Woody Allen Talks Israel, With ... (Surprise!) Love

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L.A. Jewish Journal publisher Rob Eshman’s campaign to raise funds for Woody Allen to film in Israel has touched off a mini-media flurry over Allen’s merits as an artist and a Jew. Rob notes that Allen “has done much to define the image of ‘Jew’ in our time,” but has never been to Israel “as far as I know.”

Haaretz blogger Allison Kaplan Sommer responded yesterday with a list of reasons why it’s not worth the money. She cites Allen’s undeniably negative depiction of Jewish women, his 1988 “tantrum” on the New York Times Op-Ed page, “chiding Israel for making him look bad,” and his “deliberately” choosing not to visit Israel even though “he’s been happy to go almost anywhere else.” She doesn’t mention the long-running scandal over his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, but from her caustic tone I’m guessing it’s on her mind. I don’t have real evidence, mind you—I’m just speculating, sort of the way Kaplan is speculating about Allen’s attitude toward Israel. (I love Allison. I’m just saying…)

Coincidentally, we don’t need to guess any longer about Allen’s feelings toward Israel. He discusses them — passionately — in an interview with Yediot Ahronot Paris correspondent Yaniv Halili, published last Friday (in Hebrew) in Yediot’s increasingly readable weekend entertainment supplement, 7 Nights. Most of it is about growing old (he hates it), the Soon-Yi scandal (the public never got it, he doesn’t read the tabloids), his non-relationship with his son and his work habits. Israel only comes up at the end, but he goes at it with gusto. I don’t have time to translate the whole thing (and it’s not online even in Hebrew, alas), but here’s the part about Israel, Jewish identity and, intriguingly, the dilemmas of his half-Jewish children’s Jewish identity:

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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Woody Allen Talks Israel, With ... (Surprise!) Love

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