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Jewish Journal

Israel’s approach takes a 180 degrees turnaround

by Noga Gur-Arieh

June 5, 2012 | 1:04 pm

Even though Israel intended no offense with the latest Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs campaign, many American Jews were offended by the controversial television ad. The ad, meant to attract Israeli emigrants back home, showed several unfortunate emotional outcomes to leaving Israel. For instance, one of the commercials shows a child talking to his grandparents in Israel via Skype, who are celebrating Hanukkah. They are asking him what holiday it is today, and the child replies: Chirstmas.

While meant for Israeli emigrants, the campaign ads managed to insult many of the American Jewish communities, who saw it as implying that living abroad means being unable to maintain a proper Jewish life.  It was certainly no one’s intention, but it happened. As I mentioned before, the best way to improve Israel’s image is to cooperate with diaspora Jewish communities, and not go against them or make accusations of betrayal of Israel. It has been proven, even if not statistically, that American-Jewish communities are very supportive of Israel, both financially and morally. There is no question on that matter, and the recent change of attitude made by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs shows they agree.

There has been some serious criticism towards the MPDDA. Many Israelis were disappointed by the lack of ability to improve Israel’s image as seen by the world. When I saw their previous campaign, I actually believed they were even making things worse. After all, going against people would have led us nowhere. The MPDDA recent campaign shows they have taken the criticism to heart, and made a 180 degree turnaround. Instead of making former Israelis feel bad by playing the guilt card, they chose the unity card. This is the first time the MPDDA changed its approach, and really for the better. For the first time, the MPDDA shows diaspora communities the appreciation Israel has for every person who supports Israel and that loving Israel doesn’t necessarily mean moving there.

This campaign, once again, is meant mostly for former Israelis who moved abroad, but also for all American Jews. This time, instead of pushing former Israelis away, the ads try to deepen their connection to Israel from a distance.  The commercial campaign is a part of a bigger project, called “Connecting.” According to the MPDDA, three stations have been set up at the two most American Jewish cities: New York and L.A. In these stations, there will be plenty of activities (experimental, cultural and educational) for children, teens and adults. The activity at the centers will be accompanied by a website. The three stations are the preview, and in case of a success, more will open. Another part of the Connecting project is the opening of Jewish schools and kindergartens, special events during Israeli holidays, and many afternoon activities such as cooking, make-up, yoga, Krav-Maga, coaching, preparation for Bar-Bat mitzvahs and weddings, and more.

One of the old ad campaigns. “They will always stay Israelis. Their children will not”:

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