Not All U.S. Jews Impressed With Israeli Comedy Show's Birthright Satire

Liel Leibovitz writes in 'Tablet Magazine' that Israel is taking out an inferiority complex on its 'soft-sucker' cousins from America.

An American writer lashed out Tuesday at Israel’s premier satirical television show, Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country), and accused Israel of having "self-destructive neuroses."

"Israel is growing unfunny with age", was the subtitle on the article, "Not Laughing at That Birthright Parody", by Liel Leibovitz, which was published by the Tablet Magazine on Jan. 31. The commentary came in response to a sketch by Eretz Nehederet that took on Taglit-Birthright Israel during its season premier last week.

Eretz Nehederet, Birthright
Channel 2

The program, known for mocking famous political leaders and providing Israelis with topical parodies of the weekly news, included a clip that follows a Birthright group as they travel by bus through Israel, playing largely on stereotypes of American Jews, and on the Israeli perception of American Jews as borderline fanatic Israel lovers.

"There’s a reason Israelis still find JAP jokes to be the height of comedy," wrote Liebovitz, "and it has nothing to do with Americans and everything to do with Israelis."

"Once upon a time, Israelis saw themselves as khaki-clad toughs, the sort of people who could hop on a plane and fly to Entebbe and free hostages and kick ass. This time was called the 1970s", he continued. "Since then, the same thing happened to Israel that happens to anyone who grows older and wealthier: It settled down, it got fat, it became better-known for its high-tech entrepreneurs than for its commandos."

"It doesn’t matter, Israelis tell themselves, that we’re no longer as invincible as we would like to believe we are, because these soft suckers, our cousins from America, are downright laughable", wrote Liebovitz.

The commentary took a jab at the Israeli pride in its army, claiming that "the majority" of Israel Defense Force soldiers work desk jobs, rather than taking on combatant roles, while using this as an excuse for being tough in comparison to Jews of their age in the Diaspora, who are busy spending four years in college.

Tanya Sapty

The author said the "dynamic" also explains the controversial ad campaign encouraging Israelis living in the U.S. to return "home", which caused a wave of criticism in November last year and was subsequently canceled.

Taglit-Birthright Israel had a somewhat different response to Eretz Nehederet's parody of its program, which sponsors free 10-day trips for Jews from across the world to tour Israel. Doron Karni, VP of International Marketing for Taglit-Birthright Israel said Taglit was "very pleased" to see that Eretz Nehederet, "the most prominent comedy television show in Israel, has put Taglit-Birthright Israel on the agenda as one of the most important programs in the Jewish world.” According to Karni, the parody is a testament to the way in which Taglit-Birthright Israel “has become so entwined in Israeli culture.”

The producers of the show, Keshet, responded by saying, "The sketch primarily reflects criticism of the Israeli society who takes advantage of the innocence and utter enthusiasm of these young Americans. We have received a lot of reactions from Taglit alumni who found the sketches extremely amusing."

Watch the clip by clicking here and skipping ahead to 39:50

Read this article in Hebrew.