Aside from considerations of faith, what it means to be Jewish/black/Muslim/Japanese is the same — to perpetuate the genes of your people and assist them in perpetuating themselves. As the preamble to the U.S. Constitution states: “For ourselves and for our posterity.” That’s the purpose of life.
No people and no country has a right to exist. Every people, every country, have to establish themselves against fierce competition and defend themselves and when opportunity presents itself, go on the attack to strengthen themselves. If your country and people do not become as strong as possible, they are reducing their chances to survive.
“I realized how much Judaism for me was connected to yearning — to wanting what you don’t have — which is maybe why Israel is so complicated emotionally for Jews: It’s built into the emotional structure of our religion to yearn for a homeland we don’t have,” Portman wrote in the Times.
“So then, if we have it, what do we yearn for? We say ‘next year in Jerusalem’ as if we are still in exile. But maybe Jerusalem as an idea is never attainable — so we can keep longing for it, even when we have it.”
Portman’s eloquence on Israel is decidedly uncharacteristic of most of Jewish Hollywood. In good times and bad, Israel is a subject Jewish celebrities tend to avoid, lest they be seen as too tribal, or worse, unsympathetic to the Palestinian cause. But Portman is an exception, and, over the years, she has become a kind of a de facto defender of Israel (when I use this label with her, she laughs), especially in the face of public misconception or outright hostility toward Israel or the Jews. When a video surfaced in February 2011 of Dior chief fashion designer John Galliano spouting anti-Semitic comments in a Paris bar, Portman, then the face of a Dior fragrance, was quick to condemn him.
“I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments,” she said in a statement at the time. “In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way. I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”
Galliano was subsequently suspended from Dior. Four years later, when The Hollywood Reporter questioned her about the incident, she said she could forgive him, but not his comments. In the same story, she was equally unforgiving of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she condemned for “racist comments,” which she said she was “very much against.”