A ‘model’ Seder

Are the daily happenings and accomplishments in Israel modern miracles? You better believe it. The classic guitar players will all tell you that they first picked up a guitar to meet girls. I can’t remember the first time I picked …

Are the daily happenings and accomplishments in Israel modern miracles? You better believe it. The classic guitar players will all tell you that they first picked up a guitar to meet girls. I can’t remember the first time I picked up a pen to write but I surely didn’t do so with the expectation of meeting any girls from it. I suppose any girls I’ve met from my time on Jdate are a result of my finely-crafted essays (or was it the gratuitous picture holding a baby?) but nothing in comparison to the surreal experience I enjoyed at the recent photo Maxim Magazine photo shoot here in Israel.

Remember the Seinfeld where George gains access to the “forbidden city” of models, an experience he may never enjoy again… That was how I felt as a witness to the latest hasbara effort of Israel’s Foreign Ministry along with ISRAEL21c – to put it succinctly, showing the young male readers of Maxim, one of the most popular mens’ magazines in the US, that Israel is chock full of beautiful women.

This issue – due to hit the stands this summer – may either generate no more waves than the average Maxim, or cause the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh to dance in the streets in anticipation of the biggest aliyah since Russia opened its doors in the early 90s.

I can just imagine this conversation:

Israeli Government Official: “Prime Minister, deh demo-grah-fix proh-blem eez no lohn-ger! Meel-yons of American Jews ahr choo-seeng to live their lives een Israel!”

PM: “To waht do you aht-tree-bute dees? Anti-Semitism in deh Diaspora? Spirituality?”

IGO: “Ehhhhhhhhhh?..thong-eem???”

When I arrived at the Hashalom train station in Tel Aviv to meet to meet the Maxim staff, the possible scenarios were already running through my head: “Hey, baby… what’s your name? Come here often? Wanna play ‘Spin the Mezuzah’?”

As I spoke with the various crew members, to my slight surprise, none of these first-time Israel visitors expressed any fears despite the stereotypical images in the media. I asked them what their biggest surprise was, what they enjoyed so far, what they thought of the nightlife, and of course, why Israelis are so hot. The answers included:

** “I follow the news but it didn’t keep me from coming. I’ve heard so much about this country and really wanted to visit. I’m blown away by it, not afraid at all.”

** “It feels very Mediterranean but also Eastern, a real mix of cultures. And I’m looking forward to the soccer game tonight!”

** As for the beauty? “They’re a mixture of cultures who are all so unique and different. People have arrived from 90 countries: Ethiopia, Russia, Europe, South America, North America?” The standard gene-mixing answer.

Fortunately, I had some time to compose myself before meeting the model, Nivit Bash. Otherwise, this conversation might have ensued.

Model: “My name eez Nivit Bash. Waht is yours?”

Benji: “BUH-DAH-BUH-GOO-GOO!”

Until our interview, I spent most of the shoot finding the oh-so-important balance between being friendly and professional enough to justify my presence and inconspicuous enough to keep them from giving me the boot and ruining my life forever. I think I made a good impression on the make-up guy, the hair guy, and even the I-get-paid-to-rub-cream-on-the-model’s stomach guy. (LORD ALMIGHTY, HOW DOES SOMEONE GET THAT JOB??? C’mon, Nefesh B’Nefesh career placement… hook a brother up!)

As the morning progressed, I patiently bided my time, waiting for the right opportunity to speak with Her Royal Hotness. A few thoughts which crossed my mind:

** What exactly qualifies someone to be an Israeli model? My grandmother could throw a rock on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Avenue and hit the next Bar Rafaeli. (And her fastball has lost a little juice over the years.) There are babes EVERYWHERE. “Hey, look at that hottie! She must be the Maxim?Oh wait… she works the register at Burger Ranch.”

** The photographer constantly gave Nivit direction like “Put the weight on that leg? yeah, that’s better.” Boy, some people sure are picky.

** Why in the lord’s name does AIPAC insist on giving American congressmen tours of places like the Kotel? Two words: THE BEACH!

With the window of opportunity beginning to close, I knew I had to make my journalistic move. As soon as last picture was taken, I jumped on Nivit with the enthusiasm of… well… a bachelor at a Maxim photo shoot.

“Why are Israelis so beautiful? Do you have a message for America? What’s better: sex or humus?”

Much of what happened next escapes me. But somehow… be it the classic Israeli hospitality or divine intervention, I left shortly thereafter with an invitation to this woman’s Passover Seder.

Next year in Jerusalem? MONDAY NIGHT IN HEAVEN! “You better call, I’m not kidding!” I implored. “I’m serious, I’ll call you,” she assured.

An hour later, when my heart rate had returned to its normal mammalian pace, I arrived to my office and reflected on what I took from this experience (besides pictures.) With Yom Ha’atzmaut only a couple of weeks away, Nivit helped me realize how incredible this country is and just how much it’s accomplished in less than sixty years.

While the world focuses on conflict, cease-fires, and headlines, those of us who live here have the luxury to see how much more there is. Herzl dreamed of a state where Jews would fill the workforce: Jewish doctors, government employees, laborers, you name it. With cover girls like the aforementioned Bar Rafaeli, Jewish rappers, and the upcoming launch of the Israeli baseball league, it’s safe to say that his dream has come true.

Is there still work to be done here? Absolutely. Are the daily happenings and accomplishments in Israel modern miracles? You better believe it.

Job well done, Foreign Ministry; maybe I wasn’t your desired target audience, but consider the moral of this tiny ambassador boosted. This is a magical place. And if she doesn’t call? Nivit, I’ll see you at the newsstand.

Epilogue: She didn’t call. Time to learn guitar.