Is Bar Refaeli worth a mikveh?


The New York Daily News quotes a friend of Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl Bar Refaeli saying that her father says no marriage to actor Leo DiCaprio, unless the Titanic hearthrob converts.

Over at Ha’aretz, Aluf Benn questions whether the Israeli supermodel really has the ability to improve Israel’s image in the West (oh, in case you were wondering, she’s a Tzipi Livni fan):

Israelis tend to see their country as part of the West, and compare it to the United States and Britain. The problem is that the West is not too thrilled by the comparison and regards Israel as an oddity, a country using excessive force in permanent conflict with its neighbors. In Europe, and to a growing extent in the U.S., the use of military power is seen as primitive, something that belongs to the previous century, something that decent people don’t do. When the Europeans apply force in Afghanistan or Kosovo, they are not proud of it like Israeli leaders who get excited about the bombing of Gaza.

Israel’s public-relations machine has tried for many years to market Israel as a villa in the jungle, a Western frontier outpost against extremist Islam. We are hit by rockets in Sderot and bomb Gaza in order to save Paris and London. Israeli leaders complain that the West is unconcerned by the danger posed by Islam, and instead of dealing with it they criticize Israel for defending itself. But the media and public opinion in the West ignore this message and insist that Israel is at least as violent as its enemies.

Bar Refaeli is expected to prove that Israel is like the West. The young women of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas are not photographed in bathing suits. Neither are Egyptian or Saudi Arabian girls – an advantage perhaps that stresses our belonging in the Western cultural club. In Israeli eyes, a photo of Refaeli on an airliner makes us more American and Western.

But it is doubtful whether this message is being received on the other side. No Russian model softens the Putin regime’s aggressive image in the West; no Venezuelan beauty queen transforms Hugo Chavez into a liberal and democrat. Refaeli deserves credit for her personal success, and the branding project needs to continue, but they will not solve Israel’s public-relations problem. Whoever wants to belong to the West needs to behave accordingly, or pay the price.

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