What do Jews and Arabs Have in Common? They Both Go Ga-Ga with Excitement When a Movie Star Comes to Town. And Serve Him Falafel
So Richard Gere wants to come to Israel to promote peace – but he asks the media not to cover the visit.
Yeah, right. This guy does not know the Israeli press. They make the Hollywood and New York press look like a bunch of pussycats. Anyway, he’s here, and naturally every step he takes is being covered and his royal suite at the Dan Hotel is being staked out (of course, he’s staying in the room the Dalai Lama stayed in.)
He is visiting Israel as the guest of Spirit of Peace, the Israeli chapter of the International Peacemaking Community - a global, multi-faith peace organization. Gere asked to "hear the voices of the people" and to get to know the special places in the region, according to those who organized his visit. (Presumably he's going to territories as well. Next stop on his MidEast tour is reportedly Iraq.)
This is how the Hebrew newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported his first day here:
They came from the whole area. Mothers, daughters, and even grandmothers with sparkling eyes, crowded the local auditorium in the village of Faradis, to see, if only for a moment, their idol Richard Gere.
One little boy, kind of embarrassed, offered the actor some falafel balls, stuffed grape leaves, and a branch full of olives. And the superstar was thrilled.
“I’m a rich man, I’ve managed to travel the world, I’m lucky, and I don’t want for anything, But if there’s something that brings meaning to my life, it is the subject of peace – these kinds of meetings, these kinds of places. It is a great honor for me to be here,” said Gere, after he he tapped lightly with a small wooden stick on a metallic object in a spiritual ceremony that mean to ask for “quiet and listening.”
Gere arrived yesterday at Faradis, an Arab village next to Zichron Ya’acov to meet with women members of various peace organizations. Surrounded by security guards and wearing a shy smile, he walked across the hall, taken aback by how many photographers were there. “Hang on,” he said to them quietly, embarrassed.
The audience of female fans (and a few males who couldn’t resist) stood and applauded, cheered, and whistled.
Geres spoke of the importance of peace, of his desire to create hope between people, and to help to raise money for groups that work to this purpose. When Gere asked those present “to be my teachers,” a circle of ten girls formed around him and explained to him the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gere listened with a focused gaze. He tasted the food he was served (he especially liked the falafel) and received a t-shirt that read “War is not my language.” At the end, everyone left the room soaked with stardust.
“He is just unbelievable,” sighed one of the women. “I’d leave my husband for him.”
From there, the actor continued to the Druze village of Dalia-al-Carmel to visit the home of Ali Birani, a peace activist.
“I think that I’ve seen every movie he’s been in, but I never thought this wonderful actor would ever be in my house,” said he son, Nassir, excitedly. “until 15 minutes before he arrived, when I got the call that he was on his way, I didn’t believe it would happen.” Gere stayed at the family’s house for three and a half hours and over the course of his stay, spoke with the Druze Sheik a Jewish rabbi, a Moslem Imam, and a Christian Priest.
After a long day in Arab villages, Gere arrived in Savyon, at the home of top PR man Rani Rahav. The cream of the Israeli business community came to rub shoulders with the Hollywood star. Shimon Peres and his son Chemi, and Dalia Rabin-Pellosof made it to the cocktail party. Gere entered the house quickly, without even a wave to the neighborhood kids who had gathered on the steps at the house across the street and yelled “Richard, Richard!”
Some of the guests at the party had trouble hiding their excitement. “I’ve seen all his movies,” said real estate baron Lev Leviev. “That’s why I came to meet him.” Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was there with his wife Judy, as was the US ambassador Dan Kurtzer.
Shimon Peres came out of the meeting enraptured. “It turns out that Gere doesn’t just capture the hearts of woman, but also the hearts of men, because he is very down-to-earth.,” said Peres “he isn’t just a big star but a major artist and it is very impressive that he is willing to dedicated some of his time and energy to promoting peace in Israel.”
Gere returned the compliment. “I don’t know how you do it,” he said to Peres. “You are more than 20 years older than me, but you look 20 years younger than me.” With a small falafel in his hand (yup, they served him falafel in Savyon, too) Gere joked (presumably referring to his meeting with the women activists in Faradis) “You know the difference between me and the Arabs? The Arabs discriminate against women, and I discriminate against men.!”