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Pitching pitaPitching pita

Aliya ad touts Israel thrills over dull US

Irreverent attempt urges American Jews to trade in house, boring job and consumer abundance for chance to ride camels and yell in Hebrew

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Opening scene from Israeli Ministry of Absorption video ad aimed at young American Jews. (YouTube screenshot)
Opening scene from Israeli Ministry of Absorption video ad aimed at young American Jews. (YouTube screenshot)

Fed up with the overabundance of toothpaste options in American supermarkets? Tired of living up to upper middle class Jewish expectations and just plain making your mother proud?

Then why not come to Israel where you can let loose your inner sabra and grow a gross-looking patch of dark Zohan-like fur on your chest?

This is the slick message of a new video ad produced by LAPAM, the Israeli government’s advertising agency, at the behest of the Absorption Ministry.

Move to Israel, the irreverent ad implores, and soon enough you’ll be yelling at people to shut up in the movie theater, eating pita bread, snuggling up to beautiful beach bunnies, and playing matkot (Israeli paddle ball) while sitting astride a camel.

The ad traffics heavily in hackneyed cliches like American suburbia, hairy Israeli chests, and camel-riding.

But beneath the joking veneer is a serious appeal to young American Jews’ sense of adventure and a perceived sense that this segment of the population feels limited by the options that American Jewish life offers toward personal fulfillment.

The video gives a nod toward both the push and pull factors that play in to the decision to immigrate. The second half of the video obviously plays up the pull factors in a humorous, exaggerated way.

The first half of the ad seems to be trying to somehow turn the prosperous, safe life Jews have in North America into a negative, a factor that would push them to move to Israel.

Any potential immigrants convinced by the ad may get an early taste of Israeli disorganization, though, as the ad’s message for users interested in signing on to “click here” does not actually work as of Wednesday afternoon.

A quick survey of social media comments indicates that some viewers find the video funny, while others are angered by its insulting dismissal of vibrant Jewish religious and cultural life in America.

Still others think it demonstrates a level of tone deafness at the Absorption Ministry to release a video of this style so soon after the difficult summer of Operation Protective Edge.

This is not the first time the ministry has engendered controversy with an immigration appeal. In 2011, the government pulled ads calling on Israelis who left to return home or risk losing their heritage, after an outcry in the Diaspora.

Ultimately, the question is whether anyone will really consider too many toothpaste options, rather than religious persecution or economic hardship, a compelling reason to move to Israel.

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