Israeli Ads Warn against Marrying Non-Jews

‘Lost’ Youth in US Urged to Come to Jewish State

The Israeli government has launched a television and internet advertising campaign urging Israelis to inform on Jewish friends and relatives abroad who may be in danger of marrying non-Jews.

The advertisements, employing what the Israeli media described as “scare tactics”, are designed to stop assimilation through intermarriage among young diaspora Jews by encouraging their move to Israel.

The campaign, which cost $800,000, was created in response to reports that half of all Jews outside Israel marry non-Jews. It is just one of several initiatives by the Israeli state and private organisations to try to increase the size of Israel’s Jewish population.

According to one ad, voiced over by one of the country’s leading news anchors, assimilation is “a strategic national threat”, warning: “More than 50 per cent of diaspora youth assimilate and are lost to us.”

Adam Keller, of Gush Shalom, an Israeli peace group, said this was a reference both to a general fear in Israel that the Jewish people may one day disappear through assimilation and to a more specific concern that, if it is to survive, Israel must recruit more Jews to its “demographic war” against Palestinians.

The issue of assimilation has been thrust into the limelight by a series of surveys over several years carried out by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, a think-tank established in Jerusalem in 2002 comprising leading Israeli and diaspora officials.

The institute’s research has shown that Israel is the only country in the world with a significant Jewish population not decreasing in size. The decline elsewhere is ascribed both to low birth rates and to widespread intermarriage.

According to the institute, about half of all Jews in western Europe and the United States assimilate by intermarrying, while the figure for the former Soviet Jewry is reported to reach 80 per cent.

Israel, whose Jewish population of 5.6 million accounts for 41 per cent of worldwide Jewry, has obstructed intermarriage between its Jewish and Arab citizens by refusing to recognise such marriages unless they are performed abroad.

The advertising campaign is directed particularly at Jews in the United States and Canada, whose combined 5.7 million Jews constitute the world’s largest Jewish population. Most belong to the liberal Reform stream of Judaism that, unlike Orthodoxy, does not oppose intermarriage.

One-third of Jews in the diaspora are believed to have relatives in Israel.

According to the campaign’s organisers, more than 200 Israelis rang a hotline to report names of Jews living abroad after the first TV advertisement was run on Wednesday. Callers left details of email addresses and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The 30-second clip featured a series of missing-person posters on street corners, in subways and on telephone boxes showing images of Jewish youths above the word “Lost” in different languages. A voiceover asks anyone who “knows a young Jew living abroad” to call the hotline. “Together, we will strengthen their connection to Israel, so that we don’t lose them.”

The campaign supports a government-backed programme, Masa, that subsidises stays and courses in Israel of up to one year in a bid to persuade Jews to immigrate and become citizens. About 8,000 diaspora Jews attend its programme each year.

The government has been trying to develop Masa alongside a rival programme, Birthright Israel, which brings nearly 20,000 diaspora youngsters to Israel each year on sponsored 10-day trips to meet Israeli soldiers and visit sites in Israel and the West Bank promoted as important to the Jewish people.

Although Birthright is regarded as useful in encouraging a positive image of Israel, officials fear it has only a limited effect on attracting its mainly North American participants to move to Israel. Many regard it as an all-paid holiday.

Differences in the approach of the two programmes were underlined in July when a Birthright director, Shlomo Lifshittz, resigned and moved to Masa after telling the Israeli media he had been forbidden from urging Birthright participants to migrate to Israel and shun intermarriage.

In launching the campaign, Masa’s chief executive, Ayelet Shilo-Tamir, warned that assimilation worldwide was putting Jews “on the verge of negative growth”.

Masa officials said young Jews who participate in their projects strengthened their Jewish identity and were more likely to become politically and socially active on behalf of Israel-related issues.

The campaign quickly provoked a storm of debate on Jewish blog sites, especially in the United States, with some terming it “divisive” and an insult to Jewish offspring of intermarriage. A link to Masa’s “Lost” campaign had been dropped from the front page of its website yesterday, possibly in response to the backlash.

The campaign will probably strike a chord in Israel, however, where a poll in 2007 found that 46 per cent of Israeli Jews believed all Jews should live in Israel because it was “the only way Israel and the Jewish people will be strengthened”.

That position has been echoed by Israel’s leaders, though most have been careful not to upset the delicate balance of relations with diaspora communities.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon was widely regarded as having overstepped those bounds in 2004 during a visit to France when he urged French Jews to come to Israel because France was experiencing “the spread of the wildest anti-semitism”.

Sharon had been outspoken in wanting one million Jews to immigrate to Israel to counter a “demographic threat” from the rapid growth of the Palestinian populations in both Israel and the occupied territories. Numerical parity between Jews and Palestinians living in the region is expected to be reached within a decade.

That theme has been picked up by his successors, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu.

There is growing concern in Israel that immigration rates have steadily declined since a large wave of one million Jews arrived from the former Soviet Union through the 1990s. The absorption figure for last year – at 16,500 – was the lowest since the 1980s. It is also believed that there is a growing trend of better-off Jews leaving Israel to live abroad, though figures are not publicised.

Mr Keller, of Gush Shalom, said few Jews in the United States or Europe, the main target of the campaign, needed to come to Israel for material reasons. “They come from ideological motives, and many of them are right-wing nationalists who can be encouraged to settle in the West Bank.”

The Israeli government and various organisations subsidise the immigration of diaspora Jews to Israel.

Last year the Jewish Agency handed over responsibility for locating new immigrants to Nefesh B’Nefesh, a private organisation that promotes a dozen settlements in the West Bank on its website, including hardline communities such as Kedumim, near Nablus, and Efrat, near Bethlehem.

“Last week Israeli TV showed a group of immigrants arriving in Israel to go to Efrat,” said Mr Keller. “They were shown being greeted at the airport by a large clapping crowds of Israelis waving flags in support.”

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on September 7th, 2009 at 11:41am #

    What a beautiful example of just how desperate Israel is getting! Music to Palestinian ears!

  2. brian said on September 7th, 2009 at 1:10pm #

    only the zionist entity could get away with this policy, and not be keel-hauled in the media.

  3. MEBOSA RITCHIE said on September 7th, 2009 at 2:13pm #

    brian,so true
    saudi arabia,iran,afghanistan,somalia and all the other muslim theocracies get hammered in the western media but the jewish/zionist state gets a free ride

  4. David said on September 7th, 2009 at 3:17pm #

    Man, oh man. What a screwed up country Israel is. Then again, it could only be thus given racist zionism, its founding ideology. This item reminds me of how the Nazis did everything possible to prevent so-called Ayrians from marrying other outside of their tribe. No wonder the term “little Nazis” is increasingly heard in reference to Jewish Israelis. What a collosal mess!!! Israel, the “Jewish state” has 15 years at most. Finally, the world and Jews will be free of the curse of zionism.

  5. brian said on September 7th, 2009 at 3:59pm #

    This is what happens when you spoil and indulge a child…you create a brat

  6. United-Socialist-Front said on September 7th, 2009 at 10:14pm #


    most USA voters are too fucking dumb, that’s why Ron Paul gets so litte %, because of the fucking stupidity, illiteracy and fucking dumbness in this fucking society

    yeah indeed, Ron Paul, even though a capitalist, he is a protectionist-nationalist-reformist like Peron of Argentina, which would not be a bad option for USA. at least he is more socialist, than Obama. he is right in that Israel has 300 atomic bombs and can kill us all. Israel is an evil nation !!


  7. Ronald said on September 8th, 2009 at 5:53am #

    Thumbs up Israel! I wish my own government refused to recognize marriages between Judeo-Christian and Muslim citizens (unless they are performed abroad).

  8. B99 said on September 8th, 2009 at 6:24pm #

    Mebosa – The United States is the land of out-marriage. Early on it was Dutch marrying English or Scots, later it was German Catholics marrying Irish Catholics. And then it became a free for all among whites – Jews Included – and now we find that out-marriage rates show that Americans marry black-white, white-Hispanic, Asian-Hispanic, etc., and whatever. So out-marriage in the US is not an issue. And it should not be for secular US Jews either. That’s why half of American Jews out-marry (as does the one who marries a Jew). That is their choice. And there is no problem. Because an observant Jew in the US will always marry another observant Jew. That’s your target audience. The rest are free to out-marry – it’s the American way.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 8th, 2009 at 7:19pm #

    B99, I remember linking to a ranting Jufdeofascist website once, where the resident ‘Rabbi’ was raving about all the ‘precious Jewish souls’ being lost to outmarriage in the ‘United States of Amalek’. As you know, for the Judaic fundamentalists ‘them’s fightin’ words, varmint’, or should I say ‘killin’ words’. You see it’s that old problem, not widely enough appreciated, that for a proportion of Jews, probably growing, at least inside Israel, the nonsense about a ‘Chosen People’ is believed literally, not metaphorically, just as Rabbi Kook the Elder, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel meant when he said that ‘There is a greater difference between the soul of a Jew and a non-Jew…than there is between the soul of a non-Jew and the soul of an animal’. I suspect golem mebosa thinks along similar lines. I’d be interested to know if I am wrong in this belief.

  10. b99 said on September 10th, 2009 at 7:14am #

    Mulga – I think Mebosa has made it clear that he believes the Jewish soul is more precious than that of the gentile. That is why he believes Jews are entitled to all of Palestine – and likely then some.

  11. mary said on September 10th, 2009 at 7:55am #

    A letter in the Morning Star from my brother relating to Uri Avnery’s recent article and a comment thereon.

    ‘The world sitting on its hands’

    I write in support of John Wight’s letter ‘A human tragedy that transcends race’ (M Star September 2)

    Mr Avnery writes comfortable words about the barbarous treatment of the native population of Palestine. They convey little of the great suffering of the resilient and courageous Palestinian people.

    As John Wight says, Avnery is proposing no more than the preservation of the status quo. Stand at Rafah with one’s back to the wall of steel piles and view the Warsaw of 1943. The facades of those few buildings which remain standing are pock marked by thousands upon thousands of bullets and cannon shells, hatred in every one. The mound over there! My friend, a lecturer in English at the Islamic University of Gaza was given thirty minutes to leave in April 2004 with his wife and six children before it was shelled in the dead of night. He excelled in his PhD thesis here in Britain but now he and his family are ‘stateless’ whilst the source of their misery moves slowly with a visa extension. They flew to Cairo a month ago but were not allowed into the Gaza concentration camp by the Egyptian quislings, so back they were sent. These are but pinpricks of the terrible torment our sisters and brothers suffer in the remnants of Palestine.

    Avnery fought for Zionism and is a Zionist. The Morning Star stands against colonialism and it should find no place for a most vicious example of colonialism.

    Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions are starting to work. Moral pressure is vital. We must know ‘Israel’ is not a state; statehood was dependent upon its observation of Resolution 194 – ‘return’. We remember the Jewish Holocaust but also the holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the North American Indian, the Slave Trade, the near extinction of the Australian Aborigine and others.

    David Halpin
    Newton Abbot

    [John Wight from Edinburgh had written –

    A human tragedy that transcends race
    Wednesday 02 September 2009

    Uri Avnery’s analysis of the international boycott campaign against Israel (M Star August 30) made for a disappointing and demoralising read.

    In every article, speech, or statement against the boycott, at least those written or made by well-meaning people, it’s always revealing to hear their proposed alternative. In Mr Avnery’s case, this boils down to the world sitting on its hands waiting for the US government to come to the rescue with a yet another comprehensive peace plan and proposal for yet another attempt at a two-state solution.

    Sadly, such faith in what has already been tried and failed, such belief in any US government playing the role of honest broker when it comes to this issue, reveals nothing except the author’s own pessimism.

    The US government, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, is the sponsor of their oppressor. To suggest that they and the world should relinquish the struggle and instead place their hopes in the kind of passivity that Mr Avnery seems to be suggesting is simply ludicrous.

    If lessons are to be learned from the horrors of the Holocaust then surely the key one is that it must be treated as a human tragedy which transcends religion, race and ethnicity.

    The boycott campaign continues at the request of the Palestinians themselves, who year on year grow ever more desperate, who year on year continue to hang on to their history, culture, land and dignity by a shred.

    No two struggles are the same. But international solidarity, whether in Spain in the 1930s, the struggle against apartheid South Africa or support of the Palestinians, will always be the last great hope in the struggle for human progress.

    John Wight

  12. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on September 10th, 2009 at 8:57am #

    Like in any interethnic or interethnic-intercultish conflict, i see only three solutions for such conflicts: humane to a degree, political, and military.
    Unfortunately for the european multiethnic cult, it chose solely a military ‘solution’
    And since much of the world now rejects that ‘solution’ or the first tsunami that hit palestine and now causing endless odious waves and ripples of evil doing, the multiethnicity, armed with a perilous cult not only to self but also to others, laments rejection of initial tsunamy and waves upon waves of multiethno-cultish crimes.

    Nevertheless, a s’mwhat win-win result still appears posible. Possibly 90% of the world wants it. But the world that matters the most [because of its power]; the christo-talmudic crowd appear only to want to obtain a win-loss result.

    Yet, eventually, the multiethnic and cultish aggregation may be the biggest losers. It certainly won’t be world plutos; most of which hate all cults except moneysm!
    go figure! tnx

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 11th, 2009 at 6:04pm #

    mary, they are fine letters. Zionist intransigence and vengefulness will be their downfall, if we are lucky. However we must never forget that we are dealing with people who through their millenia of deliberate separation, their tribal ideology of supremacy over all peoples and the horrors inflicted on them , have constructed a group consciousness in many ways deeply antipathetic to non-Jews and paranoid in the extreme. I think it absolutely vital to encourage non-fascist Jews to resist the Talibanisation of Israel. They face great pressures from within Jewish society for standing up for decency, but unless Jewish society repairs itself from within, we are all in deep trouble. The Jews are in an even worse situation today than the Germans were in 1945. They haven’t been defeated. Their fascist Judaic Reich has lasted sixty years, not thirteen, is still, relentlessly, expanding, and sits atop a global empire of arms trafficking, drug running, money laundering and all-round chicanery, all furiously denied. Their fifth columnists and dual loyalists control the US polity totally, and those of the other Western states to large degree. The amazing process of Judaising society continues apace, with the Judaic Holocaust becoming a sort of civil religion, while all other genocides, massacres and hecatombs are relegated to history, or denied out of existence. At this moment when, armed to the teeth with thermo-nuclear weapons, immune to international law, controlling the West , reaping the dividends of billions in US tribute and their own ‘entrepreneurial’ pillage, leading a Western crusade to destroy the Islamic states of the Middle East and in open contempt of international civilised opinion, Israel bestrides the world like a colossus, its real enemy must be hubris. I don’t think that the world has ever before seen a situation where one tiny country and small tribe so dominates human affairs, and in such negative manner. Israel’s downfall, I suspect, will be its absolutism, its total refusal to compromise with a world it sees as its inferior, in particular the ‘two-legged Palestinian animals. The prospects for the future, given Israel’s worsening social-religious fanaticism, Western cowardice and appeasement of this tendency and the increasing instability of a world order built on violent brutality, fill me with horror.