Earlier this week, I wrote to voice my dismay at some of the content of an ad campaign launched by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption that aimed to encourage Israeli expats to go home. The Jewish state is right to do what it can to try to persuade Jews to immigrate to the country or to return to it if they have left Israel. But one of the TV ads that aired on cable seemed to take the point of view that relationships between Israeli natives and American Jews are ill advised. That is exactly the wrong message for a nation founded on the premise of Jewish unity and which also relies on political and financial support from the Diaspora.
Some readers disagreed with my stand either because they viewed this expression of contempt for American Jewry as justified or because they think the gap between Americans and Israelis is so great it cannot possibly be bridged. But apparently the Israeli government realizes it made a mistake. Jeffrey Goldberg, who also took issue with the ministry’s thinking (albeit in terms that reflected his own animus for the Netanyahu government that I do not share) writes in the Atlantic that Israel’s ambassador to the United States, onetime COMMENTARY contributor Michael Oren, brought the matter to the attention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promptly and rightly ordered the campaign halted immediately.
Netanyahu and Oren both understand the complicated relationship between Israelis and Americans far better than most Israelis. They comprehend that any effort that sought to dismiss and delegitimize American Jewish life, even if it was intended only to remind Israelis to come home, was misguided. It’s true that much of American Jewry is assimilating itself out of existence. But the problem for Israeli expats here is many are so alienated from the norms of Diaspora Jewish life they do little to take part in pro-Israel activities or Jewish charities. Rather than trying to separate the yordim from American Jewish friends or lovers, Israel needs to remind both groups they are part of one people with a shared history and destiny. Any message that undermines that basic concept of Zionism is not something a Jewish state should be promoting.