It's all in the eyes of the Refaeli family
Bar Refaeli in the Tel Aviv District Court
Bar Refaeli’s father, Rafi Refaeli, is looking straight into the camera and his blue eyes are glittering. His gaze sends a message: focused, angry, direct, resolute, irate. His right hand hovers toward his daughter’s shoulder. She, as she does whenever she is photographed in life itself and not for work, lowers her eyes, signaling her objection to the photograph itself by bending her head.
The members of the Refaeli family were photographed as they emerged from Tel Aviv District Court on March 1, where testimonies were given in their suit against Suny Electronics, a company owned by Ilan Ben-Dov, which is the authorized importer for Samsung mobile phones. It’s a business dispute, in which Refaeli is seeking NIS 4.4 million for alleged breach of contract and misuse of her image in promoting Samsung products.
Ben-Dov has filed a NIS 2 million countersuit against her. A businessman who became a billionaire while acquiring the controlling interest in Partner, Ben-Dov went on to accumulate losses, in the wake of which he asked the holders of his bonds to cover his failures and forgo payment of his debts. He also suspended construction of a huge estate. So he doesn’t need reports about business disputes and breaches of contract in the media, or anywhere.
Similarly, Refaeli’s modeling business does not benefit from media coverage of a dispute, because her image − on which she and her family have labored for years − was fashioned more along the lines of sweetness than obduracy, a slightly standoffish affability rather than mental agility and business acumen. That other side of her is meant to remain always covert. Until a decision is made that is an asset in itself. The Refaeli brand does not yet consciously contain her assertive side.
Thus, the photograph by Daniel Bar-On, which captures the “Refaeli phenomenon,” also documents the demonstrative anger with which she, and her father, deal with the question of her image in Israel. When Leonardo DiCaprio visited her in Israel a few years ago, Refaeli and her family were unable to come up with a format that would allow a few authorized photos. The result was a farce of hot pursuits, which ended in a rather sad event with paparazzi crowding around her at the Western Wall − an event which could have turned dangerous.
Over and above the heavy burden of being a celebrity who has lost her privacy, there may be a certain difficulty in formulating the rules of the game from her perspective. There is no love lost between her and the Israeli entertainment media. Not only because she sets limits to her privacy, but also because, in this highly complex game, Refaeli continues to portray a victim of prying.
In this photograph, too, Rafi Refaeli − who certainly passed that sturdy, healthy, clear and sunny look to his daughter − is staring furiously at the camera as his daughter bends her head, to the point where we can see the natural color in her hair, which stands out sharply amid the light streaks. Dressed simply and not wearing makeup, Refaeli came to court to fight for her rights. What constrains her to lower her eyes?
It stands to reason that the Refaelis will protect their interests in the face of abuse, in court and elsewhere. They are not media victims. Refaeli is not a girl or a teenager, she is not weak, and she is not a body without a head, even if we see her mostly in underwear. Does the gaze of the father have to supplant the gaze of the daughter every time something serious is at stake?
It’s possible that Refaeli’s well-known “slip of the pen” on her Twitter account was far more beneficial to her than this bending of the head. Last November, she wrote that the proposed amendment to the Libel Law should also be implemented in cases of gossip. “What did you make a career from if not from gossip, hypocrite?” the veteran blogger Riki Cohen asked. Refaeli replied immediately: “From hard work, stupid.” That’s not an elegant response; it reveals an unsympathetic side of Refaeli and is not business-friendly. But it’s a lot less boring.