The Schmooze

Why Are Non-Jewish Celebs Buying Israel Real-Estate?

After Kanye West performed in Israel on Wednesday night, he presumably had to sleep in a bed that he didn’t own. The declared presidential candidate may not have to suffer that indignity on his next trip to the Holy Land.

The Kardashian family, into which he is married, is among a number of non-Jewish American celebrities reportedly shopping for real estate in the Holy Land. Others include Madonna, Ashton Kutcher and Mariah Carey.

What does Israel have to offer these stars? The answer, it seems, varies from spirituality to family and friendship to money-making opportunities.

The Kardashian sisters, of reality TV fame, reportedly entered talks in January to buy two apartments for $30 million in a beachfront building in Tel Aviv. A spokesman for Kim Kardashian denied that report, but entertainment news website E!Online later reported that Kourtney Kardashian’s husband Scott Disick was in fact ready to buy a $5-6 million penthouse in Tel Aviv as a real estate investment.

Just three months later, Kim Kardashian and husband, West, visited Jerusalem for the baptism of their daughter, North, in the Cathedral of St. James, located in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Also this year, pop legend Madonna entered negotiations to buy a $20 million penthouse under construction on Tel Aviv’s trendy Rothschild Boulevard, according to Hollywood celebrity gossip website TMZ. The project developer later said that the negotiations fell through.

Still, the Material Girl has been visiting Israel on semi-regular trips for over a decade to get spiritual guidance from her teachers in the Jewish mystical tradition of kabbalah.

Madonna clearly has an affinity for Jewish-Israeli culture. In her 2005 kabbalah-infused club song “Isaac,” she sampled a rabbi chanting the Hebrew poem “Im Ninalu” – written by 17th-century Yemenite rabbi Shalom Shabazi and made famous by Israeli singer Ofra Haza.

And in 2012, she launched her MDNA global concert tour in Israel.

Madonna isn’t the only kabbalah-curious Hollywood celebrity thinking of putting down roots in Israel. Actor Ashton Kutcher reportedly spent part of a business trip two years ago looking for office space on Rothschild Boulevard.

Kutcher has visited Israel for kabbalistic learning, marriage counseling and the funeral of spiritual mentor Rabbi Philip Berg with Jewish “That ‘70s Show” co-star and now-wife Mila Kunis.

He’s also an investor in Israeli companies focused on developing new communications technology. Having consulted with Yossi Vardi about investing in Silicon Wadi, he appeared with the noted Israeli venture capitalist at a local high-tech event in 2013

Pop singer Mariah Carey and her billionaire Australian boyfriend, James Packer, aren’t known to be investors in Start Up Nation. But they’re pals with its first family, the Netanyahus. The Australian press reported in August that Packer was renovating a multimillion-dollar home he purchased last year next-door to the Netanyahu family’s private residence in the Israeli town of Caesarea.

The Israeli press has reported extensively on Sarah Netanyahu’s troubles with the help, but she apparently got along famously with the pop diva when they met backstage after Carey’s August show in Israel. Carey shrugged off efforts to boycott Israel at the time, saying, “I do what I want to do … I don’t care what other people’s political agendas are.”

For his part, Packer attended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress opposing the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran — at the prime minister’s invitation.

Basketball fans and anyone who saw the recent hit Amy Schumer movie, “Trainwreck,” are sure to be familiar with Miami Heat power forward Amar’e Stoudemire. But few probably know that he is also part-owner of Jerusalem Hapoel and has openly mulled playing for the Israeli team after retiring from the NBA — which would seem to require that he buy a home in the country.

Then-Israeli President Shimon reportedly even asked Stoudemire to play for the Israeli national team in 2013.

Stoudemire has said that his mother was a Black Hebrew, an African-American religious group that claims descent from the biblical Israelites. Some of the members of the religious group have lived in Israel since 1969 and were the subject of 2014 documentary “The Village of Peace,” executive produced by Stoudemire.

Is all this celebrity investment good for Israel’s already overheated housing market? That’s unclear. But at least Kanye West can now claim Middle East experience in his 2020 presidential campaign.

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Why Are Non-Jewish Celebs Buying Israel Real-Estate?

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