Another year is coming to an end and Rosh Hashanah prep has already started across Israel and the Diaspora. As we ready to say goodbye to 5775 and hello to 5776, we’re taking a look back at the faces and figures that made this past year such a memorable one for the Jewish community. Here’s Jspace’s ranking of the top people of the year!
This summer, Matisyahu was invited to perform at the Rototom Sunsplash Reggae Festival in Spain–fitting, as he is arguably one of the most recognizable musicians in that genre of music. However, festival organizers were immediately pressured by the boycott Israel movement–the BDS–to disinvite Matisyahu, who is American and not Israeli. He was simply targeted for his Judaism.
When festival staff asked Matisyahu to make a formal statement denouncing the Israeli government and proclaiming his support for a Palestinian state, he refused, saying, “Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements. Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform?”
Shortly after, his invitation to perform was rescinded. In the ensuing days the festival was flooded with complaints, with everyone from the ADL to the Spanish government explaining this was outright discrimination and illegal. Rototom apologized and re-invited Matisyahu to play, and he graciously accepted, using the opportunity to spread his message of peace.
At his performance, an estimated 100 BDS protesters lined the front of the audience, waving Palestinian flags and anti-Israel banners so high as to block the view of those behind them. Matisyahu proudly and defiantly performed his hit single “Jerusalem,” about the inability to eradicate the Jewish people.
4. Gal Gadot
Israeli supermodel and actress Gal Gadot had the kind of year that ensures we’ll be hearing her name for years to come. The new Wonder Woman will appear this March in the highly anticipated film “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and is signed to a three-film contract with DC Entertainment that will include a solo Wonder Woman film. And this year’s Gucci ad campaign starring the lovely Jewish beauty didn’t hurt, either.
Get your kosher popcorn ready, Gal Gadot is about to become a blockbuster hit!
3. The Israeli Defense Forces
While not technically one person, the unified entity that is the IDF certainly earned its spot on this list. In 5775, the brave men and women of the IDF protected Israel’s borders in the direct aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 50-day operative against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The period after a ceasefire is tenuous at best, fatally dangerous at worst, and the Israeli soldiers proved their bravery and merit, digging out the remaining terror tunnels, protecting borders against near-constant stabbings and car rammings, and remaining the heroes of the most moral army on Earth.
We thank you for your service.
2. Benjamin Netanyahu
Is there anyone on the planet that didn’t hear from Benjamin Netanyahu this year? In 5775, the Israeli prime minister made it his mission to make sure world leaders heard him loud and clear: the Israeli government considers a nuclear Iran an existential threat.
From the UN General Assembly to an unprecedented speech before Congress, Bibi made his position known, and when confronted with a final deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers, he let it be known that Israel is prepared to defend herself against all enemies, even if she must do so alone.
1. Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas had a banner year in the Jewish community, earning him our top spot in this year’s ranking. In March, the Oscar winner penned a piece for the LA Times, opening up about his experiences with anti-Semitism and how he was helping his own son combat the same problem. In April, he revealed to Jimmy Fallon that his son was actually the one that helped him re-connect with his Jewish roots, explaining that young Dylan came to him to request he become a bar mitzvah, prompting the Douglas-Zeta Jones clan to travel to Israel for the simcha.
In June, the family traveled to Israel once more, where Douglas was awarded the Genesis Prize, the Jewish state’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. While in the country, Douglas met with the Netanyahu family and Shimon Peres, and said: “I am always amazed at how many Jews are not in Israel–the most important thing is to come here and feel Israel. Everyone has his own narrative, and I encourage all of you to find your Jewish narrative and keep it in the future.”
Mazel tov, Michael Douglas and all our honorees–we can’t wait to see what the new year brings!