Celebrity Sightings - Online

One day last summer, while whizzing along a highway in the Galilee panhandle and listening to a Miri Mesika anthology, a blogger by the online name of Michlula got the fright of her life: A massive wild boar burst onto the road. On her blog at TheMarker Cafe (tinyurl.com/yozy6v), she actually describes the next few moments in a positive light.

"The guy beside me in the car started screaming, but I simply switched into slow motion mode - stopping completely at this speed would have been impossible and would have ended with a crushed boar and probably also a news item that 'an unfortunate accident took place near Kiryat Shmona,'" says Michlula, "so I slowed down a bit, swerved to the left into the opposite lane, while shifting down a gear, stepped hard on the gas and sped passed the beast. That was it. He was behind me. My heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest."

This story would not have been so intriguing, and could have been just one more blog post among the tens of thousands published in Israeli cyberspace, had it not been for the fact that Michlula is the online name of actress and children's television star Michal Yanai. For about six months, Yanai has had her own blog on TheMarker Cafe, which is read, as could be expected, by thousands (her last post recorded some 14,000 viewings).

"What can I write that has not already been written in La'Isha?" writes Yanai in her profile for her blog. Over the past few months, she has managed to share thoughts, fears and feelings that would have probably never found expression in gossip columns or talk shows.

Yanai is not the only famous Israeli to start a blog. If until now, the blog was still perceived mainly as an alternative medium that appealed to audiences other than television viewers, it is now being recognized by many Israeli celebrities. Even so, the celebrity bloggers (or celebloggers, as they are known by TheMarker Cafe readers) usually try to play a different role than that arbitrarily assigned to them by the media. They sometimes even mention things they would not discuss with talk show hosts.

Thus, for example, Avri Gilad told readers of his blog (tinyurl.com/3cm) about the woes of being a celebrity.

"The chasm in a celebrity's soul is immense," he wrote. "All around, he is considered a lush green island in an ashen sea, a symbol of something saddled with the collective fantasies of perpetual youth, of constant sexual appeal ... on the other hand, he feels he is moving further and further away from himself."

Perhaps for this reason he decided to devote his blog to his interest in spirituality. Gilad writes: "In addition to all that is known, and too well-known," he is studying spirituality in the Yemima Method (conscious self-work developed by the late Yemima Avita).

"Since these are things that cannot be discussed in depth on the radio or television, I figured I could present a different view of what I am doing here," writes Gilad, who said he was not interested in being interviewed about his blog. "The beautiful thing about a blog is that it is not mediated by a publicist and it speaks for itself," he says.

Raviv Druker, the political analyst for Channel 10, recently started a blog on the Nana portal, apparently following the merger between the two companies (tinyurl.com/2wa5yv). Druker does not discuss personal matters, but rather mainly what goes on behind the scenes at work, which are not seen on TV. "I am planning to talk about what goes on there, at least until someone at Channel 10 stops me," writes Druker on his blog.

He describes, for example, his relationship with Abraham Hirchson, before and after Druker publicized the alleged embezzlement by the former finance minister.

"I had actually been on good terms with the finance minister and his people," writes Druker, but notes that after that news item, "Hirchson's office withdrew into itself. I have bumped into Hirchson twice at the Knesset. The first time he turned white, as if he had seen a ghost. The second time he was more composed and asked how I was doing."

Why does Druker, who appears on news programs need to express himself on a blog?

"Beyond the urge felt by every journalist, to fulfill my never-ending need for love and affection, this blog also contains ideology," he says. "I hate that the media don't discuss how they work. We want every politician to give us journalistic-standard updates on every decision he makes, but we are not willing to explain anything about our considerations and the way we operate."

Druker's blog also gives him the opportunity to "go wild," as he puts it. "In principle, I could say on TV everything I say here, but [Yaron] London and [Motti] Kirshenbaum do not really care about my feelings concerning Hirchson and his media adviser. And even if they did, they would give the subject 40 seconds. On the blog, on the other hand, I can write a thousand words."

Following Druker's blog launching, Chico Menashe, Channel 10's political correspondent, started his own blog on Nana10 (tinyurl.com/2tg6kx). Menashe's blog, too, promises to bring readers "things that might explain the background to what goes on here" and "news items that did not make it to the TV screen." In many cases, it is easy to understand why these items were not broadcast - they are mostly gossip and not always interesting gossip.

For example, an extensive report on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's journey to Europe, in which Menashe complained, "while the prime minister and his entourage are stretching out in first class, the political correspondents are squished in economy class. Usually the prime minister comes to greet us inside the plane, make a joke or two - usually at our expense - and teases the journalists."

Druker also writes of the trip. "Finally, I must admit that we always manage to find time to stroll along the Champs Elysees or through Soho, in London."

Attorney Avigdor Feldman, one of Israel's senior criminal defense lawyers, last month began publishing a blog called Shira Mekomit (Local Poetry) on the Reshimot Web site (www.notes.co.il/feldman). Apart from poetry and poetry translations, Feldman has published a few semi-literary texts, dealing with the justice system.

"Ever since I became a lawyer, I have divided judges into those who laugh and those who don't," writes Feldman. "Laughter is good for judgment, it purifies the soul. [Justice Yoel] Sussman was a laughing judge, Haim Cohen would fall out of his chair laughing, and Misha[el] Cheshin would laugh till he cried. This is the awful legacy of [Supreme Court] president Aharon Barak, who himself was a laughing judge, but who locked up his laughter in a cage and only the rise and fall of his chest revealed his stifled amusement. He meticulously chose non-laughing judges, expert judges."

"On my blog I publish more incidental things, more fleeting things that are less committal and more critical," continues Feldman, "such as poems I have written but have not published. My assumption is that the blog is a different sphere than the one in which I usually appear, more carefree and less binding."

Unlike anonymous bloggers, who are known only by their online activity, celebrity bloggers know that their comments are likely to attract considerable attention, so they must be more cautious. Actress Chelli Goldenberg, who began writing a blog on Reshimot about a year ago (www.notes.co.il/chelli), defines herself as the pioneer of famous bloggers.

"I think that I was the first well-known person to launch a personal blog. I award myself a small medal of valor," she says. "I mulled the idea for months, because I knew that the blog would attract a lot of attention. I think of myself as a very private person, so I make a very clear distinction between what's personal and what's private. On a personal blog, I believe you are obligated to use personal material, because that is who you are. But I feel it is taboo to use private material. Sometimes I stop and check to make sure I have not touched on something that infringes on my privacy, because there are no rules here, only feelings."