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Over lunch in a Tel Aviv hotel, Ari Scott Goldman jovially tells of the Wahoo he caught while on a fishing trip with US reality TV star Bill Rancic. Now a Reality TV celebrity himself, Goldman is in Israel to try and catch a much bigger fish: a wife.
The day before his interview with The Jerusalem Post, Goldman who stars as the Jewish bachelor in the HOT series, Mikol Habanot Bâ€™Olam (â€œOf all the girls in the worldâ€) spent an afternoon at the jewelers, checking out the engagement ring intended for the series last episode. â€œI think itâ€™s possible that Iâ€™ll use the ring,â€ he says.
The NIS 100,000 engagement band is one of three main prizes Goldman and his chosen woman will share should they decide to remain a couple at the end of the TV series. A car and a rentfree apartment for one year in Rehovot are the other two key rewards.
â€œThe main prize for me is to meet a girl, but not necessarily to live in Israel,â€ says Goldman, who was stunned to hear about the apartment. â€œItâ€™s never been put to me that I meet the girl and move to Israel. Just as itâ€™s not going to be so easy to transplant the girls to New York, itâ€™s not so easy to transplant me into Israel.â€
Much has been written about the 34 year old businessman from New York since he agreed to participate in the saccharine Cinderella-like television program. He lives in Manhattan, is a vintage animated art dealer, studies with a rabbi every two weeks, and doesnâ€™t speak Hebrew (most of the show is in English). Reports which Goldman prefers not to comment on indicate heâ€™s a millionaire who in addition to his art business, also dabbles in hedge funds and real estate.
In person, Goldman comes across as a big kid with a goofy smile. And his handlers are very protective of their merchandise. They only show him selected press clippings written about him or the program, and tried to shush this reporter from telling him about the skewering he has been subject to in local media.
â€œOne of my best friends [Rancic] won the TV show The Apprentice. He told me that theyâ€™re going to write shit about you. He said donâ€™t look for it, and if you happen to catch it, donâ€™t read it again. So, I donâ€™t look for it, and if I happen to catch it, Iâ€™m human like anyone else and I donâ€™t like to read bad things about myself. But I know by accepting the position thereâ€™s going to be scrutiny in every which way.â€
So, what about reports that had a long-time girlfriend whom he ditched in favor of becoming famous. â€œI did not have a girlfriend
that I ditched. There was someone I went out on a few dates with and I believe it was her little sister who posted things on t h e Web,â€ he says.
Throughout much of the interview Goldman supplies ready-to-order PR bytes. But his answers also show that either heâ€™s fabulously naive or the producers of Mikol Habanot pulled a fast one on him. Okay, so he didnâ€™t know that one of the main prizes was an apartment which he was intended to occupy.
â€œOf all the girls in the world I choose you.â€ Goldman stares blankly at this reporter when told that line. Turns out this sentence which he must utter at the showâ€™s end is also something new. â€œIs that the sentence Iâ€™m going to be saying? That hasnâ€™t been put to me that way. Well, I guess itâ€™s a little cheesy,â€ he finally answers. â€œBut hey, Iâ€™m cheesy. I like disco music, I guess itâ€™s okay. Itâ€™s like youâ€™re hired instead of youâ€™re fired.â€
With one month to go, Mikol Habanot is down to five finalists. Among them is the much talked about Maria Ivanova, who, contrary to Lapidâ€™s pledge, is not Jewish.
â€œMariaâ€™s always been a very interesting question. I not only like her, but I find her to be very challenging. She has an air of mystery,â€ says Goldman between mouthfuls of steak. â€œSheâ€™s a question I never considered. Obviously on the book, not Jewish. Momâ€™s not Jewish, youâ€™re not Jewish. But sheâ€™s been living in Israel for over 15 years, and I get the sense from Maria that sheâ€™s really attached to Judaism and being Jewish.â€
Though Goldman says he hasnâ€™t made a final decision yet, he doesnâ€™t seem keen of letting the 29-year-old interior designer out of his sight. â€œIf she really converts for her own purposes then I would totally consider her a Jewish person. She was a curve ball, but Iâ€™m being open minded enough to take the situation as it opens up. I know some very high profile people that are Jewish whose wives converted. From the first show I thought â€˜itâ€™s just not possibleâ€™. But then I thought to myself that if itâ€™s ok for others, maybe itâ€™s possible, maybe sheâ€™ll be the right woman for me.â€
While marrying a Jewish woman had been Goldmanâ€™s dream, those participating in Mikol Habanot had the opportunity to cash in on the American dream. And this did not go unnoticed.
â€œI think itâ€™s a real concern of the show, that whenever I spend time with the girls I try and get a sense of who they are and I have to trust myself. I think the finalists in the show are not girls who want the American Jewish guy dream. If theyâ€™re lying with the way they touch me and look at me then my last 34 years of judging character is down the drain,â€ he says. â€œSome of them may have had that little idea in their minds rich Jewish American guy.â€
Goldmanâ€™s wealth is a source of contention. While he disclosed his information to Mikol Habanotâ€™s crew, he was surprised to see actual figures of his finances in the newspapers. â€œThe public relations people put out that hereâ€™s this wealthy American guy. I was told that I was going to be [marketed] as the Jewish single guy from New York,â€ says Goldman. â€œThey didnâ€™t tell me they were going to tell everybody in the newspapers how much money I have in the bank, which I donâ€™t like to disclose. I told them to tone it down as thatâ€™s not my move. When I meet girls in bars, you donâ€™t see me driving my Porsche into bars.â€
Whereas two months ago no one in Israel had heard of Goldman, today he is recognized in malls and on the streets. â€œBecoming famous is not why I came here. I came to meet a great girl,â€ he says.
As for finding true love in three months on the television screen, Goldman sums up that his parents â€œmet and got engaged after six weeks, and theyâ€™ve been married 41 years. My sister and her husband got engaged after four weeks and sheâ€™s been married 14 years. Everybody dates, and holds hands, and kisses. Ok, so Iâ€™m doing it on TV... I look at this as an opportunity to meet 18 nice Jewish girls.â€