Did you hear about Israel’s latest plan to polish its image for the American public?
Yes, you heard that right.
The Israeli government and other pro-Israeli groups recently commissioned Maxim magazine to fly a camera crew across the Atlantic to photograph good-looking women in an effort to remake the Jewish state's public image. These photographs would become part of PR campaign to help correct Israel’s tarnished image in the eyes of Americans.
You see, Israel's reputation had suffered after last summer's war with Lebanon. Newsweek reports, that in a recent BBC poll taken in 27 countries, 56 percent of respondents considered Israel a “negative influence” in the world, higher than both Iran and the United States. But Israel's real PR problem, according to David Saranga, an official from the Israeli consul based in New York, is that Americans—particularly men aged 18 to 35—either associate the country with war or holy relics, or don't think of it at all. “We have to find the right hook,” he says. “And what's relevant to men under 35? Good-looking women.” Saranga insists his campaign is just smart niche marketing. “You have to match the message to the audience,” the diplomat says.
It just makes you want to cry.
Israel – the Holy Land – is being sold as a land of flesh and skin instead of a land of milk and honey; a land of bodies instead of a land of souls. Historically, Israel has always been the world’s spiritual center. It is the birthplace of faith; the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The entire Biblical story is around the Promised Land: From the early promises to the patriarchs, through the terrible Egyptian bondage, through the hardships of the 40 year wandering in the Sinai Wilderness – the entire journey from the beginning of Abraham to the end of the Bible and beyond – is all a yearning to reach the Promised Land.
With Jerusalem at its center, Israel is considered to be the holiest place on earth. The sages tell us that all our prayers elevate to heaven via Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The greatest events in history took place on this mountain: It is the spot from where Adam was created; where Noah brought his offering; Abraham bound Isaac; Jacob had his famous dream, the place where the Holy Temple stood – – the Holy of Holies; the area that till today remains the center for billions of people. All the major religions trace their roots to Israel, and Jerusalem as their holy city. How many wars have been fought over control of Jerusalem for the last three millennia? Now, this spiritual vortex, source of all the world’s spiritual beliefs, is being rendered into a… flesh-peddler.
How could this be? How is this possible? How could the Israeli leadership be so patently callous and blind to the nature of their Holy Land?
Will this elicit respect from Americans and the world, not to mention the Muslims who worship the sanctity of Israel?!
Did anyone in the Israeli ivory tower ever consider that maybe, just maybe, the United States and the world looks to Israel and the Jewish people as a source of faith, G-dliness, spirituality and moral direction?
Maybe that’s why Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has a lower approval rating than the margin of error: 3% (sic).
The spiritual and moral corruption to which the Israeli leadership has fallen is simply staggering. The saddest part of it all is that its unintentional: These leaders are so out of touch with the reality of the Holy Land – due to their lack of education, political corruption, backlash to bankrupt religious dogma, or other factors – that they simply are unaware of the strength and power of the Promised Land.
But the good news is that when things become so terribly distorted, when flesh is so blatantly juxtaposed over faith, it brings to the fore the stark contrast between the holiness of the land and the depravity of those controlling its destiny.
When you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up.
What would Israel look like with a proud spiritual leader? If in Israel today arose a leader with deep faith and profound vision – someone carrying the spirit of the patriarch Abraham – what impact would it have on Israel’s Muslim neighbors? How would that affect the region?
Perhaps these are the questions that Israel’s latest “flesh” campaign should be provoking?
As we celebrate faith during this Passover holiday, we certainly have our hands (minds and hearts) full with questions challenging the nature and future of the Divine, and the role it plays in our lives: How do we rediscover faith today, both here and the Holy Land? What is the true nature of Israel and its contribution to society? What is healthy faith and how can it be a force that overshadows the distractions of materialism?
What will be the right hook to capture the hearts and souls of Americans and the world to appreciate the virtues of Israel? Will it be flesh or faith?
“We have to find the right hook.” Indeed.
A Jew praying in the Israeli city of Sefad