As “Wonder Woman” heads for a huge opening in the Holy Land, one Hebrew word perfectly describes how the pint-size country is feeling about the movie’s star, Israeli actress Gal Gadot: “Nachat”
Loosely translated, it means “pride and joy.”
“She’s bringing us lots of ‘Nachat,” said Gal Uchovsky, who writes a weekly column for Israeli news site, Mako. “People here are really excited.”
“Israel’s love affair with Gal Gadot is reaching fever pitch right now,” Amit Cotler, a reporter for Israel’s leading news site Ynet said.
Gadot is not the first Israeli to make a splash in Hollywood. Others include supermodel Bar Refaeli and actress Ayelet Zurer, best known for playing Superman’s mom, Lara Lor-Van, in “Man of Steel.”
But after scoring the role of Wonder Woman in 2013, Gadot shot up to the top of the list.
“With all due respect to Bar Refaeli, no one has has reached [Gadot’s] level on the world stage,” Uchovsky said. “Not to mention, she can act.”
Gadot got her start as a model, winning the Miss Israel pageant in 2004. She then went on to serve in the Israel Defense Forces as a physical trainer, where she whipped IDF soldiers into shape.
While Refaeli was exempt from the draft because she was married at the time she would have been compelled to serve (Israel exempts married women from the armed services), Gadot served her two-year mandatory service.
“People really like that about her,” Cotler said. “It plays really well here.”
Gadot has not been shy about her support of the IDF. During 2014’s conflict between Israel and Gaza, she caused a bit of a stir around the world when she uploaded a photograph of herself praying with her daughter Alma.
“I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens,” Gadot wrote. “Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children…We shall overcome!!!”
The post garnered an impressive 200,000 “likes” as well as about 19,000 comments, both in support of her position and against it. But, according to Colter, it only made her more popular in Israel.
“The fact that she served in the military is a big deal,” Cotler said. “She is seen as someone who cares about Israel.”
Her support of Israel has also become a sticking point. On Wednesday, a theater chain in Lebanon, an enemy of Israel, announced that “Wonder Woman” had been banned in Lebanon.
But that obviously hasn’t hurt her at home, where she’s seen as down to earth.
“The other day she was caught by paparazzi shopping for groceries at the supermarket,” Cotler said. “We ate that up.”
Gadot scored her big break playing an ex-Mossad agent in the fourth installment of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise in 2009 — a part she said she landed because director Justin Lin was impressed with her military experience. She first appeared as Wonder Woman last summer in Zack Snyder “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
But now Israel is enjoying the dawn of Gadot.
“I expect next time she’s here, it will look a lot like a visit from the Queen of England,” said Uchovsky. “The fact that she’s a woman who is representing Israel with honor doesn’t hurt either.”
“She’s a mensch,” he added.