One such "Jews-for-Sale" infomercial dumbfounded a Harvard blogger:
[T]onight I am really confused. Sitting here in a hotel in rural Georgia, I came across an infomercial for the "International Fellowship of Christians and Jews" (in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel). For at least a half an hour, the program urged Christian viewers to donate money to help Russian Jews emigrate to Israel: "$350 for one Jew, $700 for a couple" was the frequent refrain. (www.wingsofeagles.tv) ("Late Night TV's Strange Bedfellows," RF Modulator, July 12, 2004)According to Ruth Conniff, prizes are offered for Christians who pledge to buy Jews for Israel: "As in a fund drive for public television, the evangelists were giving out prizes to viewers who called up to pledge. In this case, the premium was a genuine shofar" ("Public Piety," The Progressive, March 2003). The wackiness of the show beggars description, even in the able hands of the veteran journalist: "An enthusiastic evangelical Christian dressed as King David in a gold crown played a harp and sang Hebrew songs in front of the Western Wall. A Jews for Jesus couple in Florida sat in a living room crammed with Stars of David, loaves of challah, and various Jewish tchotchkes, reading Christian Bible verses" (Conniff, March 2003). Notwithstanding the wackiness of its infomercials, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews claims to have "contributed over $100 million in recent years toward Jewish immigration, resettlement and social welfare projects in Israel" (International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, "A History of Helping"), and it counts Joe Lieberman among its pitchmen:
The image is jarring: Sen. Joseph Lieberman, presidential candidate, appears on an infomercial asking Evangelical Christians to donate money to "rescue a Jew." "'On Wings of Eagles' is a modern-day fulfillment of Biblical prophesy," the voiceover in the infomercial says, over images of huddled Russian Jews at the airport, smiling as they presumably wait to leave Russia for Israel.To the disappointment of Christian Zionists, American Jewry (like overlapping categories of Blacks, Arabs, Muslims, Queers, and the poor) once again resoundingly -- three to one -- rejected George W. Bush. To their delight, Bush got re-selected anyway. Besides, End-Time Christians, who are eager to "save" Jews for Israel, have many friends on both sides of the aisle, if not among ordinary Jewish Americans.
The half-hour appeal aired on the afternoon of Jan. 2 on Paxson Broadcasting (PAX) stations across the nation (locally on WHPX, channel 26), according to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), the Chicago-based nonprofit that paid for the spot. Alongside Lieberman, testimonials come from stars of the Christian Right, including convicted Watergate felon Charles Colson, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, and Moral Majority head Jerry Falwell.
Critics of the Christian Right say the IFCJ's appeal to "prophesy" in their infomercial is a thinly veiled reference to Armageddon, the Second Coming of Christ and the moment when nonbelievers -- Jews included -- will be cast into the lake of fire. Jewish critics of the IFCJ say the group demeans the dignity of Jews.
Yet from 1994 to 1999, Lieberman, who on Monday announced his bid for the presidency, served as co-chair of one of IFCJ's projects, the Washington-based Center for Jewish and Christian Values.
Lieberman's long association with the IFCJ is, if not a secret, a little-known detail of his biography. No examination of it was made during Lieberman's bid for the vice presidency in 2000. The secular, mainstream press has taken no notice. (Edward Ericson, Jr., "What About Those End Times, Mr. President? Sen. Joe Lieberman Announces his Candidacy, But Not His Association with Lunatic Fringe of Biblical Prophecy," Hartford Advocate, January 16, 2003)
Here are a couple of little known facts. Many of the best-educated Russian Jews that Zionists (the majority of whom are End-Time Christians rather than Jews) "saved" for Israel have sought to use it as a stepping stone to "America, Canada or other Western countries" or even gone back to Russia itself because of "high unemployment and a stagnant economy" as well as "the fear of terrorism" in the Holy Land. A more ironic paradox is that only one third of the Russians "saved" for Israel are Jewish and some of the non-Jewish Russians who made "Aliyah" to Israel turned out to be anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and even Holocaust deniers who hate both Jews and Arabs!
One million Russians have arrived in Israel since 1990, making them the country's largest group of immigrants, but poor employment prospects and the fear of terrorism has led to many deciding to return home.According to Chris McGreal of the Guardian, the White Israeli Union has a long list of enemies, which "include Jews, Arabs, foreign workers and, tellingly, immigrants from Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union," and "encourages readers to join an Israeli army combat unit to kill Arabs" (emphasis added, "Israel Checks Out Website Run by Russian Racists," June 25, 2003).
Sitting in her Tel Aviv flat, Irena flicked through photographs of dancers wearing brightly coloured costumes. "I made all these," she said.
"But nobody here cares about your professional skills. Israelis just see Russians as people who have come over to clean their houses, look after old people or sweep the streets."
These days Irena mends clothes for a living but she was once chief designer at the Palace of Culture in Sochi, Russia's most famous Black Sea resort.
The town was badly affected by the rouble crash in 1998 so Irena went to Israel with 16 members of her family.
Now, 12 of them, including her husband, have already returned home.
Sochi is enjoying a revival with 6 million tourists each summer, and Irena's husband has already opened his second restaurant there.
By contrast Israel faces high unemployment and a stagnant economy.
Irena is also nervous about suicide bomb attacks, and worries about her son in the army. When he finishes his military service she plans to go back to Russia.
"I do not know why the government encouraged us to emigrate in the first place," she said.
"They promised us a beautiful future, but life here is pretty tough, and they should have warned us about that."
Vita Martinova, a journalist for the Russian language weekly Novosti Nedeli, said: "Russians want to be more prosperous. They want more money, better cars and good jobs.
"Now they are finding that Russia offers better opportunities for them."
A study released this year says that at least 50,000 Russians returned from Israel from 2001 to 2003.
According to Eliezer Feldman, a sociologist in Tel Aviv, there are three distinct categories of new Israeli citizens returning to Russia and the former Soviet Union.
In the first group there are people like Irena who had great expectations but were disappointed.
If they were lucky enough to find work, their larger earnings in Israel were wiped out by the higher costs of living there.
So they return to the relative security of a low-rent apartment in a provincial town in Russia or one of the ex-Soviet republics.
The second group said Feldman is made up of people who saw Israel as a stepping-stone to a third country.
Refused access to America, Canada or other Western countries and unable to adjust to life in Israel, these people often end up back home.
Sasha Danilov, who has been successful in Israel, belongs to the third group of people leaving the country.
He arrived aged 18 from St Petersburg with nothing but a guitar and one small suitcase. At first he worked nights in the airport as a porter and studied during the day.
Seven years later he had his own hi-tech consultancy firm. Now though he has closed his Tel Aviv office because he and his girlfriend are off to Novosibirsk.
Sasha sees Siberia as his exit strategy from Israel's economic crisis. "There is huge potential there and I am hoping to sell Israeli technology to new markets. I want to act as a bridge between the two countries."
Sasha is just one of a new breed of Russian speaking Israelis with Western know-how and a globalised outlook who are in high demand across the former Soviet Union.
Anton Nosik is another. He said he simply outgrew the Israeli market and went back to Moscow in 1997 to open several internet news sites.
"In Russia there are more than 14 million internet users compared to just 2.2 million in Israel.
"Israel is a beautiful country but it feels parochial. And if you have not gone to the right school or university it is hard to get promoted beyond a certain level," he said.
Yuri Shtern, one of the 12 Russian members of the Knesset, recognises the problem and said Russians are under represented in Israel's public sector.
He wants to bring in a positive discrimination law to put more Russians in the top jobs.
"I am deeply unhappy with this trend because I think we are losing some of our best and brightest people," he said.
People from the former Soviet Union are still coming to Israel but they tend to be far less educated than the Russians who are leaving.
Moreover only one third of the latest wave of immigrants is Jewish according to religious law. Under the Law of Return anyone with a Jewish grandparent may seek Israeli citizenship.
Some worry that aggressive recruitment drives by the Jewish Agency, responsible for bringing immigrants to Israel, is persuading the wrong kinds of people to emigrate.
Zalman Gilichensky, a teacher from Jerusalem, claimed that people with very distant Jewish roots and even anti-Semites are being encouraged to move to Israel.
He said he has evidence of more than 500 outbreaks of anti-Semitism over the past year and he has set up a website to monitor them.
The incidents include swastika graffiti on the walls of synagogues, and verbal and physical abuse.
"The only way to stop these attacks is to change our immigration policy," Mr Gilichensky said. "It does not bother me that some non Jews come here.
"But I cannot see why we are importing people who hate our guts. Would-be immigrants should have to prove they know something of our history and respect our customs.
"But the government has done its best to sweep all this anti-Semitism under the carpet because these attacks are so damaging to the image of Israel."
Nevertheless the Israeli Attorney General launched a criminal investigation into a neo-Nazi website which called itself the White Israeli Union, after pictures appeared of a man in an Israeli army uniform with his arm raised in a "Heil Hitler" salute.
But since then, other Russian language websites with similar content have appeared, with tasteless jokes about Jewish people and Holocaust denials. (emphasis added, Lucy Ash, "Israel Faces Russian Brain Drain," Crossing Continents, BBC Radio 4, November 25, 2004)