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    Public relations among the nations – Vayyiggash

    How does the haftarah end? With a fine example of the art of public relations.

    When the tribes of Israel are united in the land of Israel, “the nations shall know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever” (Ezek. 37:28).

    “The nations shall know”… clearly it matters that the nations get the right message, and that’s public relations. So much depends on the perception. It’s important to give a positive image.

    There are so many Biblical precedents. When God wanted to destroy the people of Israel after they had sinned, Moses urged Him to consider the public relations aspect of His plan.

    What would the nations say? That “It was because You could not bring them in to the Promised Land that You put an end to them in the wilderness” (Num. 14:16, Deut. 9:28; see also Ex. 32:12).

    When Israel seemed to be wavering in their commitment to the commandments, Moses told them that if they observed the Divine will the nations would respect them and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (Deut. 4:6).

    The Psalmist often pleads with God to bear in mind what the nations will say: “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?'” (Psalm 79:10, 115:2).

    In halachic decision-making, public relations should also be borne in mind, according to Rav Soloveitchik, who was concerned about the image which a particular decision expressed in a particular way might give of the orthodox rabbinate (not that a decision would be shelved for the sake of PR alone, but the timing, context and phraseology had to take note of the perception of outsiders).

    Today, as often before, Israel’s PR (called in Hebrew hasbarah) is a crucial concern. This is not the first time the media – and international leaders – have decided to demonise Israel. Hostile perceptions of Israel tell us more about the critics than about the Middle East – but there is still a problem.

    Israel seems to have serious deficiencies in its public relations policies and machinery, and it does not help to say, “The world will not love us even if our PR is perfect!”

    At the very least there should be a clear policy that no Israeli spokesman will be let loose unless he or she is totally fluent in the language of the country concerned. For us that means absolute mastery of English. It also means that Jewish PR professionals in many countries should be recruited in an official or unofficial capacity to assist.

    “Why should the nations say…” that Israel cannot articulate a positive case?

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