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(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Israeli paparazzi are infamous for their tenacity. In the past, Elton John fled the country to express his disapproval, Jim Carrey went so far to avoid them as to hire a body-double to hang out at his hotel while he snuck out the back to go sightseeing, and Leo DiCaprio – who was visiting the Kotel with his Israeli girlfriend Bar Rafaeli – was in the middle of a scuffle between his bodyguards and overeager photographers jostling to snap the famous couple.
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Now it’s Justin Bieber’s turn to be the target of the professional photographers who follow celebrities around the country, hoping to snap the shot nobody else will have.
The 17-year-old teen-singing sensation – who arrived in Israel on Sunday night, ahead of his show Thursday night in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park – has expressed in Twitter postings his frustration with being stalked every time he leaves his suite in the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv.
On Monday, his first day in the country, the mood in his tweet was somewhat upbeat.
“Just amazing place... not a bad day. just wish got a little more space and privacy from the paps to enjoy this time with my family. Thanks.” He added, “I’m in the holy land and i am grateful for that. I just want to have the same personal experience that others have here.”
But on Tuesday, the tone of his tweets changed – following a trip to the North and Christian holy sites. “I want to see this country and all the places I’ve dreamed of and whether its the paps or being pulled into politics its been frustrating,” he wrote on Tuesday, likely referring to media reports that he bailed out of a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, because the PM invited a group of children from communities near Gaza.
“You would think paparazzi would have some respect in holy places. All I wanted was the chance to walk where Jesus did here in Israel. People wait their whole lives for opportunities like this, why would they want to take that experience away from someone. They should be ashamed of themselves. Take pictures of me eating but not in a place of prayer, ridiculous.”
In apparent retaliation toward the paparazzi, he tweeted: “Staying in the hotel for the rest of the week u happy?” Bieber did go out on Wednesday, however, making a brief foray to a Tel Aviv beach-front McDonald’s where he met with some of his local fans.
According to photographer Daniel Cohen, who earns part of his living shooting candid photos of celebrities, Bieber is overreacting to the glare of the cameras, adding that it’s something he has to learn to live with.
“Look, he’s a star, and he has to realize that someone of his stature is going to be pursued – whether it’s at his hotel or he goes out to any public place,” said Cohen Wednesday. “His fans want to see him at the sea, or the pool… or the Kotel.
Every place in Israel is holy, so they’re not going to take pictures of him anywhere? It’s totally legitimate. I don’t think that Israeli paparazzi are more aggressive than their counterparts in the US or England.”
Cohen said Bieber’s responsibilities aren’t only to perform on Thursday night, but include being accessible to his fans.
“He has to realize that people are paying a lot of money to see him, and he’s got to do more than just perform. His fans want to know where he ate, they want to see photos of him, they love him and want to identify with him. He has to give something.”
After DiCaprio’s incident a few years ago, PR pros advised that the way to stop paparazzi from stalking celebrities was to hold an event for the press where photographers have unlimited access to shoot all they want. Bieber’s management didn’t heed that advice, scheduling no press conferences or events open to photographers during Bieber’s sixday stay in the country.
According to Ronit Arbel, whose firm is handling PR for the concert, a meeting with Netanyahu had never been on the schedule, and Bieber and his manager Scooter Braun – a vocally pro-Israel American Jew – were surprised to read about the planned meeting.
“We never asked to meet with [Netanyahu], nor has anyone connected with us asked to meet him,” Braun told The Jerusalem Post.
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office told the Post on Tuesday that they had been approached by Bieber’s staff about the meeting, and that the PMO had nixed the meeting when Bieber resisted the inclusion of children from the South.
According to Cohen, while a photo-op with the PM or a press conference would indeed have been welcome by photographers, it wouldn’t have prevented them from continuing to tail Bieber around the country.
“There’s a huge demand for photos of him, whether it’s at the Kotel or the Dead Sea,” Cohen said. “That wouldn’t have satiated anyone.”