TEL AVIV – The joke going around Israel these days is that “only Gal will bring peace.”
Gal, of course, is Israeli supermodel-turned-actress Gal Gadot, star of Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman.” But even Wonder Woman couldn’t broker a truce in next-door Lebanon, which banned the film Wednesday just hours before its premiere because of pressure from a group demanding the end of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
In Gadot’s native land, the news has caused hardly a ripple.
“We are used to very strange responses and actions from our neighbors, and we’re not really surprised,” said Dorit Ishay, VP of theatrical distribution for Globusmax, which is handling the “Wonder Woman” rollout in Israel. “There’s no impact here.”
Gadot’s home fan base remains fervent. Israeli moviegoers packed the film’s first few screenings here Wednesday, which coincided with a long holiday weekend and followed a splashy campaign of print interviews with Gadot, massive highway billboards, and a specially made greeting from the star herself, in Hebrew, that was tacked on to the movie’s trailer.
“It was hard to control the pressure from all the media because they all wanted so much access,” Ishay said. “It’s hard for everybody here to understand that Gal is not ours anymore. She is the world’s.”
That may be true, but Gadot, a former Miss Israel who rose to international fame in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, is unabashed in her patriotism. In interviews, she routinely mentions her military service in Israel, and she often posts in Hebrew on social media. Earlier this week, when Tel Aviv’s landmark Azrieli Towers were lit up with the message “We are proud of you Gal Gadot, our Wonder Woman!” she responded with an emotional Instagram post, one that has been shared more than 150,000 times.
But there’s one sector of the Israeli population that isn’t publicly gushing over Gadot: ultra-Orthodox Jews, who object to the public display of images of women. Female-led blockbusters are generally not advertised in Israel’s most religious neighborhoods, or they are promoted with female-free imagery. “Wonder Woman” is no exception: No posters of the film adorn any of the nation’s heavily religious strongholds.
To Liat Behr, a Jerusalem resident who runs a blog called Successful Women of Israel, that’s a shame.
“My theory is ‘Wonder Woman’ is an actual threat” to these communities, Behr said. “There’s a real fear that young Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] girls would be lured to see a strong and powerful female figure, and [it’s] even more of a threat since she is Israeli.”
Ishay said that the film’s publicity team in Israel had no desire to ignite any backlash against the nation’s own superhero.
“This is not the kind of publicity we want to get,” Ishay said. “But it’s not like anyone would dare to approach this film, or Gal, in a negative way — the whole country is behind her.”