Geraldo Rivera, Member of Knesset?

By Anthony Weiss

Published March 10, 2006, issue of March 10, 2006.

Though it went unreported when it happened a few years ago, veteran news personality Geraldo Rivera was only a hairsbreadth away from moving to Israel and pursuing a political career there. According to a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the mustachioed muckraker was all set to go; he even started looking for an apartment.

Danger couldn’t deter him — “I would die for Israel,” he said — but though willing to stare down death, he was unable to withstand the objections of his then-fiancée and now-wife, Emily Levy, and his future father-in-law.

Though it may be news to some, Geraldo, despite the Hispanic moniker, is a true-blue Jew, Brooklyn-bred by a Jewish mother, Lilly Friedman, and a Catholic, Puerto Rican father, Cruz Rivera. He told the Inquirer that he was raised “mostly Jewish” and had a bar mitzvah.

Rivera has never shrunk from a big story, and Israeli politics would have been no different. “I’d be punching out everybody every day,” he said of his imagined career in the Knesset. Even in his recent interview, Rivera was not afraid of being blunt, remarking that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank “is bull,” and that it “dehumanizes” Palestinians. He is, however, in favor of the separation barrier, explaining, “It might be even better. Let the people cool off for a couple of decades.”

Israel may, alas, have lost its opportunity for Rivera’s diplomatic talents. Though no man is an island, some men can buy one, and Rivera recently purchased his own little promised land of 25 acres off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. And so, someday, when the conflict in the Middle East rages fierce, perhaps some will let their gaze drift southward, and wonder at what might have been.



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