Shalom Life | September 20, 2014

Woody Allen: Another Jew Who Loves Israel but Refuses to Visit it

Why the world's most famous Jewish director won't visit Israel

By: Jordan Shani

Published: July 12th, 2012 in Culture » Film » Interviews

Woody Allen: Another Jew Who Loves Israel but Refuses to Visit it

There’s little doubt that screenwriter/playwright/author/actor/director, and occasional Jazz musician Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg), is one of the most recognizable Jews on earth. Allen, who’s been entertaining audiences for half a century, personifies all that we love – and hate – about ourselves, including a rapier wit and a closetful of anxieties and insecurities. , And, although this Member of the Tribe admits to loving Israel, or the idea of Israel, he's never been there.

And unfortunately, Allen’s apparent lack of interest in visiting the land of his ancestors is not unique. We’ve all read of American Jews who talk the talk when it comes to Israel, saying all the right stuff about the tiny country excelling despite being surrounded by its enemies, but refuse – for whatever reason – to walk the walk.

So, why does the man behind To Rome With Love, continue to embrace such foreign climes as Paris, London and Rome, filming there, bolstering the respective economies, and shining some positive PR on them, but treat Israel like a scorned lover? Perhaps we can gleam the reasons from this excerpt of an interview Allen recently gave to Yediot Ahronot.

“I support Israel and I’ve supported it since the day it was founded,” said Allen in this translated from Hebrew interview. “Israel’s neighbors have treated it badly, cruelly, instead of embracing it and making it part of the Middle East family of nations. Over the years, Israel has responded to these attacks in various ways, some of which I approved of and some less so. I understand that Israelis have been through hard times, I don’t expect Israel to react perfectly every time and that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a wonderful, marvelous country. I’m just worried about the rise of fundamentalism in Israel, which I think damages its interests. I also have questions about your leadership, which doesn’t always act in Israel’s best interests. But even my criticism of Israel comes from a place of love, just like when I criticize the United States. It would be a mistake not to say something if you think a country you love makes a mistake and could hurt itself.”

Then why have you never visited Israel?

“I’m not a tourist. I travel regularly to three cities that I know and love — Paris, London and Rome — and that’s it. I don’t like to leave home because I’m a bit neurotic, and when I do leave home, it’s mostly for work. I don’t like flying and I don’t consider myself a curious person who wants to see new places. There are many states in the United States that I’ve never visited. My wife is of Korean origin and she’s been trying for years to convince me to go to South Korea with her — so far, unsuccessfully. She’s also very curious about Israel and wants to go there with the girls, so they can see and understand their father’s Jewish culture. I assume we’ll go and visit Israel soon. There’s no way around it.”

If Allen can find time to regularly travel to Paris, London and Rome, I'm sure the three hour hop over to Tel Aviv wouldn't be the biggest of inconveniences. Or, if work needs to be involved, he can always film his next travel-guide/movie in the place he calls a "wonderful, marvellous country."

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