(yes, sung to the tune of “It’s beginning to look a lot like…”)
Of being an alien.
Stranger in a strange land.
“Tis the season, after all. Yes, I can mock the consumerism of the season and be grateful that I do not need to fall into that trap. Oh but I have to buy some Hanukkah presents (or is it gifts? unclear)! And birthday presents! And that’s on sale! And that’s so nice! And
But yet I will avoid malls at all costs (literally). I do not enjoy Christmas music worming its way into my psyche.
Okay, good. Just bought a birthday present for our soon-to-be 10 year-old granddaughter from Macy’s. No waiting. No muzak. Hope it looks as nice in person. But what does the ad say? Not having to…? Priceless!
Here’s the original impetus for this post, the recipe for a savory kugel, a throw-in for “Jewish” food in the midst of the season’s best. What can I say? Awkward at best, so limited at the middle, and I won’t even bother to say what I’m really thinking about it.
Don’t get me wrong–I can appreciate a lot about the season and I do like all the white lights (not the red and green; maybe something clicks in me that that can’t be right; go and stop at the same time), but still, it’s not mine.
We have 2 children born in December; 3 grandchildren. We’re a very Hanukkah-centric family. And when we’re in Israel for this period, we’re very very happy. But this year we’re not going to be. We’re going to be here and there, going from wedding to wedding. Hopefully, we’ll get a little bit more than a glimpse of the kiddies, also. But because all of our kids and kiddies are now not in Israel, we can’t justify a trip there, neither financially or timely.
But I always have Israel in mind and in heart–it is a cornerstone of my Jewish identity. So I was captivated by the brouhaha over the Israel campaign to win back ex-Israelis to Israel. In case you weren’t aware, here’s a bit about it from Ha’aretz (so already so nuanced):
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to discontinue acontroversial Immigration and Absorption Ministry campaign in the United States aimed at convincing expatriate Israelis to return, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Friday.
The campaign, which warns Israelis that if they continue to live in the United States, they or their children are likely to become assimilated, has raised the ire of American Jewish groups.
Over the past few days, as several columnists began to take critical note of the campaign, some Jewish leaders began to protest.
“We find these videos heavy-handed, and even demeaning,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL. “While we appreciate the rationale behind the Israeli government’s appeal to its citizens living in the U.S. to return to Israel, we are concerned that some may be offended by what the video implies about American Jewry.”
Here’s what Jeffrey Goldberg said. I think he’s the “several columnists” mentioned above.
I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads. I understand the impulse behind them: Israel wants as many of its citizens as possible to live in Israel. This is not an abnormal desire. But the way it is expressed, in wholly negative terms, is somewhat appalling. How about, “Hey, come back to Israel, because our unemployment rate is half that of the U.S.’s”? Or, “It’s always sunny in Israel”? Or, “Hey, Shmulik, your mother misses you”?
These government-sponsored ads suggest that it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America. How else are we supposed to understand the “Christmas” ad? Obviously, assimilation and intermarriage are issues in America in ways they aren’t in Israel. Israel has other problems of course, such as the fact that many of its rabbis act like Iranian mullahs. (I’m not even going to try to unpack my complicated beliefs about intermarriage and assimilation and life in the Diaspora here; that’s for a book. But let me just say that intermarriage can also be understood as an opportunity.)
The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don’t mind me resorting to the vernacular). The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.
Really, Jeffrey? Are you that sensitive?
I don’t know. I think this one is pretty effective. This is the only one that hasn’t been pulled yet, but we’ll see how long that lasts.