Israel was a hot tourist destination for celebrities in the past two years, with several big names spending time in the Holy Land. Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren visited the country, and has a unique relationship with Israel, having worked on a kibbutz in the 1960s. Mirren won the Academy Award for best actress in 2006 for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, and was in Israel filming the movie The Debt, in which she played a Mossad agent. Academy Award winner Denzel Washington spent time in Israel, visiting, with his wife Paula in December 2010. Washington, who won his Oscar for his role in Training Day, went to Jerusalem, where he visited friends and shopped at the Alrov Mamilla Avenue outdoor mall. Academy Award winner and Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman returned to the land of her birth with her fiancé (now, husband) Benjamin Millepied and newborn son Aleph, where they went to the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, and several sites within Jerusalem, including the Mahane Yehuda Market and the Western Wall.
Popular musicians spent time in Israel, both to tour and for recreation. Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, who recently released a video for his hit song “Boyfriend,” played to a sold-out Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv and visited holy sites as well as playing pick up basketball with local kids and taking a scooter around the Tel Aviv coast. Legendary hard rock singer and former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne also played to fans at Hayarkon Park. He visited with his wife and spent time during his first ever trip to Israel at the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. He said, “We were very pleased to have the opportunity to come to Israel and visit the holy sites in the Old City.” U2 lead singer Bono spent some time in Israel on vacation, going to Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Jerusalem, the last of which he described as “a great city.”
Several other celebrities also spent time in Israel during the past year. These include Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons, New York Knicks power forward Amare Stoudemire, the cast of Fox hospital drama House, fashion designer Zach Posen, Homeland actress Claire Danes, quirky film director pair the Coen Brothers, Entourage actor Kevin Connelly, Spider-man star Tobey Maguire, former football player and television personalities, Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, French actress Charlotte Rampling, and comedian Sarah Silverman. Israel continues to be a top travel spot, as Madonna has chosen to start her upcoming world tour in Israel with a date in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan Stadium at the end of May.