The Top Stories From Israel That Made You Cringe in 2013

Pushing the envelope on acceptable behavior both inside and outside the Knesset, here are the stories that made you squirm in 2013. Actually, some were just plain surprising.

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1. Israeli beauty and the geek make out in front of millions

Bar Refaeli surprised – and perturbed – fans in a Super Bowl commercial that features a 10-second french kiss with actor Jesse Heiman, who doesn’t exactly share the Israeli supermodel’s looks. It allegedly took 65 takes to get the smooching right. Watch at your own risk.

2. The first lady’s new clothes

Like many women at the 19th Knesset’s swearing-in ceremony on February 6, Sara Netanyahu wore black, but her dress was transparent and skin-tight, with lace at the arms, neck and midriff. So what was the prime minster’s wife thinking? Allison Kaplan Sommer told the tale on the first lady’s fashion faux pas.

3. Nice Jewish boy

In 2013 Csanad Szegedi, No. 2 in Hungary’s far-right and anti-Semitic Jobbik party, discovered his Jewish roots on one side of his family. Half his family was killed at Auschwitz. Szegedi has since left the party and now attends synagogue, observes Shabbat and is trying to wean himself off pork. The plan: to keep kosher.

4. Knesset playboy takes a selfie

New MK Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid) caused a stir over the summer after posting a photo of himself on Facebook lying on his office couch after a long night of Knesset business. Draping his shirt over his chest like a blanket, Toporovsky held one arm behind his head and stared erotically into the camera. “It’s the first time I’ve slept at the Knesset,” he wrote on Facebook. “I hope it won’t hurt too much. Luckily there are showers in the office.” Government officials said the posting tarnished the Knesset’s image, while Speaker Yuli Edelstein penned a letter on proper behavior in parliament.

5. Netanyahu’s expensive tastes

Benjamin Netanyahu was on thin ice after it emerged that the state had allocated NIS 10,000 ($2,870) annually for ice cream purchases at the Prime Minister’s Residence. Favorite flavor: pistachio. Netanyahu made headlines again when it was revealed he had spent $127,000 of taxpayer money on a special “resting chamber” for him and his wife on their five-hour flight to London to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. It also emerged that Israeli taxpayers dish out nearly $1 million to maintain Netanyahu’s three residences – including NIS 6,000 for scented candles.

6. Hoisted by his own coin

In a recent live appearance on CNN, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett responded to Christiane Amanpour’s question about Israeli settlement construction and her phrase “the occupied West Bank.” Bennett rejected the term by pulling a coin out of his pocket, holding it up to the camera and stating, “This coin, which says Freedom of Zion in Hebrew, was used by Jews 2,000 years ago in the state of Israel in what you call occupied. One cannot occupy his own home.” It turned out that Bennett had illegally taken the coin abroad. After all, under the antiquities law, you need special permission to take an object out of the country dating before 1700.

7. Jews can't stop the worst pop parody of 2013

With its erotic dancing on a bulldozer, “Jews Can’t Stop” – an Israeli’s spoof of Miley Cyrus’ hit single “We Can’t Stop” – was panned by media outlets throughout the world. The creator and star of the video is Orit Afra, a resident of the settlement of Ariel. She says she wasn’t representing all Jews and that people need to get a sense of humor.

8. Iranians do wear jeans, Mr. Prime Minister

In an October appearance on BBC Persian, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to make history by directly addressing the Iranian people. He made history, but not the kind he wanted. Iranians weren’t angry over the phrases Netanyahu uttered in Persian, but they duly noted his remark about their style. Responding to Netanyahu’s assertion that “if the people of Iran were free they could wear jeans and listen to Western music,” dozens of young Iranians tweeted photos of themselves donning jeans.

Bar Refaeli and Jesse Heiman. Kissing to be clever.
Boaz Toporovsky. Not so hunky dory. Credit: Facebook screenshot