Grapevine: Portman pays a visit incognito

Natalie Portman was in Jerusalem last week with her husband and infant son - under an alias.

Natalie Portman 521 (photo credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Natalie Portman 521
(photo credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
■ CHANCES ARE that other than relatives and friends, hardly anyone was aware that Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman was in Jerusalem last week with her husband, French choreographer Benjamin Millepied (whom she met while filming Black Swan), and their infant son, Aleph. The couple and their baby stayed at the King David Hotel and registered under an alias.
They also used an assumed name when renting a car. While in Jerusalem, she took the opportunity to place a note in one of the crevices in the Western Wall.
Portman was born in Jerusalem as Natalie Hershlag. Her mother is an American, her father an Israeli. Her parents met in the US when her father was studying medicine there. Her father subsequently returned to Israel and began a romance by correspondence with her mother, who eventually came to visit him. They were married during the visit. When their daughter was three years old, they moved permanently to the United States.
Portman received a Jewish day-school education and later went to Harvard. In the spring of 2004, she spent a semester at the Hebrew University, where she played down her celebrity status.
■ SPORTS-MINDED Mayor Nir Barkat, who has run in half marathons and full marathons, participated in bicycle races and only last week proved his mettle at rappelling down the Old City walls, is getting ready for the Jerusalem International Marathon scheduled for March 16. Ehud Olmert was a fairly athletic mayor, but Barkat is even more so. That may please athletes in the capital, but it annoys the general public when streets are closed and traffic is diverted so that contestants in the race of the day will not have to circumvent obstacles.
Although Barkat is convinced that by introducing so many sporting and cultural events he can attract young people to Jerusalem, some of the not-so-young are angry that their lives are so frequently disrupted and may give vent to that anger in the polling booth.
■ WHEN THEY lived in Los Angeles, Dorraine and Barry Weiss led a fairly secular lifestyle. They were involved with Jewish organizations, but they didn’t pay too much attention to Shabbat observance or the dietary laws. All that changed when they settled in Jerusalem three years ago.
One of Dorraine’s sons is a rabbi who teaches at Aish Hatorah. Not wanting to create a situation in which he and his wife and their children would not eat in their home, the couple decided to go kosher and to keep Shabbat. In the beginning, it was simply an exercise to preserve family unity and harmony, but after a while they began to like it. And because like any good parents they’re active in the organization that provides a livelihood for their loved ones, they became active Aish supporters and made friends with several other observant couples and individuals.
Inasmuch as they’ve changed their lifestyle, the Weisses, who used to be big party givers when they lived in the US, hankered for some of the things from the old country, such as a New Year’s Eve party.
However, when they sent out the invitations, they received several disapproving responses. People who have no choice but to live by the Gregorian calendar nonetheless draw the line at celebrating non- Jewish festivals. Thus New Year’s Eve was a definite no-no. So a second set of invitations was sent out, this time inviting people to a Melaveh Malka and New Year’s Eve party, because some people who might have attended the Melaveh Malka would certainly not accept an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party.
Some still stayed away because of the mention of New Year’s Eve, but in the final analysis guests were coming and going all night.
However, at around 11:30 p.m. the most religiously observant started to leave on the excuse that they were traveling by bus or by taxi and didn’t want to be caught in post-midnight traffic. As a result, only a handful of the 60-plus guests remained to toast the start of the New Year with champagne.