With real estate prices sky-high in Israel, you can’t blame some people for looking to the heavens for help – and last week, an Israeli site that provides a platform for sales of used cars and secondhand apartments took advantage of that to run a marketing campaign. The pitch? Signing up buyers for a project called “IsraMoon,” an Israeli settlement on the lunar landscape.
An email sent to hundreds of journalists and bloggers earlier in the week described a project that sounded like it should be located on the stately streets of north Tel Aviv – except this project was a neighborhood was not of this earth.
“Beautiful apartment towers will be built in plastic bubbles,” the email said. “There will apartments for all size families, from three rooms to large penthouses, along with garden apartments.”
With the earth a bit far for a daily commute, the email said, an office park would be set up to employ residents. “We already have signed commitments from a number of large corporations,” the message added. The project, they said, was actively signing up customers and contractors, and would be ready in a decade.
And leisure amenities would be as good up above as they are down below. “A movie theater, restaurants and cafes, schools, and cable TV are all included for residents,” along with a swimming pool and a Kinneret-like lake, said promoters.
And for those residents whose eyes are uplifted to points even beyond the moon, the project would have “two synagogues, as well as a separate building for Sabbath-observant residents.”
The cost for all this? According to IsraMoon’s Facebook page, a reasonable NIS 600,000 ($156,000) for the two-bedroom model, and NIS 800,000 ($207,000) and up for three bedrooms and larger. And for those who insisted on seeing before believing, the IsraMoon people had a Youtube video.
Since prices for homes in the earthly Israel are usually far higher, it’s not surprising that the IsraMoon site generated much interest among bloggers and journalists. Along with the email, IsraMoon placed banner ads on popular Israeli websites, such as Ynet (the Hebrew news site of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily). The ads, and subsequent articles that appeared on websites, apparently raised the curiosity of many Israelis — as well as the ire of one very senior editor for an Israeli paper (who requested that his name be kept out of this story).
In a message to hundreds of journalists, that editor wrote, “How wonderful it is that you will be setting up a religious compound on the moon, with two synagogues yet — one Sephardic and one Ashkenazi. Will you also be setting up facilities for youth groups?” he continued sardonically. Referring to the protests against high prices that took place in Israel last summer, he asked, “and will you be building a boulevard for protesters who will demand social justice outside the fancy lunar ‘penthouses?’ It appears to me that your ads will be the first piece of evidence in a fraud case that I will make sure is opened by police against sponsors of this project.”
Unfortunately, the editor was unable to file charges with police, as the cagey sponsors kept their identity a secret.
And the project appeared to generate competition. Not to be undone, a group called Mars One denigrated the IsraMoon project while offering the red planet as a logical alternative for residents crowded out of Israel’s housing market.
“People can’t live on the north-west side of the moon,” where the Israeli lunar neighborhood was to be set up. “2022 is not enough time to build the project. In my opinion, it is possible to finish it only in 2025.” But not to worry, the group said. “The Mars One project will be finished by 2023.”
Unlike IsraMoon, though, the Mars One project seems to be for real, with scientists and financial backers supporting it.
The charade came to an end Thursday, when the IsraMoon Facebook page sported a subtle but important change – a message that read “with 130,000 apartments available (on WinWin), you don’t need to search for a home on the moon.”
The purpose of the campaign, Winwin CEO Yuval Atad said in a statement, was twofold — first, to show potential advertisers and home sellers the site’s savvy in online marketing, and second, to draw attention to the fact that, despite what many perceive to be a shortage of affordable housing in Israel, Winwin has tens of thousands of units available for every price range.
According to the statement, the campaign drew inquiries from thousands of people, and several hundred tried to sign up using the form on the IsraMoon site (which has since been taken down). Atad said the campaign was far more successful than he had hoped, and he commended Israelis for their sense of humor.
“If nothing else,” Atad said, “we got people talking” about the possibilities of living on the moon.