JERUSALEM — Thursday morning, news broke that Pamela Anderson had capped off her Holy Land honeymoon by writing a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to endorse a bill banning the sales of clothes made of animal fur.
Naturally, this was one of those headlines that raised more questions than it answered. So we’ve done our best here to explain what’s going on.
Anderson is one of America's most famous PETA activists, and, at the same time, a big fan of Israel — where she served as a judge on the local version of "Dancing with the Stars." One can only suppose that those two passions came together while on her honeymoon.
What is Pamela Anderson's thing with Israel, anyway?
Excellent question! Maybe that she has just married Rick Salomon, a nice Jewish boy with a history of sex tapes, for the second time? She has visited the country, however, numerous times prior to this latest re-marriage. Israel has turned into something of a Mecca (ahem) for Hollywood celebs who enjoy combining bars and beaches with something from the more spiritual side of life. Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Rihanna, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Lionel Messi and Mayim Bialik have all been recent visitors. Justin Timberlake is expected in May.
Did Pamela Anderson say why Netanyahu should ban fur?
Not in detail, but given her well-known PETA activism it's not exactly a mystery. She did try the Jewish angle on Bibi, writing that the way animals "suffer and die for fur violates Jewish principles."
And is fur actually against Jewish teachings?
To answer this question, GlobalPost turned to Yossi David, a professor of Jewish law and an expert on ethics. "Of course it is," he said. "There is Tza'ar ba'alei chayim, which literally means 'the suffering of living creatures' and is a ban on inflicting unnecessary pain on animals. Its not incidental."
So what about the ultra-orthodox Jews who wear fur hats?
"That is exactly the problem," David said. "That's the reason some Hasidic courts have recently ordered their followers to start using shtreimels made out of synthetic fur." The irony, David points out, is that the use of fur headpieces among Jews started out as a humiliation. "In Poland, the authorities wanted to identify and humiliate the Jews, so they forced them to wear a stinking racoon on their heads. With time, this became part of their identity, but it started with contempt."
So what is this bill? Is this fur issue a big deal in Israel?
It’s a real bill, but it is far from becoming law. Forty members of the 120-seat parliament have endorsed a bill that would make Israel the first country on Earth to ban the use of all fur outright.
There is a little activism here, but fur has not become an issue that gets thousands onto the streets in Israel. For some reason, despite the lack of a local fur industry (Israel imports furs, mostly from China) the International Anti-Fur Coalition, a group representing over 50 anti-fur entities worldwide, is based in Tel Aviv. They seem to believe the bill has real chances of passing and its true that Prime Minister Netanyahu has expressed sympathy for animal rights groups in the past, but …
Will Pamela Anderson's letter accomplish anything?
Chances that the government will support this legislation, when its principal opponents are ultra-orthodox Jews who wear large, round, flat-topped, fur hats on ceremonial occasions, are nil. Whatever affection Netanyahu may or may not feel for hot blonde shiksas, he will not risk alienating this community over a matter that involves an imported good and not a national product.
What are Israelis saying about the visit?
Well, the web community seems to think this whole story’s pretty funny. Netanyahu was once known as a serial philanderer, so it was probably inevitable that there would be some jokes cracked at his expense. "Sara [Netanyahu's wife] will lop off his dick if he dares to approach Pamela," wrote one commenter on the entertainment site Mako.
It’s worth pointing out that Anderson practices what she preaches: I talked to Dror Danino, the manager of the King David Hotel, where Anderson stayed in the Presidential Suite, and he said she enjoyed a specially prepared vegan breakfast including sautéed mushrooms, fruit juices and crackers.
He confirmed that she is "very pretty!" and said, mournfully, that while "the weather was too cold for her to enjoy the swimming pool, they did sit out on the balcony enjoying the sun." Like all honeymooners, Anderson and Salomon received champagne on the house. And if other examples from their stay are anything to go by, the pair were probably pretty good guests, as celebrities go. Israeli website Wallacelebs highlighted the almost $90 tip Anderson and Salomon left at a Jerusalem restaurant after they showed up over two hours late for their reservation.
And the official reaction?
One Tourism Ministry official I talked to sighed when I asked her about this turn of events. "Oh, Pamela,” she said. “Couldn't you just enjoy your honeymoon and keep out of politics?"
IDF spokesman Col. Peter Lerner, who was caught off guard when asked about the Anderson visit, told GlobalPost "It is not for me to comment on such an issue, but I wish her all the mazel in the world."