Complaints by Russian-speaking immigrants prompted an
ultra-Orthodox party in Israel to pull a TV commercial plugging
their election campaign which shows a man recoiling in horror
at discovering his bride is not Jewish.
In the advert, a Russian-accented bride receives a faxed
certificate during her wedding ceremony attesting to her
conversion to Judaism. With disgust in his voice, her Israeli
husband blurts out: "What, you're not Jewish?"
The controversy reflected long-standing tensions between the
religious Shas party, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu's government, whose core constituency is made up of
Jews of Middle Eastern or North African descent, and parties
representing immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
There are at least 2 million Russian-speaking immigrants in
Israel and hundreds of thousands do not meet Orthodox
standards for recognition as Jews.
Several immigrants complained about the commercial in letters
to the Israel Central Elections Committee and many more
posted protests on social media sites such.
Nino Abesadze, immigrant lawmaker and candidate for the
centrist Labour party, denounced the Shas advert in a notice
posted on her Facebook page as "racist and mocking of the
immigrants", and demanded it be taken off the air.
In a statement the committee said late on Wednesday (local
time) it had found the advert offensive and that Shas had
agreed not to run it anymore. The minute-long spot aired for
two nights in the run-up to the Jan. 22 parliamentary
Parties championing Russian-speaking immigrants such as the
far-right Yisrael Beitenu led by former Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman, want to simplify Jewish conversion
procedures in Israel controlled by the Orthodox Rabbinate.
Shas opposes this, as it does calls for civil marriage in
Israel. The Rabbinate, also in charge of marriage procedures,
issues marriage licences only to couples it deems Jewish
under ritual law.