I became a member of the Israeli paparazzi for a night.
I didn’t mean to, but I was at the Ben Gurion airport, waiting for my mother to be dropped off by relatives in Tel Aviv, so that I could see her off back to LA. I was getting over a cold, and right before I left my apartment in Jerusalem, I put on baggy jeans and an oversized, paint-stained sweatshirt, wanting to be comfortable, thinking “who am I going to see at the airport.”
So I’m waiting for my mom in the departure hall when I notice a skinny man with an E! channel microphone and a few other photographers. What American celebrity is coming to Israel, I wonder? With my reporter’s radar up, I approach one photographer. Turns out the cast of the film Beaufort is on its way to LA for the Oscars. I saw the movie and read the book (in Hebrew, no less). Don’t get me wrongâthey were both goodâbut all this press for a few Israeli actors going to a freakin’ airport? They are not Britney
All of a sudden, just as my mother calls, the paparazzi sprints to another entrance. There Israeli actors Oshri Cohen and Eli Altonia (who, I later learn, are Israel’s movie “stars”) roll in with their carts. I go to help my mom with her luggage and escort her to area D for her non-stop El Al flight to LA, but my eyes keep wandering off to the flashes. I remember I have my digital camera in my bag. As my mom waits for security check, I dash back to the flash fest. I could hardly get a shot, and I realized the story isn’t the actors: but the paparazzi. Maybe Bar Rafaeli is rightâ¦Israeli paparazzi has a lot of chutzpah. The two actors could hardly move with their carts after the ambush. Some passersby had trouble getting through the aisles. “What is this?” one blonde asked in English.
Some guy from Channel 10 randomly shoved a videocam in my face tooâwithout any warning—and asked me what I thought. I looked at the stains on my sweatshirt, hoping they’re not noticeable and told him, “This is not America!”
I return to my mom who is waiting to check-in her bags, and the desk clerk jokes that she could seat my mom next to a celebrity. I perk-up. “Where is he?” I asked. He was a few counters down, waiting in line with everyone else, only with a bunch of photographers clamoring around him for the glamorous shot of the actors in the airport. That’s it. I thought. If no one will beat ‘em up, join ‘em. I rush to the counter, whip out my camera and tell Oshri in English that I’m from The Jewish Journal. (I knew Naomi [Pfeffermann] would be proud.)
Oshri is on his cell phone, so I try to wait politely, but I admit it was hard. I’m feeling the paparazzi spirits running through me, and I want my shot! Finally he gets off the phone and I shove my camera in his face. It didn’t matter what I asked him, did it? It only mattered that I got him. This is the result.
I left before he even got his baggage on the turnstile. I felt like a horrible personâor rather like a scavenging animal. People need to catch a freakin’ plane! The security guard was looking at all of us like we were fools. I don’t think the airport was expecting this.
Maybe the Israeli paparazzi converged on these guys because it’s their vicarious chance at the red carpet. Or maybe the pictures are worth a lot of money, but I doubt that. Maybe there’s an adrenaline rush when you get that shot that no one else could get.
I can only wish Oshri the same paparazzi treatment where it really mattersâin LA.