After refusing Israel visit, Natalie Portman won't choose where Genesis prize money goes

The American actress said she would not visit Israel to accept the Genesis Prize as she did not want to appear to be endorsing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who would be speaking a the ceremony.

By JTA
April 21, 2018 15:32
2 minute read.
Natalie Portman

Actor Natalie Portman speaks onstage at the Women's March in Los Angeles on January 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (photo credit: EMMA MCINTYRE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

 
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Natalie Portman will no longer get to choose where her $2 million Genesis Prize will be donated after saying she will not travel to Israel to receive the award.

Instead, the Genesis Prize Foundation will decide where the money goes.

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Natalie Portman Declines Honor and Cancels Israel Trip, April 20, 2018 (Reuters)

Portman is refusing to travel to Israel to receive the prize because “[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel,” the foundation announced Thursday. It has canceled the award ceremony in June as a result.

The prize, known as the “Jewish Nobel,” has been awarded annually for five years. Portman was announced as the 2018 laureate in November for a prize that “honors individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement along with their commitment to Jewish values and the Jewish people.”

Every winner has pledged to donate the award money, which was doubled this year to $2 million. Portman said she would be donating her award to women’s rights groups.

The Genesis Prize Foundation will still give the money to women’s rights groups. But Portman will no longer choose the recipients, owing to her refusal to attend the award ceremony, according to a statement by Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn, who supplied half of this year’s award.

“I cannot support the decision of canceling an appearance due to ‘recent events in Israel,'” Kahn said in the statement, which first appeared in The Jerusalem Post. “Together with the Genesis Prize Foundation, we will make sure that women’s rights organizations … will not be affected in any way. The prize money will be distributed by the Genesis Prize Foundation, not by Ms. Portman.”

Portman, a Jerusalem native, did not specify which recent events led to her decision. Israel has met significant international criticism for its response to protests on the Gaza border in which dozens of Palestinians have been killed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sparked controversy by announcing and then rescinding an agreement to settle African asylum seekers living in Israel in Western countries.

Portman has previously joined efforts to support Israel. In 2015, she directed and starred in “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” a Hebrew-language film adaptation of the Amos Oz book of the same name that chronicles the author’s life surrounding Israel’s founding.

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