Noa Tishby was a bonafide teen TV star in Israel on Ramat Aviv Gimmel, went on to appear in Hollywood movies with the likes of Matthew McConaughey, and was instrumental in adapting the Hebrew TV series B’Tipul into the Emmy-nominated American series In Treatment, on which she served as executive producer.
But instead of pursuing bigger roles and even bigger paychecks, the Israeli actress has gradually evolved over the last decade into one of Israel’s most vocal defenders and explainers on the hasbara (public diplomacy) landscape.
“I’ve been doing this for years, so if I’ve lost jobs because of it, I lost them a decade ago,” said Tishby, speaking on The Jerusalem Post Zoomcast from her home in Los Angeles. “I always made my opinions [about Israel] very clear. I don’t really know if I’ve lost jobs because of it, but to be honest, I don’t care. Since I got the deal to sit down and write the book, it became very clear to me that this is what I do.”
Tishby was referring to her debut book, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, which was published earlier this year and described by one reviewer as “the much-needed schooling/scolding for all sides of the conflict.”
The book, together with heavy a social media profile, including a viral clip that rebuked TV host John Oliver’s satirical pokes at Israel during the Guardian of the Walls war in Gaza earlier this year, helped propel Tishby’s status as an unofficial Israeli spokesperson.
Going from Hollywood to hasbara may not seem like a natural progression, but Tishby explained that the process was gradual and may have been a delayed reaction.
“I always say that I fell into it, but my mom says that my DNA kicked in,” said Tishby, referring to her family’s deep ties with the establishment of Israel. “My grandmother was one of the founders of the first kibbutz in Israel, Deganya, and my great-grandfather moved to Jerusalem in 1922 to start the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Jerusalem. And my grandfather was Israel’s first ambassador to Liberia and the Ivory Coast, the first diplomat that Israel ever sent to an African country. So it was very much part of my upbringing, but I didn’t care about it. I was totally focused on my career from a very young age.”
After making the move to Los Angeles over a decade ago, Tishby began noticing blatant perceptions about Israel that she took upon herself to try to correct, whether it be camels in the streets or all the women wearing burkas.
“I got very invested in correcting this misinformation,” she said, adding that the turning point was the Mavi Marmara incident. In 2010, a Turkish boat attempted to break Israel’s Gaza blockade and was stopped by the Israeli Navy, whose members were attacked by the crew, resulting in nine deaths and an international outcry against Israel.
“All of that was trending on the social network platforms, and it suddenly occurred to me that all this cute misinformation about Israel is turning into a national security problem. That’s when I started taking things more seriously.”
Watch Tishby's full interview here, live at 7:30 p.m. IST.