When you’re an important public figure in the world, the things you do and the decisions you make are always being watched and followed. Renowned actress and native of Israel Natalie Portman has sparked some controversy this week in her home country after a courageous decision she made to snub a prestigious honour.
Recognized as the ‘Jewish Nobel’ by TIME Magazine, the million-dollar award that recognizes a prominent Jewish individual annually was set to be handed to Natalie Portman this June. According to The Jerusalem Post, the prize selection committee acknowledged Portman as a “globally acclaimed actress and director”, who is also known for her respected work in social activism that includes areas such as combating poverty, gender equality, microfinance, and animal rights.
Born in Jerusalem on June 9, 1981, she moved to the United States as a child, before attending Harvard University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Although she grew up in America, Natalie admitted to Rolling Stone in ‘The Private Life of Natalie Portman’ that she “really love(s) the States…my heart’s in Jerusalem. That’s where I feel at home.” Having said that, her recent decision to boycott receiving the award in Israel has alarmed people worldwide and has left many inevitably wondering why she decided to do this.
Amidst all the buzz and speculation, Portman decided to speak out and offer some clarity. Naturally, people have had their own stir of interpretations and angles on the matter, but the actress decided to make her thoughts publicly known in an Instagram post. “Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony.” Adding: “Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”
Although she has made it known that she disagrees with some of the decisions made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she wants to be clear that she has no part in the Palestinian-inspired movement BDS, otherwise known as ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.’ Perhaps the most revealing part of her statement was this: “The mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”
In speaking out publicly, Natalie has made her reasoning and intentions evident, continuing to stand for what she believes in, at any cost. Despite her bold decision not to accept the award, she told The Jerusalem Post that she was “deeply touched and humbled” by the honour. Though some may deem this decision as a dishonour to her country, Stan Polovets, the co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation supported her, stating: “Her talent, her commitment to social causes and her deep connection to her Israeli roots are greatly admired.” Furthermore, he proclaimed: “She exemplifies the core traits of the Jewish character and values of the Jewish people—persistence and hard work, the pursuit of excellence, intellectual curiosity, and a heartfelt desire to contribute to making the world a better place. Without a doubt, she is a role model for millions of young Jews around the world”
Regardless of the courageous decision to not accept this high honour, Natalie has still preserved the support and respect of her fans and followers worldwide. Even though she decided to avoid a formal ceremony of recognition, she remains adamant about continuing her initiatives and endeavours. According to The Jerusalem Post, Portman will use the global platform to make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond, as well as have a further impact on women’s issues in Israel. The actress remains focused on making a difference in the quality of life for women and the people of Israel, further justifying her stance towards the place she proudly calls home.
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