Israel's Bizarre 'Jewish Mother' Ad Urges Expats to Return

Government TV commercial lacks rational reasoning, such as security, stability and hope; instead, it only says coming home 'feels right.'

I don’t know whether there is any other government in the world that embarks on a television campaign calling on citizens who have left it to come home. Maybe there is. Who knows, there are probably a few other crazy governments in the world. But for its part, the new campaign being launched by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry is asking Israelis to return – immediately.

In the commercial, broadcast on Israel's Channels 2 and 10, you see a photographer named Kfir Ziv. He says that 15 years ago he moved to New York. He apparently prospered there (“I opened a studio, I photographed a lot of celebrities, including [President George] Bush”), but in the end he came back to Israel.

Why did he return? Ziv explains: “My wife wanted very much to live in Israel and to raise our child in the Holy Land, close to family.” In other words, this great spokesman of Zionism, the representative of returning residents, came home because of his wife. Sounds like an episode of the Israeli sitcom “Ramzor” ("Traffic Light").

What is the personal explanation of Ziv as to why one should live in Israel and not in the Diaspora? “To be here in Israel and work here feels so right,” he says, and later sums up: “It feels natural to me that I returned home.”

In other words, Israel doesn’t really have anything to offer its citizens who abandoned it, except for “a feeling.”

The Absorption Ministry’s commercial does not offer an enticing basket of benefits to returning residents. It doesn’t tell us about business opportunities; the cheap prices of consumer goods; the pleasant weather; security; stability; hope; or separation between religion and state. No, there are no rational arguments proffered – there’s simply a feeling. Come home. There may be no reason, but it feels right.

Of course, there’s also a happy end: Today Kfir Ziv has a photography studio in Tel Aviv. “I am interested in doing the same thing [I did abroad] in Israel,” he says. “It's basically a challenge I set for myself.” In other words, being an Israeli citizen is an extreme sport.

At the end, you see Ziv being photographed together with all kinds of people who create the "family of Israel”: There’s an Ethiopian woman, a soldier, a kippah-wearer and a woman who seems to be of Russian origin. “We’re returning home,” it says on the screen, “completing the Israeli picture.” In other words, Zionism is a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder: If someone is missing in the picture it’s annoying to the eye.

The ministry's commercial reflects the attitude of the Polish Jewish mother who wants her son to come home. It doesn’t interest her whether he’s happy in the world outside, she doesn’t explain why he has to return. Just come home, because that’s what you should do.