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The beer 'n' babes magazine Maxim will send photographers to Israel next week for an Israeli women photo shoot that Foreign Ministry officials hope redefines what the magazine's hormone-charged readers think when they hear television reporters say "the situation in Israel is hot."
"All the surveys we have done shows that the biggest hasbara problem that Israel has is with males from the age of 18-35," said David Saranga, the consul for media and public affairs at Israel's consulate in New York.
"Israel does not seem relevant for them, and that is bad for branding," he said. "In order to change their perception of Israel as only a land of conflict, we want to present to them an Israel that interests them." Which is where good-looking women in skimpy bikinis come in.
The nine-person Maxim team, including photographers, a reporter, hairstylists and make-up people, will arrive for a five-day photo-shoot on Tuesday, using Tel Aviv-Jaffa - and the old and new motif - as a backdrop for the photographs.
The glossy magazine, launched in the US in 1997, boasts a circulation of "around 2.5 million" and claims to be the "#1 men's lifestyle magazine in both the country and the world."
The magazine features revealing pictorials of scantily clad actresses, models, singers and the "girl next door" interspersed among articles on sports, cars, movies, booze and relationships.
The Israeli models, Saranga said, were a "Trojan horse" to present Israel as a modern country with nice beaches and pretty women. "Many Americans don't even know we have beaches," he said.
Saranga said that blurbs would be written about each of the seven models that would be a vehicle to show the diversity of Israeli society. "Israel is viewed as a very macho society," Saranga said. "We want to show that we are a normal society like all others."
Israel's consul-general in New York, Arye Mekel, said, "I want people to think about beautiful people in beautiful places when they think of Israel, as well as see the diversity of Israeli society and culture."
Israel, Mekel said, "is a vibrant and vivid place, and capturing this on the pages of America's biggest male magazine helps us reaffirm our brand in an important way."
The photo spread is scheduled to appear in the magazine's June edition, with an article on tourism in Israel scheduled to appear the following month. The project is being carried out with the help of the Foreign Ministry, the American-Israel Friendship League and ISRAEL21c, a non-profit news agency focusing on Israel beyond the headlines.
David Brinn, the editorial director of ISRAEL21c, said the idea behind the project was to "open up another lens" so that people can view Israel through a lens that is not militaristic, religious or historic - the lens through which, he said, "99 percent of Americans view Israel."