Or worse yet, JAP- y.
Sheesh! Where did these stereotypes about Jewish looks come from? And has anyone noticed that plenty of Spanish, Italian, Arab or Indian folks could easily share the same description?
Whatever the reason, people think ‘Jew’ and Barbara Streisand comes to mind. They think ‘Jew’ and Alan Dershowitz appears.
And BRILLIANT as they are (and they sure are), we (Jewish people) are pigeon-holed as that look in our entirety.
Well, here’s another area in which Israel could use some better PR, because Israelis are freakin’ GORGEOUS. I stare. I can’t help it. And I come from Texas (originally), NYC (for college), and Hollywood (ever since). That means, I’ve got some means of comparison. ‘Cause, check out what we know about the beauty those places tout:
Texas ~ According to “Men’s Health Magazine,” the most beautiful women in America hail from Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas. Ahem, my home towns. Since 1980, they have a higher percentage of beauty-pageant winners and playmates than anywhere else. And, according to their survey, the greatest number of beauties per capita! (We’re not talking plastic, manufactured beauty either; we’re talking home-grown goodness.)
New York City – Model capital of the world. I used to live across the street from the world-famous Elite modeling agency, where gawky, emaciated, Amazon women roamed the streets as though they were normal members of society and not imported freaks! (I say this of course out of pure jealousy, as I am 5’4” and curvy and doubt I will ever awake in the morning to find myself otherwise.)
Los Angeles – Home of Paris Hilton, Catherine Zeta Jones and every dazzling starlet who ever was or will be lit by the glittering glow of Hollywood’s limelight. They are the beauty trendsetters of the world, their entire existence dependant on the height of their cheekbones and the bounce of their bottoms. And we, the world, impressionable dolts as we are, eagerly down their dysfunctional definitions of beauty unquestioningly like kneeling children swallowing bread at first communion.
I digest…er, digress…point is, I have room to talk cause I’ve seen all these beauties up close and personal and let me tell you, after all that…ISRAEL’S BEAUTIES TRUMP ‘EM ALL! Listen, if any dude ever tells you Jewish girls aren’t pretty, you send that poor fella to the promised land, to witness for himself the land flowing with milk and honeys.
I always had an inkling that Israelis were gorgeous because my mom is Israeli, and poo poo poo, she is and always has been a total cha-tee-cha (hottie)! But I didn’t realize we had a whole country full of stunning people. And I’m not just talking about the women, though we can start with them.
From exile, Jews of the world have returned home and it’s created a “something-for-everyone” collection of beauty. We’ve got the striking, sun-kissed, dark-haired, dark-eyed beauties. We’ve got the Eastern-European/Russian contingent, fair-skinned, classic features, light-eyed and blond. We’ve got the Latin Jews, the French Jews, the Ethiopian Jews, the Swedish Jews and the Indian Jews. And then, oh my gosh, we have the mixtures which make for scandalously, exotic combinations where an olive-complected, black-haired gent can turn to reveal crystal-clear, blue eyes that can (and have) stop me in my tracks. The Tel Aviv beach is the perfect place to observe these many different types of Jews, home from foreign lands.
Furthermore, Israelis love salads. They’ve made the desert bloom, so now they’re taking advantage of it, eating fruits and vegetables as the basis of every meal. This makes for some amazingly svelt bodies for them, and delicious eye-candy for me. Trim guys play “matkot” (a game somewhere between ping-pong and tennis) on the shore, running and jumping and glistening (if I do say so) without any extra skin jiggling! And the women, well, they can just lie there for all to admire. (And they do!)
That isn’t to say every woman is a rake. There are real women of many shapes and sizes and ages. But, whereas in America most women participate in our culture of self-loathing, in Israel women wear their bikinis confidently. Curvy or straight, they own their physiques, and their acceptance and love of what they’ve got translates to beauty. What a small view of attractiveness I buy into in the States. These ladies, without speaking a word, taught me through example the meaning of Sophia Loren’s wise words: “Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than her own thought that she is beautiful.”
By every modern and global standard, Israelis top the beauty charts. But there’s another beauty, an ancient beauty Israel boasts.
A 'pssshhhhhh' moment
Unlike Tel Avivians who are more secular, Yerushalmi (Jerusalem) beauties cover themselves in brightly colored, flowing skirts and scarves. With bohemian sparkle they float down the streets, their modesty adding to their mystique.
As a Westerner quite comfortable with showing skin, I wondered if these ladies secretly wish to bear it all. So I asked Yifat, an Israeli friend from Tsfat who, for me, lives and embodies the amazing wisdom and richness Judaism offers. She is truly a LIGHT, down-to-earth, holy and inspired.
“Do you ever just want to take it off and wear…a tank top?” I asked her.
She thought and then answered, “You know, when I went to America, I drove past all these billboards with women just wearing their bras and underwear and I couldn’t believe it! I wondered, where are all your feminists?!”
“What do you mean?” I asked her. “It’s the model’s body, and she has the right to do with it what she wants. That’s the feminist movement.”
“Really?” Yifat challenged. “Because I thought the feminist movement was about women being seen as more than just baby-makers, more than just sex objects. Do you think anyone cares what that woman on the billboard has to say? Do they care what she thinks? Will they even care about what she looks like after age 25? Where are all your feminists protesting?! She is on display as nothing more than a body!”
In Israel, when someone gives over a piece of wisdom that knocks your socks off and makes you see differently you say, “Pssssshhhhh,” and you sit back in your chair to absorb it all. This was a “Pssshhhhhh” moment.
Yifat loves the way she dresses and that self respect and modest beauty are palpable. Sure, not every religious girl thinks exactly like Yifat, because no group of people all think exactly the same way. But, she enjoys that people treat her differently. They can see she’s observant. And it engenders a different level of consideration. Folks think twice before speaking crassly toward her or even in front of her, and if they slip, they apologize. In short, her inner beauty is felt. She comes with a different degree of dignity.
Beneath every Israeli’s beauty is a student, a soldier, a Jew. Modern, ancient. Romantic, traditional. Well traveled, rooted. Bohemian, sophisticated. Inner, outer. This is the beauty of Jews, of Israelis.
We’ve all met those people we can’t help but dislike at first glance because they just seem to have it all – like the way I spoke about those models in NYC; they were just so beautiful I wanted to hate them…without even knowing them! Well, that must be why the world likes to put us down. We're smart, we persevere, we look up, we work hard - we have always done this. We always will. And some hate that about us. What can I say? Sometimes it’s hard to look directly into the sunlight.
Lara Berman is best known as the effervescent, award-winning host of “CU@USC,” an interview-style, TV show that gained huge followings around the world, most notably in Russia and Japan. She also recently appeared in Discovery Health’s hit, special series, “Baby Madness, Candid Kids.”
Conversing easily with celebrities, your man-on-the-street and children, she has traveled around the country conducting red-carpet interviews at various premieres, press junkets and film festivals. Lara was also featured in “O,” Oprah Magazine for her work with Intuitive Eating and is currently in development of her own television show and a children’s book series.
Lara has an MA in broadcast journalism from USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and her BFA in drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She originally hails from Fort Worth, Texas and loves wet-nosed pups and Israel.
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