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Judah Maccabee and Israel’s Visual Hammer

December 6, 2012 7:21 pm 0 comments

Israel's 5th Iron Dome battery. Photo: MOD.

Oh those wacky ancient Greeks and their short little, flimsy togas. They tried bullying us Jews through their surrogates, the Syrian Greeks, back in 168 B.C.E., but our big bad Judah Maccabee beat them to a pulp.

Outnumbered and outgunned The Hebrew Hammer (Judah) outsmarted them with a rallying cry that united and inspired thousands to take up arms in the battle to save Judaism by out-maneuvering the bigger, better equipped Greek army. In what could have been the end of Judaism it was saved by one man and his family who made a difference to the future of the world. After capturing Jerusalem and rededicating the Temple, the miracle of light that’s Chanukah, was lit and lasts into the present.

Today’s Israel still carries the torch lit by Judah and protects itself militarily with both brawn and brains via advanced weapons systems like the Iron Dome and David’s Sling to blast rockets out of the sky. Their names even harken back to the ancient biblical stories. At the same time, high-tech ingenuity brings innovations in science and healthcare to the global environment creating a stronger, smarter planet for all humanity.

With Operation Pillar of Defense עמוד ענן (“Amud Anan,” or “Pillar of Cloud”) it too has an etymology from the bible (Exodus), referencing the cloud that guided the Israelites in the desert and shielding them from enemies who might do them harm.

Yet much of today’s air war is fought on the airwaves where Israel gets bashed on the mainstream news networks, newspapers and of course cable news from CNN to MSNBC to thousands of blogs.

As powerful and as strong as Israel’s muscular military hammers are, it’s their visual hammer that – in a sick/twisted way – brands them as the bully. It’s what writer Melanie Philips made clear in her book, “The World Turned Upside Down.” As it pertains to Israel she writes…

“What is unique about the treatment of Israel is that a conflict subjected to an unprecedented level of scrutiny should be presented in such a way as to drive out truth and rationality. History is turned on its head; facts and falsehoods, victims and victimizers are reversed; logic is suspended, and a fictional narrative is now widely accepted as incontrovertible truth.”

But what can help this? Israel clearly is in possession of the more powerful military hammer. No, the problem is one of “narrative.” And that’s quite a different battle – one of the mind.

In today’s fractured, multimedia landscape with millions of verbal messages flying around, it’s the visual image that possesses the greater firepower. The image of an Arab holding a dead baby, will whip ’round the world several hundred times, before a word is typed explaining that it’s a fake.

In the world of marketing, where owing a share in the mind is key, the visual hammer is one of the most powerful branding weapons ever devised. A long time ago, branding was about owning a word in the mind. The best way into the mind today, as Laura Ries espouses, is with visuals. Visuals carry an emotional power that words today can’t compete with. Here are a few examples from the world of brands that effectively use a visual hammer.

The Marlboro Cowboy: The world’s bestselling cigarette owns 43% of the U.S. Market. But it’s not just the cowboy.  He’s the emotional hammer hitting the verbal nail (the first masculine cigarette.)

Coca – Cola: The verbal nail is that it’s “The Real Thing”. But it’s the classic contoured bottle that is emblazoned on everything, including cans of Coke, that hits home the idea making it the world’s most powerful brand.

Aflac: Before the duck, Aflac had a 12% name recognition. After the duck – 94%. Pretty big jump for an insurance company!

Or what about Susan G. Komen? Where would it be without the pink ribbon? Today because of that visual hammer, it’s the world’s largest non-profit.

You get the idea.

Of course, it goes far beyond just a logo. It’s also the bigger idea that the visual is hammering. What was the one idea (or nail) that Israel was trying to hammer home? And what was the main visual it used to hammer it through the mediasphere?

If you say Iron Dome, you are probably right. Yet, was that intended? Or did it just happen? And as was asked in a Jpost Op-Ed, did it send the right message?

We can take a lesson this Chanukah from Judas Maccabeus, which means “The Hammer” in Aramaic, and learn how a powerful visual image can conjure and unite an army around a very big important idea.

Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at

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