(idea submitted and written by Ben S.)
A perpetual screen favorite of Jewish Young Adults, actress Natalie Portman, has appeared in “Star Wars Episodes I-III,” “V for Vendetta” and JYA darling “Garden State” (written, directed and starring pseudo-JYA-hero Zach Braff, whose entire oeuvre promulgates the notion that unattractive, irritating men will and should always score with hot girls because of their “depth.” Cf. Scrubs, all of) ). Even though JYA support for Natalie Portman can be taken as a given, JYAs specifically like touting her Israeli credentials and claiming to know her or know someone who knows her.
Portman was born Natalie Hershlag in Jerusalem, and studied at popular JYA abroad destination Hebrew University in 2004. Thus, this object of fantasy for Jewish males between the ages of 14 and 67 also acts as a source of Israeli pride for the whole JYA world. While JYA males enjoy looking at/spending large parts of the day thinking about Israeli women in general, Portman receives special attention because she is not a cult favorite, she is also famous among non-Jews. Should a Gentile bring Portman up in conversation or allude to any of her movies, a JYA will combine her name in a sentence with some permutation of the word “Israel” within the next 10.3 seconds. JYAs who happened to be at Hebrew U. at the same time as Portman, or have friends who were at Hebrew U. at the same time as Portman, or have friends of friends who were at Hebrew U. at the same time as Portman, will continue the story by relating how they ran into her in some pedestrian location, such as a bathroom or cafeteria, but did not bother her out of respect for her privacy. Then they will talk about how she looked naked in The Darjeeling Limited.
The Portman-Israel connection also dominates the internet. Reason number eight in the JYA-dominated Facebook group entitled “The’ Top Ten Reasons Why I Support Israel” is “three words: Natalie Portman Hershlag” (above “Because it contains the holiest places in Judaism”) and the group’s picture is Portman posing in front of an Israeli flag.
Mentioning Portman’s Israeli-ness is akin for most JYAs to attending Yom Kippur prayers when it comes to fulfilling their cultural duty and avoiding divine Jewish Guilt. While most Jewish mothers have yet to accept the Portman mention as an acceptable substitute for Sabbath observance, parents who are aware of Portman’s nationality hope that her positive qualities will encourage their son to marry Jewish and will thus be more likely to turn a blind eye when they catch him watching “Garden State” on Yom Kippur instead of attending the afternoon service.
(Portman buys a water at the same corner deli in Tel Aviv where my second cousin on my father’s side once bought a pack of Parliament Lights)