The Israeli government has dropped an advertising campaign by the Ministry of Absorption warning expatriate Israelis against assimilation into American society
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly pushed the Ministry into dropping the campaign after receiving a letter from the Jewish Federations of North America calling the advertisements "outrageous and insulting."
"While we recognise the motivations behind the ad campaign, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel," the JFNA said in an e-mail to its members seen by the Guardian.
"We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship," it added.
The campaign centred on the notion that Israelis living in the United States were in danger of becoming assimilated into American society and losing their Israeli heritage.
"Before Hanukkah turns into Christmas, it's time to come back to Israel," declares one of the advertisements, which shows a girl excitedly telling her Israeli grandparents via Skype that it's "Christmas!" instead of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah.
Another depicts a young Israeli woman wincing when her boyfriend mistakes candles and music marking Israel's memorial day of Yom Hazikaron for a romantic night in.
The words "They will always remain Israelis. Their partners won't always understand what that means. Help them return to Israel" are read by a sombre narrator and scrolled across the screen.
"We find these videos heavy-handed, and even demeaning," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
"While we appreciate the rationale behind the Israeli government's appeal to its citizens living in the U.S. to return to Israel, we are concerned that some may be offended by what the video implies about American Jewry," he added.
The JFNA sent a letter of protest to the Israeli Ministry of Absorption calling the campaign's "messages that American Jews do not understand Israel deeply insulting and simply outrageous."
The ministry defended the campaign, saying it touched "the fine nerves of Israelis and their identity" and that the decision to launch it was taken in response to surveys conducted among Israelis living in the U.S.
A senior Foreign Ministry official expressed concern and dismay that the advertisements were run without consulting his department.
"We only found out about it from the complaints that reached the consulates," the official said.