Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli is at the center of a simmering controversy in the Jewish state over her new ad campaign, compounded by her lack of military service in a nation that requires it from all its citizens.
Refaeli was recently chosen by Israel’s foreign ministry to lead a public relations campaign promoting Israel, highlighting in particular the nation's technological accomplishments.
However, Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson, criticized the selection of the blond supermodel in a letter to Israel’s foreign ministry that was published by Israel's Channel 2 News
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"The choice of a representative who did not serve in the military as an official presenter on behalf of Israel conveys the message that we ignore and forgive evasion of enlistment, and encourages identification, among youths of both sexes, with the success of those who did not enlist," wrote Mordechai.
"The IDF has been operating, in the last few years, in a variety of ways, to strengthen the value of IDF service, and to fight the phenomenon of enlistment evasion, in order to preserve the societal value that sees the IDF as the people's army," said the general.
According to Israeli law, 18-year-olds are required to serve in the nation's military, three years for men and two for women; however exemptions are made on religious, physical or psychological grounds.
Refaeli, however, apparently skirted the mandatory draft by reportedly marrying a family friend in order to pursue her modeling career. She subsequently dated actor Leonardo DiCaprio and went on to model for Victoria Secret, Sports Illustrated, and sign a lucrative deal with Fox. She was voted #1 on Maxim magazine's Hot 100 list of 2012.
The foreign ministry responded to the military's reaction, writing: "Bar Refaeli ... is considered one of the most beautiful women in the world and she is widely recognized as Israeli. There is no reason to dredge up the past when we are dealing with a public diplomacy campaign of this kind."
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Responding to the controversy, the 27-year-old model posted a photo of herself in New York City's Times Square, writing: "You can use the clip for the Foreign Ministry or drop it, but my Instagram feed has more readers than Israel’s most popular newspaper [Yedioth Ahronoth]!"
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