In the past year or so, Israel has become hot destination for the celebrity crowd. Yes, you read this correctly; many Hollywood stars have been making the trek to the Holy Land. Whether filming for their reality shows— Gene Simmons and the Duggar Family— playing in sold out concert venues— Rihanna, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Justin Bieber— getting married!— James Van Der Beek— or just getting back in touch with their Jewish roots— Amar Stoudemire— it seems Israel is the place to see and be seen.
Check out the list of celebs (both Jewish and not Jewish) that have been to Israel recently or on notable trips. (I decided to make this challenging for myself, so no Israeli celeb, ie. Natalie Portman or Bar Rafaeli appears on this list).
New York Knicks basketball player Amar Stoudemire visited Israel to explore his possible Jewish heritage. Stoudemire’s been very open about his belief that he has “Hebrew roots” through his mother. He’s told news outlets in the past that his Hebrew roots have, “played a subtle but important role in my development,” he said. His visit to Israel was a chance to enhance his connection to Judaism, to learn the language and more about the Jewish religion.
Stoudemire’s breadth of knowledge has only increased since his return. He frequently tweets about his Hebrew studies and you can often catch tweets that include Hebrew.
Maybe one day he Omri Caspi can join an Israeli basketball team together? Wouldn’t that be something!
Claire Danes made her first visit to Israel to film a TV series titled Homeland that is based on an Israeli series. Danes visited the country with her husband and fellow actor, Hugh Dancy. The couple traveled all over the country visiting not just the Western Wall, but also the Dead Sea, Masada and Tel-Aviv.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher
Last year Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher traveled to Israel in the wake of a cheating scandal. The trip was said to be a spiritual journey to help the kabbalah-loving couple get their marriage back on track.
But apparently it didn’t work because as I’m writing this, People Magazine has published a statement from Demi Moore’s camp announcing the demise of her marriage:
"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have decided to end my six-year marriage to Ashton," says Moore. "As a woman, a mother and a wife there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life."
She continues: "This is a trying time for me and my family, and so I would ask for the same compassion and privacy that you would give to anyone going through a similar situation."
The Duggar Family
My fellow blogger, Joel Schatz, already touched on the Duggars trip to Israel in a recent blog post:
The stars of the TLC reality TV series “19 Kids and Counting,” recently headed off to Israel with the whole clan—two parents, the 19 kids, one daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, one grandmother and a cousin, plus the obligatory film crew.
El Al Airlines’ Sky Words newsletter says the family checked 24 bags totaling 720 pounds, as well as three strollers and four car seats. There were 10 outfits and three pairs of shoes per person, along with 70 baby bottles and 40 hair bows.
This is what family matriarch Michelle Duggar had to say about the trip:
It happened that Grandma Duggar's birthday was this year -- she turned 70. And the dream of her life, from the time she was a little girl, was to get to go to the Holy Land.
So we told her on her birthday that we wanted to give her a trip to Israel. At that point we were thinking we would buy two tickets and send her with a family member. But we all ended up going, and it was something Grandma would have never thought would've happened -- all of her grandchildren in Jerusalem with her. It was so neat.
For those of you who watch KISS founder Gene Simmons' reality show, Family Jewels, much of the focus lately has been on Gene’s decision to finally marry longtime love and mother of his two children, model Shannon Tweed. But did you also know that an episode during the sixth season of the show featured Simmons on a trip to Israel?
Or better yet, that Gene Simmons is in fact Israeli?
That’s right, born in Haifa to a Holocaust survivor, Gene speaks Hebrew (along with several other languages), but left the country at the age of eight when his mother divorced his father and had never returned.
Simmons told Spinner magazine the following about the trip:
"My parents had divorced; I came to America with my mom and never saw my dad again. He was married at least six times, as I understand it. Anyway, the trip was Shannon's idea. She thought it would be good for the show. So we get to a restaurant for dinner and a man approaches, a big, good-looking guy I thought was the waiter. Then they spring it on me: It's a brother I never met. Then two sisters, then another sister. Shannon arranged for all of my relatives from my father's side to surprise me. Her master plan."
James Van Der Beek
Did you know that Dawson got married in Israel? James Van Der Beek didn’t just visit Israel recently; he went there to get married! James married Kimberly Brook (who is Jewish) in a small, top-secret ceremony at the Kabbalah center in Tel Aviv that was officiated by Rabbi Yehuda Berg, who also married fellow kabbalah enthusiasts Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
It turns out, lots of celebrities like Israel! Isn’t that great? Check back next time for more celebs that have traveled to Israel in Part II. Just don’t call me yenta.