David Ben-Gurion once remarked that Israel, far from being a light unto the
nations, would be like all the other states once it had prostitutes and thieves,
exhibiting its normalcy through its vice.
On Wednesday, Israel is taking
another step into the community of regular nations with the debut of Playboy
Israel, an all-Hebrew glossy monthly complete with nude photos of Israeli women,
sports, style advice, political interviews and a mission to mentor Israeli
“I’m proud to see Playboy Israel
embark on its mission to
play an important role in strengthening freedom of speech, freedom of choice and
freedom of the press,” Playboy
founder Hugh Hefner said in a message prerecorded
for the magazine’s Tuesday launch party at the Brown Hotel in Tel Aviv, which
aptly features a blown-up Playboy
cover from April 1970 featuring “the girls of
Israel,” as part of its regular decor.
“I am equally pleased that so many
of the core values of the magazine are also the core values of the country and
the society that has so graciously invited us to be a part of its cultural
landscape,” he said.
Despite entering a declining market for printed
media, Playboy Israel
CEO Daniel Pomerantz says he is confident that the
magazine, with its strong brand recognition, will succeed.
been very successful all around the world, even with all the changes in the
industry,” Pomerantz – an immigrant from Chicago, where Playboy
is based – told
The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “We’ve done our market studies, and we know our
audience, and what we found is, there’s a very high interest in this particular
Pomerantz, formerly a lawyer, said he had noticed on prior
visits to Israel that the Playboy
brand was popular on all sorts of products,
even though there was no magazine.
“When I went back to Chicago, I said,
‘Why isn’t there a Playboy
in Israel?’” Mentioning his observation to lawyers
with whom he was friendly led to meetings and eventually plans,
alongside his aliya, to found the 30th international branch of the
“We’re reaching a point in Israeli life where we no longer see
Israel as a house, but as a home; not just a refuge from the dangers of the
past, but a place to build our future, and part of that means fun and fashion
and debate on serious issues and all the things that Playboy
stands for,” he
He hopes to build on the model of the magazine in its heyday, which
included serious articles on sexual freedom, individual liberty and
The first version of Playboy
to be read from right to left
features not only racy photos of reality television star Natalie Dadon, but also
an in-depth, five-page interview with Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter. He joins influential Middle Eastern figures like Ariel
Sharon, Rabbi Meir Kahane and Yasser Arafat, all of whom have been featured in
the American version of the magazine.
Yet the market for magazines and
printed soft-core pornography has been hard-hit by the Internet. Even the
has seen a spectacular loss in its profitability. In the first
half of 2010, its circulation dropped by a third, and a $27 million quarterly
loss led Hefner to buy back the company, taking its stock off publicly traded
Just last week, analyst Charles Sizemore wrote in Forbes
was “transitioning from its adult media businesses into licensing and
brand management,” a factor that may contribute to Hefner’s enthusiasm for the
continued international franchise of the product.
accounted for $62 million of its $135 million in revenues last year, and the
magazine continues to lose money,” Sizemore wrote.
Pomerantz is banking
on the fact that in a small country, a big brand will sell enough magazines to
keep the enterprise afloat, or that the magazine will strengthen the brand
enough to make other merchandise profitable. He intends to promote the brand
through regular parties.
Even before its debut, the magazine caused a
stir among both religious groups, which objected to the magazine’s immodesty,
and some feminists, who disdained its objectification of
Interestingly, though, the magazine chose a woman, Neta
Jakobovitz-Keidar, to be its editor- in-chief.
“At the end of the day,
we’re talking about a magazine with quality content, with deep interviews and
color articles,” said Jakobovitz-Keidar, who edited and wrote for Internet
portal OnLife prior to her new post. “There’s a woman standing at the head of
this magazine, overseeing everything that goes on. Whoever opens the magazine
sees the Playboy
“It’s a mentor for men, but I’m sure that
there are plenty of women who will find us interesting,” she added, noting that
in the US, more than 20 percent of the readership is female.
room for both the sexes.”
Asked whether she was concerned that it
entrenched stereotypes of masculinity, she replied, “No, it has everything men
like. Men don’t just like women. Whether it’s sports or intellectual challenge
or indepth articles or style, I believe there’s room for everyone.”
magazine’s first playmate, Marin Teremets, a 30- year-old, Ukrainian-born, New
York-raised choreographer who moved to Israel four years ago, says she doesn’t
feel objectified by her place in the magazine.
“It’s kavod,” Teremets
said at the launch on Tuesday, using the Hebrew word for honor.
have a problem with showing beauty,” she continued, “whether it’s a bird or a
flower or a woman or a man, or whatever it is, it’s beauty, and I don’t think
there’s anything wrong with it. Especially this magazine, where they give so
much respect and so much pride in a woman’s body, it’s in no way objectifying it
in a bad way.”
In the late 1980s, a shortlived Israeli run of the
sleazier Penthouse Magazine failed.
Yet even Teremets is unsure how the
magazine will fare in the modern marketplace.
“We live in the 21st
century, everything is on the Internet,” she said. “I don’t remember the last
time I bought a newspaper. But I know that the market of magazines is
different from newspapers. People still buy magazines.”