Natalie Portman Says She is ‘Grateful’ for Her Israeli Roots — ‘I Never Questioned My Identity’
Famed actress Natalie Portman said she takes pride in having Israeli roots, in a new cover story for the Harper’s Bazaar‘s August issue.
“Everyone has a very strong, very passionate opinion about it,” she said of her birth country. “But I’m grateful for it. I had so many friends who asked, when we were younger, ‘Who am I? What’s my identity?’ I never questioned my identity.”
The Black Swan star, 34, also said that a mention of her Israeli heritage usually gets people talking about politics. She told the magazine, “If you say, ‘I’m from Sweden,’ everyone says, ‘Cool.’ Then when you say, ‘I’m from Israel!’ everyone wants to have a 10-hour political conversation.”
Portman grew up on Long Island but was born in Jerusalem, where her father was raised. She spent six months last year in Israel filming her first feature as a director, A Tale of Love and Darkness.
The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Israeli author Amos Oz. It tells the story of Oz’s relationship with his mentally ill mother, played by Portman, and is set in Israel in the years after World War II. Aside from starring in the film, Portman also wrote the screenplay, which is entirely in Hebrew.
“The power of words is at the center of Judaism, and the creating of a people through storytelling,” she said. “So I wanted to show the birth of this writer as he relates to his mother.
She told Harper’s Bazaar she often gets questioned on the red carpet about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. foreign policy, but that she prefers to talk about simpler matters.
“I get asked so many questions about the Middle East, and I’m like ‘Can you please just ask me about my dress? Let’s just talk about the dress!'” she quipped.
Despite her stated discomfort with it, Portman herself is no stranger to Israel-related political activism.
At the height of the Israel-Hamas war last summer, she organized an “intimate” discussion at her home, led by Jeremy Ben-Ami, the President of left-wing group J Street, to discuss the conflict and “possible next steps forward.”