Yaakov ‘Yanky’ Greenspan recently published ‘Just Get On That Plane,’ an obscenely offensive book urging Jews around the world to move to Israel. Greenspan recently privately confirmed allegations first published in this blog that he is not a real person but rather an AI-generated face grafted onto an online personality. Greenspan said that he’s already given comment to a few media outlets but wanted to make sure that After Aliyah got the exclusive. This is therefore Greenspan’s first interview.
SR: Who are you?
YG: I’m Yaakov ‘Yanky’ Greenspan. My face was generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm. My online bio says that I was born in upstate New York and then moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh (RBS). None of this actually happened although the cover story is reasonably close to reality. Of course, reasonable is subjective.
SR: Why Beit Shemesh?
YG: Greenspan is sort of a lighthearted caricature of a right to far right American immigrant to Israel (oleh hadash). He’s kind of a synthesis of a few real people.
SR: Can you tell us what site you got your “face” from?
YG: It may or may not have been ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com.
SR: What’s life like as a made up person?
YG: These days quite busy. A lot of people have been in touch since Just Get On That Plane was published.
SR: Tell us about the book. How’s the reaction been?
YG: Predictably, some people have been offended by it. Others have absolutely loved it. It’s been a mixed bag. I’ve been receiving feedback across pretty much every conceivable online channel.
SR: Why did you write a book about making aliyah?
YG: Just Get On That Plane is a very unique beast. It’s a book that, in many respects, sets out to insult its target audience. It describes itself as a literary sledgehammer and I think meets that description. The tone is very deliberate. It’s designed, in part, to stimulate outrage and, in turn, get people interested in turning its pages. A lot of aliyah literature is incredibly boring. It would put even the most ardent Zionist to sleep. It also tends to make excuses for why Jews should move to Israel. This doesn’t skirt around the facts. It’s the antithesis of politically correct. It would have been a lot harder to do this without a pseudonym.
SR: What are your thoughts about why Jews should move to Israel?
YG: Because it’s the only Jewish country in the world. Jews are a minority anywhere else. It’s the Jewish homeland. It’s where Jews are meant to be. Absolutely all other reasons are secondary. This book basically says that from the first page to the last.
SR: Who is the book intended to reach?
YG: Two sets of people basically. Firstly, I wanted there to be a book that was available in both paperback and ebook that could reach Jews around the world. The ebook aspect was important because there’s some work in this genre that doesn’t have electronic versions and that cuts off a lot of the market. Secondly, I wrote this so that Jewish mothers and grandmothers living in Israel would have a book to buy for their kids’ birthdays and Hanukah in order to pressure them into coming to Israel. I saw a gap in the literature there and set out to fill it.
SR: What does the book talk about?
YG: There are a few messages. The central one is that Jews should move to Israel. I’m not ignorant of the fact that there are people with whom this book will not resonate. But I reckon there are some that will be receptive to it. I also talk about the significance of Israel closing its border recently and opine that that should be a wake-up call. The only way to guarantee that you have access to Israel is to come and live here. I also give some honest advice about the Israeli job market and the kind of information that I think a lot of prospective olim could benefit from.
SR: Why don’t you warn people about the difficulties of making a life in Israel?
YG: There are challenges to living here. I allude to those in the book. But discussing them isn’t what this book is about. It’s about encouraging people to make the move. I’m also a big believer in aliyah. I think that the more people we have on the ground making this country better the faster it’s going to become a better place in which to live. People have complained that I didn’t talk about those issues in the book. I think that would have detracted enormously from the message. And as I said I don’t see encouraging aliyah and wanting to make Israel better as problematic things to believe at the same time.
SR: Why publish under a different name?
YG: There are parts of the book that are a little bit humorous. The tone is highly dogmatic in other parts. It would have been very difficult to publish this book any other way and to strike the right tone. But I felt equally that it needed to exist. For me, it was also a fun experiment. A way to test the market.
SR: Speaking of marketing, how is the book selling?
YG: Sales volumes are modest but the profit motive is very much secondary here. If you’re aiming for a big audience, Jews thinking about moving to Israel is not where I would recommend starting. I’ve sent out free copies on Facebook and ran a free book promotion for Purim. More than 50 people picked up copies that day alone. I care mostly that the book reaches people that need the sort of in-your-face pitch that the book provides. I state in the book that I’m fine with people lending and copying it as they see fit.
SR: Where can people buy the book?
YG: You can get it from Amazon and Book Depository. Book Depository does free worldwide shipping. It’s also available from some other marketplaces. Walmart recently listed it.
SR: What does the future hold for you?
YG: I won’t comment on that.
SR: Thank you for your time!
Article ID: 599
Shmuli Rubstein is a columnist with After Aliyah. He lives in a shikun building in Gilo in Jerusalem and often visits his local makolet for bread and milk.