard Avishai in his Harper’s piece– saying that only peace will bring the Israelis home.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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36 Responses

  1. Krauss on November 29, 2011, 11:21 am

    It’s often said that white guilt is being too ethnocentric while Jewish guilt is not being ethnocentric enough. Stereotypes exist because they sometimes hold grains of truth in them, as this report confirms.

    • Krauss on November 29, 2011, 11:49 am

      One thing I’d like to add/comment on is the boyfriend in the 3rd ad. You claim he is an American Jew, but in the video they say he’s ‘English’. I interpret that as WASP, not English-speaking/Anglo Jew.

      If your viewpoint is indeed correct then that’s the craziest ad I’ve seen ever. Then the Israeli government is actually advocating to stop Jews from marrying other Jews! Because some Jews are apparently less ‘worth’ than others(too westernized etc).

      Tell me that can’t be the case. I took it as another anti-assimilation ad, but a WASP/Jewish combination, which is usually the case, not an assimilated Jew and an Israeli Jewess. Because if the Israeli government disapproves of even that then that’s crazy on a whole new level.

      As for the reserve Aliyah, there was actually a fairly recent column by Gideon Levy where he stated that new statistics show that record numbers of Israeli Jews hold a second passport, and it’s to Germany. The German-Jewish diaspora is steadily increasing and many are coming from Israel and often well educated Jews.

      Pre-WWII, I would argue that the peak of Jewish intellectualism resided in Germany. Jews were 33 % of all math professors at universities. Jews in America have been very successful but in Germany they really laid the foundation of much of modern science, while many Jewish laurates today are often building onto what others before them achieved. Don’t forget that Einstein was born in Germany and got his full education in Germany by secular Jews. Berlin’s famous theater scene was dominated by Jews(85 % of all the producers).

      The intermarriage for Jews in Berlin in the 1920s was a stunning 20 %. Unheard of anywhere in the world, certainly even in America, during the 1920s where it was 3 % at most.

      The Nazis were a historical abberation. And now the flow of Jews have returned, especially the intellectual Ashkenazi class of Jews, to Germany in record numbers.

      Even in Britain, which has seen a relative decline in Jewish numbers(450,000 at the peak post-WWII) to about 270,000 today actually has more kosher shops today than it had back then. The Jewish community in Britain is very much alive culturally, even if they are demographically stagnant.

      It appears the notion of a Jewish state wasn’t such a big hit after all. The Jewish elite are leaving in droves, and Jewish life in the diaspora is flourishing like never before. Meanwhile, Jewish facism is on the rise in Israel and the ultra-orthodox are working overtime is impose their own version of gender Apartheid.

      Israel, I think, will increasingly be dominated by the nuttiest Jews in the world, and perhaps not our brightest ones either. I see a correlation between the two distinct Jewish groups today. On the one side, you have a small, but very conservative core of Jews who are increasing in size due to higher births(even the modern Orthodox) and then you have large pool of assimilated Jews who are relaxed about their Jewishness and also feel culturally very close to Western societies, who realise that anti-Semitism has never been lower historically in the Western world(in Europe, it’s sadly mostly muslims who cause us grief).

      This in turn will ailenate more and more younger Jews as they see Israel becomming more and more alike that of their increasingly traditionalist and in some cases anti-modernist Jewish friends.

      You’re really right on the fact that Zionism has become something of a holy cow, and to some extent even have tried to replace/infuse itself, with Judaism. I wonder how long this fantasy can last.

      • philweiss on November 29, 2011, 12:50 pm

        Krauss, Thanks for translation. The reason I put “report” in the headline is that I was relying on the Jewish Channel, which translated that ad to say that Israelis should not marry American Jews. In other words, I’m quoting them.
        Can you give us a fuller translation of the key sentence?

      • Shmuel on November 29, 2011, 2:27 pm

        I watched the ad at the ministry website, and it’s all in English (subtitled), except for the slogans at the end, which translate:
        “They’ll stay Israeli. Their partners won’t always understand what that means.”
        “Help them come back to Israel.”

        The ad doesn’t mention whether the partner is Jewish or not, but the impression I get (and hey, I’m part of the target audience) is that it doesn’t really matter. Despite the Christmas reference in one of the ads about the kids, the campaign seems to focus on being Israeli – much smarter if you ask me, because the assimilation shtik is probably less likely to work on a young Israeli ex-pat. So the point is that you are an Israeli with a partner who doesn’t understand you (because Jewish or not, he’s not Israeli) and American kids. Is that what you really want? Come home to your country, your language, your culture!

        BTW, US Jews are practically aliens to most Israelis. The Jewish connection only works up to a point.

      • philweiss on November 29, 2011, 3:08 pm

        thanks to Krauss and Shmuel. I will correct my headline….

  2. seafoid on November 29, 2011, 11:34 am

    Maybe If Israel was a nice place to bring up kids they could go home. Or even if it was safe they could go. i guess a lot of Israelis in Galut don’t want to live in a Haredi themepark run for settlers.

  3. Grumpy_Old_Man on November 29, 2011, 11:46 am

    The classic joke is the one where an Orthodox Jewish girl tells her parents she’s marrying an American Indian, and they throw her out of the house and go into mourning. On a Thursday morning a year later, she returns, and says to her mother, “I know you don’t approve of my marriage, but I wanted you to know you have a grandson, and I gave him a Jewish name.” “Nu,” comes the reply, “and vot is dat?” “Whitefish.”

    • Mooser on November 29, 2011, 12:17 pm

      GOM; From MAD Magazine “A MAD Look at Surfing”. The scene is a California beach:

      Girl: “Look at him! He’s the coolest guy here! He’s so cool, the other guys call him Iceberg!
      Guy: “Iceberg? Who ever heard of a Jewish surfer?”

    • lobewyper on December 2, 2011, 7:59 am

      OK, Grumpy and Mooser, but for the non-Jews on this site, what’s the joke?

  4. mikeo on November 29, 2011, 11:48 am

    No wonder they’re keeping this under their hats – it’s truly desperate.

    So let’s see, almost 1/3 of the population of “the only democracy in the Middle East™” a supposed economic miracle state – would rather live elsewhere.

    What does this tell you…

    • RoHa on November 29, 2011, 11:31 pm

      Certain posters on MW like to tell us that the majority of the world’s Jews live in Israel, but if two million of them have moved to the US, maybe the majority are in the US now. Anyone care to crunch the numbers?

  5. MLE on November 29, 2011, 12:27 pm

    What are Israeli expats- are they Israelis who have taken another citizenship? Because there are 7 people in my family who were born in or lived in Israel and had Israeli citizenship, but they haven’t lived in Israel for decades. The Israeli government forces my mom to get an Israeli passport when she wants to go back and visit because her country of birth is listed as Israel.

    Seriously, the father doesn’t respond to daddy??? The kids like 5 years old, after 5 years of being called daddy you’re still confused? Maybe he’s losing his hearing in the ad.

    I have some more ideas for some ads.

    Parents sitting at a table having breakfast, teenage son or daughter comes downstairs wearing a keffiyeh.

    It’s the holidays and the adult son brings home their new girlfriend nd he or she is a different race. The son says, I have some exciting news and the girl holds up her hand displaying a diamond ring- we’re getting married.

    Sitting in the synagogue for Yom Kippur, the dad praying intensely, he looks over at his son and he’s reading a comic book.

    Mother making breakfast for her kids, one of the kids asks- can I have some more bacon?

  6. annie on November 29, 2011, 12:44 pm

    note the newspaper headline on the front of the video “Pick for rabbinical judges’ riles Israeli women’s group”, at 4:25 in the video he talks about it. this will have a huge impact for israeli society because of the jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts.

  7. American on November 29, 2011, 12:44 pm

    This really is desperate.
    The only new thing about it though is they have gone public with it.
    I’ve seen many articles over the years by prominent zionist warning against intermarriage and assimilation.
    I think it’s a losing battle for zionism.
    I look at the black -white interracial marriages, particularly in the South, that don’t even merit a thought or second glance today …new generations move right on pass the old thinking and restrictions.

  8. Justice Please on November 29, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Hey Israel, guess which country also lost a lot of intelligent and moral Jews to America: Germany.

    Look in the mirror, because the emigration has a lot to do with how you act.

  9. Nevada Ned on November 29, 2011, 2:57 pm

    In the US, there’s a high intermarriage rate for Jews marrying non-Jews (50%). This is a natural consequence of declining anti-Semitism. Some people (e. g., Dennis Ross, who headed up the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, funded by the Jewish Agency) deplore the trend, but nothing can stop it, short of legislation banning marriage between Jews and non-Jews. There is precedent for such legislation: the Nuremberg laws in Germany in the 1930’s. Definitely not a precedent that Ross or the Jewish Agency would like to cite.

    • Krauss on November 29, 2011, 3:20 pm

      There’s a more complex picture for this.
      Counting all Jews. even if one of their parents is non-Jewish, this is true. But for Jews who have Jewish parents on both sides, this number has declined. It peaked at 1990 around 40 %. It went down to 30 % in 2000 since the last large Jewish communal survey was done(patching through the various local surveys, who often use different methodologies, into a fractured mosaic is less satisfying to statisticians)

      So we don’t know the trend for Jews who are Jewish on both sides, but I would venture that it’s stagnating at worst and probably declining further still.

      Still, think about it. Let’s accept the higher-bound 2 million Israeli ex-pat figure. A lot of Soviet Jews went through Israel and then to America, so you’d have to discount quite a few of them too, but perhaps 250,000 went straight to America.

      In the last 20-30 years, the Jewish population has gone from 5.9 million in America to about 5.3 million. This despite massive Jewish immigration during this period. That means between 2.5 and 3 million Jews have been ‘lost’ because they are no longer counted and/or self-identify primarily as Jews. After all, if you have 40-50 % intermarriage for 30 years and more, that’s what you’ll get.

      Of course, I do not think the 2 million figure is accure for Israel. I think that the amount of Jews who have come to America probably counts to about 2 million at best, in total from all countries(Western, Former Societ Union, Israel, Middle East, Australia, Canada, South America etc etc). But we still lost about net 600,000 Jews for the last 30 years in demographic change. Despite 2 million extra Jews in immigration.

      In my opinion, that’s pretty significant of the amount that Jews have assimilated. Eliot Abrams vision of seperate, sealed and ghettoesque Jewish communities has been smashed into smithereens.

      Nonetheless, the Jews who are left are increasingly less likely to intermarry if they are Jewish on both sides and they are also much more likely to be orthodox than 30 years ago, where it was much more common to have Jewish parents and be, say, reform than it is today.

      In other words: the intermarriage rate is reaching it’s limits and it’s starting to feel the real ceiling that’s aptly called the Orthodox community.

      • Mooser on November 29, 2011, 6:10 pm

        Well, then. if the number of Jews is going down, it’s time for a big conversion push! Streamline the process, cut the training down to one weekend seminar, explain about the boiling-before-baking ( they need to know the facts!) and quietly drop the circumcision.
        If the person can honestly say “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One” and “I am a Jew” they’re in like Flynn! Give ’em a copy of the Ten Commandments (but make sure they know that nobody has actually stuck to all ten, recommend one or two to start with) and away they go! Mazel Tov! (I guess they’ll need a glossary, but if we use e-mail, costs will be minimal)
        Finally, adopt or adapt as many aspects of African-American Gospel music to Jewish liturgical music as we possibly can, and we’ll be packing them in, every Friday night and Saturday morning.
        Viola! Jewish population problem solved. I defy anyone to find even one flaw in my plan!

      • RoHa on November 29, 2011, 6:44 pm

        “explain about the boiling-before-baking”

        Glad to see you are sticking to the core elements.

      • Bumblebye on November 29, 2011, 6:54 pm

        One flaw….
        Wouldn’t they have to give up bacon? Just imagine, no more bacon butties! :-(

      • Mooser on November 29, 2011, 11:20 pm

        “Wouldn’t they have to give up bacon?”

        Many, many Jews do not keep Kosher. And there are degrees of kashruth, from not eating a few things, to elaborate provisions to keep all meat and milk articles separate, and other things. But they are certainly welcome to keep Kosher if they want to. It couldn’t hurt.

  10. on November 29, 2011, 3:18 pm

    So now Amercian Jews have become a big NO, NO for Israeli Jews.
    Sort of like a different species?? Lower grade kind.
    With too much of the goyim traits in them??
    Granted, many of them turn out to be “self-hating Jews” , bordering on the line of “anti-Semitism”. Marc Ellis is the latest example.

  11. Real Jew on November 29, 2011, 3:54 pm

    Is it me or is there a strong odor of desperation in these ads?

    On a side note, Phil, u were quoted today at Haaretz in Bradly Burston’s article: “At last, ‘Occupation Zionists’ and Israel-loathing U.S. Jews can agree.” Check it out

  12. yourstruly on November 29, 2011, 4:06 pm

    how many israelis who emigrated to the west to escape the nightmare that is the p/i conflict are going to pack up and return to the very battleground from which they have fled? and why would they? so that they could participate in a reprise of the masada?

    • Shmuel on November 29, 2011, 4:32 pm

      how many israelis who emigrated to the west to escape the nightmare that is the p/i conflict are going to pack up and return to the very battleground from which they have fled?

      The thing is, most Israelis abroad did not leave to escape the conflict. Life for most Israeli Jews (especially those able to emigrate) is actually not too bad – except for the usual economic and professional difficulties, a little claustrophobia and maybe a touch of the “American dream”.

      I know some Silicon Valley Israelis, and they’re thinking of moving back after 20 years in the States. The US economy is not doing so well right now (closures, transfers, layoffs), the cost of living in the SF area is high, both their grown sons have gone back to Israel, and they would like to be near their ageing parents. Many younger ex-pats are struggling (the American dream is not all it’s cracked up to be), and they miss home, family, language, culture, etc. – just like any immigrants. They really do not think of themselves as refugees from a war zone, and political “exiles” are few and far between. Massada is the furthest thing from their minds.

      • yourstruly on November 29, 2011, 5:03 pm

        right now you may be correct, shmuel, but should the p/i conflict heat up, wouldn’t this be a deterrent to israelis returning to israel? during the 2006 israel war on lebanon, for example, did many expats return to participate in that war?

      • Shmuel on November 30, 2011, 2:55 am


        Of course events on the ground change attitudes to staying, leaving or returning, but so do a lot of other factors. My sister, for example, freaked out when Saddam’s scuds shook her Haifa apartment, packed up and moved to Europe. Five years later, she was back and living on a settlement deep in the WB. My wife’s brother who had left Europe as a child and never quite fit in in Israel, went back to Europe to study, after having completed his military service (he fought in Lebanon in ’82), met someone and was all ready to settle down. But he was disturbed by “hostile” (“anti-Semitic” he said) media coverage of the ongoing events in Lebanon, and realised that he was more Israeli than he had thought. He too went back to Israel (with his newly-converted bride) and stayed, despite reserve duty, despite eventual bombings not far from his home, and despite having to send his kids to the army (the eldest has just finished and the youngest is about to go in).

        I know other Israelis who say that they have had it with “that shitty little country” (war, religion, tension, Holocaust, “the whole world is against us”, rudeness, claustrophobia, propaganda, etc.) – some stay, some leave, and some go back. It’s not that simple.

  13. eGuard on November 29, 2011, 4:54 pm

    Ah, those fears of assimilation, plural, one can have when living somewhere.

  14. RoHa on November 29, 2011, 6:48 pm

    Why is assimilation bad?

    • Mooser on November 29, 2011, 11:29 pm

      “Why is assimilation bad?”

      Assimilate? You mean being taken advantage, abused and bossed by non-Jews? Never! Why on earth should I go to the Gentiles for something that can be supplied by the Jewish community?

  15. Duscany on November 29, 2011, 9:25 pm

    How could two million Israelis possibly emigrate to America? I thought there were strict limits on (legal) immigration these days. Quotas, if you will.

    • annie on November 29, 2011, 10:14 pm

      because at least half of them probably came from here to begin with and still have their amercican passports. iow, they changed their minds and came home. (ssshhhh)

  16. Mikhael on November 29, 2011, 9:46 pm

    I recall, pre-recession, several years ago, walking around Park Slope and seeing an ad on a bus shelter urging Irish expats to return home and enjoy the prosperity of the Celtic Tiger’s boom years. This isn’t much different.

    (Of course the ephemeral nature of the Irish economic miracle sent most of them backing right back to the US, Australia and elsewhere.)

    • Cliff on November 29, 2011, 10:36 pm


      Were they encouraging Irish people to not marry non-Irish people?

      This policy/view is not isolated. It is part of a larger context and when we discuss it you should keep that in mind.

      You are comparing Israel to Ireland as if Ireland was also occupying and colonizing another people and their land for almost 50 years. That is the context. Get it through your head.

  17. ToivoS on November 30, 2011, 12:54 am

    If there are 7 million Israeli Jews and 2 million live abroad, does that mean there is only 5 million living in Israel? If so, then wouldn’t that mean that there now more Palestinians living in Israel and the OT then there are Jews living there? If one state comes to fruition, then the Arabs would have a majority. The notion of a Jewish Israeli state could be more fragile than we have all thought.

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