The Israeli government has canceled a viral ad campaign encouraging expat Israelis to return to the Jewish state after a wave of complaints from American Jews. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the campaign canceled after receiving a letter from the Jewish Federations of North America calling the message "outrageous and insulting."
Under the umbrella slogan "It's time to return to Israel," ads and billboards depicting everyday situations showed how Israelis and their American children risk losing touch with their Jewish roots as they are assimilated into the local culture.
Thousands of American Jews and Israelis living in the US called the Israeli Embassy and consulates to complain about the campaign, which they perceived as insulting. Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, responded with regret when he announced that Netanyahu ordered the campaign canceled.
Oren said in a statement, while "The campaign, which aimed to encourage Israelis living abroad to return home, was a laudable one, and it was not meant to cause insult," it was conducted “without the knowledge or approval of the Prime Minister's Office or of the Israeli Embassy in Washington.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu, once made aware of the campaign, ordered the videos immediately removed from YouTube, and he ordered that the billboards be removed as well. The prime minister deeply values the American Jewish community and is committed to deepening ties between it and the State of Israel."
Oren allowed, "the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption's campaign clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities, and we regret any offense it caused."
Last year, the Israeli cabinet passed a resolution to financially encourage its citizens to return to the country. The move and the ads were aimed at reversing brain drain, according to Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev. But when the prime minister found out about the “sensitivities and concerns” of the American Jewish community, he ordered the campaign suspended, Regev added.