Celebs salute Israel in Times Square (video)

Anniversary greetings from stars including Tom Cruise and Ben Kingsley run in 30-second clips each hour.

faces israel 224 (photo credit: Courtesy )
faces israel 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Hollywood celebrities on Tuesday saluted Israel in celebration of its 60th Anniversary from the midst of New York's most visited intersection. Greetings from stars including Tom Cruise, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Brooke Shields, Kirk & Michael Douglas, Dakota Fanning, and Sir Ben Kingsley began running in 30-second clips each hour daily on a billboard in the heart of Times Square. Initiated by the Consulate-General of Israel in New York, the project is the latest effort to introduce Israel in a non-political way to American audiences. For that there is no better place than Times Square, where millions of pedestrians pass every day. Francine Raubvogel, Chief of Staff at the Israeli Consulate, spearheaded the project with Nancy Spielberg, sister of director Steven Spielberg. The project joins a banner campaign run by the Israeli Consulate in cooperation with the Salute to Israel Parade entitled, "Faces of Israel," which began on May 4. The banners, which line New York's Fifth Avenue from 46th to 97th Streets, feature faces of Israeli citizens topped with a display of Israeli and American flags. The portraits include Dao Rochvarger-Wong, who was born in Vietnam and arrived in Israel as a "boat person." The Vietnamese boat people were granted Israeli citizenship by former prime minister Menahem Begin. Dao now represents Bank Hapoalim in Singapore. Another representative "Face of Israel" is Derrick Sharpe, the American-born captain of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team. Sharpe moved to Israel from Florida in 1993. He married an Israeli and soon became an Israeli citizen. Another face is singer Shasha Grishkov. Grishkov, who was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel with her parents, became an audience favorite on "A Star is Born," Israel's version of American Idol. An additional representative, Cabra Kasai, is a member of the "Idan Raichel Project." She was born in Ethiopia and made aliyah with her family. Other "faces" in the campaign include Mirit Greenberg, Miss Israel 1997, Arab-Israeli diplomat Rania Jubran and violinist Miri Ben Ari. David Saranga, Israel's Consul for Media and Public Affairs, said the project's aim was to showcase Israel's socio-cultural variety. "Israel is a unified people who have come from many different countries and are of many ethnic backgrounds. Together, they have created the diverse society that is Israeli." Visit the Parade website at www.SaluteToIsrael.com. Michal Lando contributed to this report.