New Video Sells Israel Aliyah Fantasy to American Jews

Israel: where the girls are hot, the tech jobs are plentiful, and no-one ever wastes precious minutes deliberating which toothpaste to buy. Read More

By / September 10, 2014

Israel is trying to sell aliyah to young Americans with a “hip” new humorous advertisement. Yesterday, the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption released a video pitch on YouTube more reminiscent of a deodorant commercial than high-minded Zionist ideals. Think Old Spice, not Herzl.

As Haviv Rettig Gur reports in The Times of Israel, around 2,000 Americans make the big move each year—same as 20 years ago. With pressure from the Israeli government to increase those numbers, this commercial attempts to make Israel appealing to Americans not by way of ideology, long-standing heritage, or by introducing Israeli culture to Americans, but instead by promoting the things that make America appealing to Jewish Americans: well paid tech and medical jobs, and (if you live in Florida or California at least) beautiful beaches.

The campaign does have one interesting angle: the promise of a free education “on Uncle Shmuel’s tab.” With debate in the U.S. raging over growing economic inequality, student debt, and the need for more affordable education, this is the most convincing selling point.

But that seems to be the one redeeming quality of a commercial that, while sort of enjoyable to watch (if only for the actor’s amusing facial expressions) doesn’t say much about actual, day-to-day life in Israel. Obviously that’s impossible to elucidate in a 90-second clip, but if it weren’t for commanding-voice-over-guy explaining the wonders of Israel, the visuals could have been promoting immigration to just about any other Mediterranean locale.

Then there’s the obviously male-dominated focus: for a few seconds, our tall, vaguely Semitic hero reclines on the beach alongside a sexy female companion. “Shabbat Shalom!” he cries, as she whispers sweet Hebrew nothings in his ear. Later he sits astride a camel (buffeting a matkot ball with a paddle) next to woman who does precisely nothing. Anyone who makes aliyah with the expectation that Israeli women will serve as their props is living in a fantasy land.

And that, really, is exactly what this commercial is selling: a fantasy. But, like Americans, most Israelis will still marry, start a family and spend 40 percent of their day at work. Some will even have to choose between different toothpaste brands, especially with all that milk and honey flying about.

(Image: YouTube)

Zachary Schrieber is a graduate of Hunter College and is currently an intern with Tablet Magazine. You can find him on Twitter at @zschrieber.