Jay Leno Defies Anti-Israel Pressure, Backs Jewish State

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 |  Israel Today Staff

Famed comedian and longtime Tonight Show Host Jay Leno will be stepping up once again in support of Israel. For the third year running, Leno will headline a special night to benefit Israel. 

In 2014 and 2015, Leno hosted the Genesis Prize award ceremony in Israel, following which he was attacked on social media for his support. In a move that is completely in line with his character, Leno has turned a deaf ear to the naysayers and is headlining a night in support of Israel once again. This time it is a benefit concert for United Hatzalah of Israel, which will be taking place on Sunday, April 10, 2016, at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.

The evening, which is being billed as “An Evening of Laughter and Music”, is being held as a fundraiser to support the work of EMS first responders in Israel who have been tirelessly saving lives every day in face of the ongoing terror wave that has struck Israel in the past six months. The funds raised during the evening will be used to purchase much needed medical equipment and supplies, such as defibrillators and ambucycles.

Eli Beer, the Founder of United Hatzalah, said that there were numerous reasons why Mr. Leno of all celebrities was asked to headline the event. Among them was his previous relationship with Israel and the high quality and cleanliness of his performances.

“Jay Leno has hosted two landmark events in Israel over the past two years, the Genesis Prize awards ceremonies, and has said wonderful things about the country. We need more good PR for Israel and we couldn't think of a better person to have headline the show than Mr. Leno.”  

Mr. Leno came to Israel in May 2014 in order to host the Genesis Awards and present an award to former New York Mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg. Mr. Leno stated at the time how much he liked Israel. “I love Israel, that’s why I’m here,” reported Yediot Aharonot news site.

A year later, Mr. Leno hosted the second Genesis Prize event that was awarded to Michael Douglas. At the time, Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, called Mr. Leno “a true friend of Israel” in an article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post. Mr. Leno said that he was excited to be in Israel and was honored to help out. He acknowledged that just visiting Israel could be interpreted as a political statement (although he said that he didn’t view it as such) and that there were some who encouraged him not to come.

This time as well, a source within United Hatzalah shared concerns that the BDS movement may target the concert. “We haven’t seen any active targeting yet, but the threat is there whenever one holds a major pro-Israel event abroad, even in New York. When a big-name celebrity gets involved the pressure is all the greater, as it becomes a bigger story.”  

For his part, Mr. Leno shrugged off the threats and encouragements to drop his Israel-related engagements. Last year Mr. Leno said, “I don’t get these boycotters. I don’t think they quite understand the whole situation. To me, if you want to understand a place you go there and you look the people in the eye and you get a feeling for it. Either it feels good, or it doesn’t feel good. And that’s what works for me.”

Leno, who has been a friend of Israel for some time went on further to explain why Israel has such a bad image and what it can do to change that image.

“It’s an odd situation that you have Israel here surrounded by a gazillion people… and somehow they’re the underdogs. I think Israel is so efficient in defending itself and so good at it, that to the rest of the world it looks like bullying. It’s mystifying.”

Uncowed, Leno is stepping out into the limelight for the third time in a very public forum to support Israel. Especially when the event is also honoring Lone Soldiers who went from the United States to volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). According to United Hatzalah, some of the sponsors of the evening, Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein together with Bob and Amy Book and Mendy and Barbara Silber, have teamed up to purchase one hundred pairs of tickets to be given out to the men and women in the greater New York area who have served as IDF Lone Soldiers sometime within the past five years.

This tremendous donation is a tip of the hat to those who volunteer to serve and protect in Israel, during a night which is honoring volunteer EMS personnel as well. “The idea of coming together, to unite in our support of saving lives in Israel, is what this evening is all about,” said Eli Beer. “What better way to show that than by inviting 200 of the people who literally went out of their way and put their lives on the line to defend our country. They volunteer in their style and the volunteer EMS personnel voluntarily drop everything they are doing to save lives in their style. It is a win-win situation for everyone.”   

An Evening of Laughter and Music will take place on Sunday, April 10th, at 7:30 pm at the Rose Theater, at the Lincoln Center in Central Manhattan. For tickets please call 1-646-833-7108 or e-mail: office@israelrescue.org

Lone Soldiers who live in the U.S. and who served in the IDF over the last five years can email the New York office of United Hatzalah at: office@israelrescue.org to claim your complimentary tickets. Please include your name and phone number to qualify for the ticket.

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