Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

How Gal Gadot became queen of the Jews

Gal Gadot stars in “Wonder Woman.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

I have declared a new Jewish holiday.

It is the 18th of Tishrei – Chai Tishrei – otherwise known as Yom Gal.

From now on, the Jews of the world will celebrate Yom Gal as the anniversary of the Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Why should this be a holiday?

Because it was a moment in Zionist history.

Let’s understand what, and whom, we are talking about.

We are talking about Gal Gadot, perhaps the hottest actress in the world, largely because of her stellar appearance in Wonder Woman.

And, what happened during her appearance on Saturday Night Live? The opening monologue said it all.

First of all, she explained her accent by saying that she is from Israel.

May I confess something to you?

For a brief nano-second, I cringed.

Because I expected there to be at least a few boos and hisses from the audience.

Why wouldn’t I have expected that? When you consider how Israel continues to be the go-to whipping boy (or girl) for so many on the cultural left, the fear was not irrational.

On the other hand, Israel-haters would have engaged in their own private BDS campaign, and simply not have been in the SNL audience that night.

And yet, what happened? Enthusiastic cheers from the audience – especially when she announced that this was the first time that SNL was being broadcast live in Israel.

Yeah, it brought a tear to my eye.

This was my private wake up call.

Simply put: Even with all of Israel’s challenges, there is still a wellspring of support and affection for the Jewish state – in every corner of American culture.

To wit:

  • Comedian Conan O’Brien’s recent trip to Israel– in which he gave a rather serviceable, speed version of Israeli history, and walked around Tel Aviv, and other places, conversing with Israelis, and generally having a great time.
  • Transparent, on Amazon. In which Maura Pfefferman and her daughter, Ali, visit Israel, so that Maura can present a paper on gender at a conference, but deeper than that, as a pilgrimage to a holy place.

Granted: I was troubled by the first episode in Israel – which, by the way, was not even filmed in Israel.

Ali connects with a new friend, an anti-Israel activist whose BDS stance is so unyielding that she will not even purchase food or drink in Israel, lest she support the Jewish state.

The friend takes Ali on a trip to Ramallah, which strikes her as a. totally normal and, b. totally cool. She joins a bunch of Palestinian and leftist Israelis in a scrumptious dinner, with a side order of deep, passionate anti-Israel rhetoric.

I know — when it comes to Israel and popular culture: Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore. This is no longer the Israel of the iconic film “Exodus.”

Though, in fact, that episode of Transparent said more about Ali’s emotional neediness than it said about Israel.

And now, Gal Gadot on SNL.

Having “outed” herself as Israeli, Gal launched into a few sentences in Hebrew, directed towards her friends and family in Israel, in which she poked fun at the stereotype of hummus-loving Israelis.

The Hebrew was great – hysterically funny, actually.

Yeah, it brought a tear to my eye – especially because of the wild cheers that her Hebrew elicited from the audience.

It was a Zionist moment. As Lewis Glinert makes clear in The Story of Hebrew, Zionism is as much about the resurrection of a language from the dustbin of history as it is about national liberation on its own soil.

Every time we hear modern Hebrew; every time we speak modern Hebrew – we are engaging in not only a linguistic exercise, but in an act that was born in a spiritual revolution.

Moreover, Zionism means normalization – that the Jews live not only as a supernatural people, but as a natural people who are part of the community of nations.

The mere fact that the hottest actress in the world is Israeli; that she played a superhero, who happens to be an empowered woman; that these facts do not cause even the suggestion of a raised eyebrow – this, too, is a Jewish statement.

For a few shining moments at 11:35 pm this past Saturday evening (or, motzei Shabbat if you are so inclined) – Israel looked, and sounded, really, really good.

And then, Gal went on that date with OJ…..and then, she kissed Kate McKinnon…..

It’s all good. It’s all Gal.

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

13 Comments

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  • “When you consider how Israel continues to be the go-to whipping boy (or girl) for so many on the cultural left, the fear was not irrational.”
    Have you been paying attention to the people on the alt-right? In the past month, I have been attacked by the right-wingers, flinging out their anti-Semitic nonsense about world wide conspiracies by the Jews.

  • Yes, but many of those same alt-righters claim to have an ironic admiration for Israel because they see it as a model for the “white ethnostate” they seek for America. This does not subtract from their antisemitism, of course.
    I was also worried that Gadot would get heckled in some way. In retrospect, it’s easy for the BDS bullies to attack 18-year-old sheltered college students as imperialists, colonizers, etc. But Gadot has that “Hot Israeli woman who could probably kill you with her bare hands” look.

  • If the advertised “queen of the Jews” is comfortable doing steamy kisses with other women on national TV, then maybe — just maybe — there’s a problem there.

    I agree with Rabbi Salkin that “the Jews are a supernatural people,” but the sole basis for that claim, is the incomparable and supernatural God of the Bible.

    If one abandons that God, if one abandons that Bible, things are only going to go downhill, queen or no queen.

  • Ms. Gadot is lovely, talented, and can handle action movie acting quite well. But her appearance on SNL and her role in Keeping Up With The Joneses show, she doesn’t have a funny bone in her well sculpted body.

    But that’s OK. Comedy is hard. It is far easier for a comedian to do drama than a dramatic actor to be funny (see George Clooney)

  • Gal gadot is the queen of the Jews no doubt about that. Shlomo had a 1000 wives… no one is perfect.

  • Her claim to fame is that she played the reincarnation of the pagan goddess Diana in a movie. Now that’s real Judaism for you!

  • As usual, Rabbi Salkin writes well, but I would dispute his assertion that Gal Gadot is “the hottest actress in the world.” Though unquestionably attractive, such a declaration is wholly subjective, and might be viewed by politically correct extremists as sexist and demeaning of the young woman’s talents. Let us face it however, movies are made to attract an audience, and as the Rabbi so aptly demonstrates, many men are moved by fulsome feminine pulchritude, that sells tickets even when the underlying theme of a film is shallow or deep. Often…too often…marketing displaces higher motives in the arts.

  • Especially not here! No way. Nobody here but us rational cogitators and level-headed commentators. 🙂

  • Americans are a welcoming and multicultural people. In an entertainment forum, they will happily be encouraging to anyone on stage. They would have clapped supportively for a vampire from Transylvania, speaking in Transylvanian, because it’s the decent thing to do.

    That said, Gal has captured America’s heart, so the claps were more than just a courtesy. The only person who gets boo’ed in America is whoever happens to be president.

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