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Aliyah Flap: MK Says Israel Must Understand US Jews

An MK charges that the government's flopped campaign to bring home ex-pats shows it doesn’t understand the US Jewish community.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/7/2011, 1:54 PM

MK Nachman Shai
MK Nachman Shai
Flash 90

Kadima Knesset Member Nachman Shai has charged that the government’s flopped campaign to bring home ex-patriates from the United States shows it doesn’t understand the American Jewish community.

The Absorption Ministry’s campaign last week angered American Jewish leaders who complained it was “insulting and hurtful ”by stating their Judaism was in danger by remaining in the United States.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu personally intervened to halt the advertising campaign aimed at Israeli yordim (former Israelis).

“The campaign was based on fear and intimidation,” MK Shai said at a heated discussion at the Knesset Absorption Committee.

“All of us want to see Israelis return home, but the measures taken by the Absorption Ministry are a failure and prove that it does not understand one of the largest Jewish communities in the world,” he added. Instead of promoting values of Israel and its advantages, the ministry chose a campaign of fear that won such negative reaction from American Jews.”

Shai, a former radio journalist and IDF spokesman, charged that Absorption Ministry was interfering in a concern of the Foreign Ministry, while the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs remained silent over the issue.

“This teaches that establishing more ministries breeds more troubles,” he added.

The campaign, consisting of several clips that were posted on YouTube and spread via e-mail and social media, highlighted the dangers of assimilation for Jews and especially Israelis living in the U.S.

In one of the clips, a child of an Israeli couple living in the U.S. tells her grandparents who ask in a video chat what holiday is coming up, that she will be celebrating Christmas. In another clip, the American husband of an Israeli cannot relate to her observance of Soldiers' Memorial Day.

Accompanying the clips were billboards displayed in areas with large concentrations of Israelis in New York City and Los Angeles, imploring Israelis to “come home before Hanukkah turns into Christmas” and “before Abba turns into Daddy.”