Bar Refaeli: From Enlightened post-Zionist to Predictable Patriot

How did the supermodel, who once said it’s better to live in New York than die for Israel, end up doing PR for the Foreign Ministry?

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
Bar Refaeli on a Carolina Lemke billboard ad in Tel Aviv. The pole in this picture was a lot less controversial than the one on TV.Credit: David Bachar
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Bar Refaeli is an openly extreme left-wing post-Zionist. “The stupidest sentence I ever heard,” the supermodel told Yedioth Ahronoth in October 2007, “is: ‘It is good to die for our country.’ Why is it good to die for your country? Isn’t it better to live in New York? Why do 18-year-old kids have to die? So that we can live in Israel? What difference does it make, Uganda or Israel? It makes no difference to me. I’d rather you not write that down, because it doesn’t sound so nice toward bereaved families. But I worry about people’s lives more than I worry about Israel’s land…It’s dumb that people have to die for me to live in Israel…If I could, I’d work some magic and there would be no State of Israel and all the people would be scattered throughout the world and they’d have a home and money; I sure would. I don’t see Jerusalem as the center of the world and I have no sentiment for religion.”

Wow. You’ve got to admit that Bar Refaeli is pretty amazing here.

A day after the story came out, Refaeli’s attorney sent a letter to Yedioth Ahronoth in which she demanded that the paper print a correction and an apology, remove the item from the web and compensate Refaeli in the amount of half a million shekels ($132,686). Refaeli claimed that her remarks were taken out of context and that she was “maliciously manipulated” by the reporter, Yaniv Halili. She made sure the whole country heard that she was threatening to sue Yedioth. That was a successful PR move. Today nobody remembers that these quotes were accurate. Halili handed in the original recordings and the Refaeli family withdrew the lawsuit.

Since October 2007, Refaeli has become ideologically corrupted. Her public courage abandoned her. The wise, rational, opinionated and enlightened woman is gone. The woman who held a worldview centered on liberal values and universal morality, who opposed the death­­­-sanctifying culture of Israeli society that worships bereavement and glorifies human sacrifice for the land through the Israel Defense Forces — that woman is no more. The woman who came out against the centrality of religion in Israeli society has decamped.

In 2007, she backed up her strong words with action and moved to Los Angeles — practically a political exile for reasons of conscience.

Since that time, of course, Refaeli came back to live in Israel. In 2013 she appeared in a PR campaign for the Foreign Ministry. During the 2014 Gaza war two officers shared a photo of themselves smiling against the backdrop of a poster of Refaeli. She posted the picture on her Instagram account and wrote: “Our soldiers…thank you! Please be careful and come home safely.”

In another post she wrote: “Young, brave men who protected our country from terror, my heart goes out to your families. We will never forget you and we will respect your memory.”

Last year she was a guest of honor and the “exciting surprise” at the birthday party of a combat soldier seriously injured in the Gaza war, and photographs of her embracing him were published in the media.

We have no way of knowing whether Refaeli’s complete ideological turnaround stems from a sincere change of heart or cynical utilitarian business considerations.

At the Ben-Gurion airport arrivals hall, her photographs on ads for Carolina Lemke glasses stand out more than anything else, resembling a homage to the image of the goddess. The ideologically corrupted Refaeli, the divine and exalted patriot, is the official face of Israel. The opinions she expressed nine years ago, which she shook off with impressive Teflonic skill, now remain the legacy of an outcast minority. Her fame and glory were not sullied by her stands. And the 18-year-old kids continue to believe that it is good to die for our country.