Like moviegoing masses around the world, Israelis have crowded theaters to watch the hit spoof "Borat." But they are laughing for another reason: They actually understand what the anti-Semitic, misogynist Kazakh journalist is saying.
Few realize that comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's wacky comedic creation, Borat Sagdiyev, is not speaking Kazakh or even gibberish, but rather Hebrew.
The 35-year-old British comedian is no stranger to Israel. He is an observant Jew, his mother was born in Israel and his grandmother still lives in Haifa. In high school, he belonged to a Zionist Jewish youth group, Habonim Dror, and upon graduation spent a year working and studying on a kibbutz, or collective farm, in northern Israel. He has since returned for several visits. His Hebrew is excellent, and his understanding of Israeli culture superb.
"It is extremely funny and kind of cool to realize that you are understanding something no one else does," said Gaby Goldman, 33, of Tel Aviv. "It's not just the Hebrew but also the way he speaks. He sounds almost Israeli, he sounds like one of us."