Celebs and influencers have headed to Israel to ‘bear witness’
Israel at warJerry Seinfeld, Montana Tucker among travelers to Israel

Celebs and influencers have headed to Israel to ‘bear witness’

The trips are part of a broad effort to bring people with major audiences to Israel.

Celebrities and influencers including Jerry Seinfeld, Debra Messing, Montana Tucker, Scooter Braun, Michael Rapaport, Caroline D'Amore, Gregg Sulkin, and Emily Austin headed to Israel over the past week to meet with hostage families and visit the sites of the Oct. 7 massacres. (Screenshots via Instagram, design by Jackie Hajdenberg)
Celebrities and influencers including Jerry Seinfeld, Debra Messing, Montana Tucker, Scooter Braun, Michael Rapaport, Caroline D'Amore, Gregg Sulkin, and Emily Austin headed to Israel over the past week to meet with hostage families and visit the sites of the Oct. 7 massacres. (Screenshots via Instagram, design by Jackie Hajdenberg)

(JTA) — In the months since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, waves of prominent people have made their way to Israel to bear witness to what happened there. Foreign dignitaries, Diaspora rabbis and business leaders have all toured ravaged kibbutzes, met with hostage families and participated in the country’s sweeping volunteer effort.

Now, the influencers have arrived.

Over the last week, a slew of actors, comedians, music executives and social media personalities, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have visited Israel, showcasing their experiences to their millions of fans and followers on Instagram and TikTok. 

Such trips are part of a broad effort to bring people with major audiences to Israel. Last month, James Maslow, one of the stars of Nickelodeon’s band and TV show “Big Time Rush,” visited Israel on a similar, funded trip for celebrities and influencers, whose organizers recently posted on LinkedIn that they were looking for more participants for a December trip.

Here are snapshots from the visits of some of the biggest names broadcasting from Israel right now.

Montana Tucker

Jewish singer and influencer Montana Tucker also arrived in Israel late last week and visited Kfar Aza, one of the kibbutzes hit hardest during the massacres on Oct. 7. She met with representatives from Zaka, the Orthodox Israeli first-responder organization that has been collecting and documenting much of the evidence of the massacres and violence from Oct. 7, and called them “superheroes” in an Instagram story she shared Monday.

“The work they do is unlike any other,” Tucker said. “They had to go collect all of the bodies/body parts after the massacres. The things they have seen… no one should ever have to see in their lives.”

“Will never be able to comprehend how human beings could do this to other human beings,” she added.

Tucker, who has more than 12 million followers on TikTok and Instagram combined, is typically known for her dance videos. Earlier this year, she created a short documentary about her family’s visit to Auschwitz concentration camp in 2022. Since then, she has used her platform to promote Holocaust education awareness, and even interviewed Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff in March about his visit to Auschwitz. Tucker was also in attendance at the United Nations Special Session on Sexual Violence Against Israelis and sang “Hatikva,” the Israeli national anthem, at the close of the session.

While in Israel, she participated in a flash mob with Noam Ben David, one of the survivors of the Nova Music Festival, who now uses a wheelchair.

Jerry Seinfeld

Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his family arrived in Israel Monday and met with the families of Israeli hostages held in Gaza and those recently released from captivity. 

In a post shared on Instagram by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, the organization representing those kidnapped in Gaza, the comedian was pictured wearing a “Bring them home now” dog tag that has become symbolic of the movement.

“It was evident that they were deeply affected by the experiences they heard from the family members and the released hostages,” the post said of the Seinfeld family’s visit with the hostage families.

“We thank the Seinfeld family for their moving visit to the families’ headquarters and their unwavering support for the families of the hostages. We are confident that their support will be a significant and important step in our shared mission to bring about the immediate and safe return home of all the hostages.”

Caroline D’Amore

Caroline D’Amore, a model, actress, DJ, and reality TV star landed in Israel on Dec. 13. She has more than 120,000 Instagram followers and announced on the social media platform last week that she was headed to Israel “instead of trying to sort through comments, news articles and BS propaganda.”

On Dec. 14, D’Amore, who is not Jewish, went to the site of the Nova Music Festival, where she said she immediately began crying, and met with the family of one of the victims of the massacre.

“Attacking innocent party goers is not a fight for freedom. It’s cowardice and cruel and pure evil. Anyone who celebrates this is gone and needs serious help,” she wrote.

“You’ve lost your humanity. Anyone who says this was a resistance to their oppressor is an extremely lost soul,” she added. “Come here. Meet these families. Stand in their shoes.” 

D’Amore began sharing posts about the atrocities of Oct. 7 less than two weeks after the massacre, and since then, much of her content has pivoted toward drawing attention to the hostages. Her posts have drawn much criticism both in the comments and from people sharing her videos on other platforms, with allegations of “white supremacy,” “Zionist lies, propaganda and war crimes” and questions as to why she has not addressed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Oct 7th was not a fight for freedom,” she wrote in the post from the Nova festival site. “It was a group of terrorists trying to kill as many innocent Jewish people as possible and then call home so their parents could be proud of them. This is the truth. This is the terrifying truth of what happened on Oct 7th.”

Debra Messing

Actress and comedian Debra Messing, who has made appearances at the rally for Israel in Washington and at the United Nations Special Session on Sexual Violence Against Israelis, went to Israel for her first time this week — and also made a trip to Gaza with writer and comedian Lee Kern. (Kern is known for co-producing and writing “Who is America,” the political mockumentary series starring Sacha Baron Cohen.) Messing and Cohen were among a group of Jewish celebrities involved in a phone call with TikTok executives criticizing the company for its failure to curb antisemitism on the video platform.

Speaking to conservative British commentator Douglas Murray while in Gaza, Messing said, “I wanted to bear witness and I wanted to thank the troops and I wanted to see what happened here on October 7 and I just wish the whole world could be here and see it in person because nothing can transmit the magnitude of what happened here. But I’m going to do my best to share my experience with everybody. That’s why I’m here.”

Michael Rapaport

Actor and comedian Michael Rapaport, who has been vocal about the Israeli cause since the beginning of the war and spoke at the March for Israel in Washington, has been in Israel for the past week, meeting with released hostages, families of those in captivity, and touring the ravaged kibbutzim with Montana Tucker. Last week, the Jewish comedian appeared on “Eretz Nehederet,” the Israeli late-night comedy show, in a sketch mocking the congressional hearing on university antisemitism, in the style of Harry Potter. (The sketch succeeded another, poorly received one on the same topic on “Saturday Night Live” two days earlier.) 

Though Rapaport has become popular for his advocacy regarding the release of hostages, support for the Israeli army, and calling out antisemitism, he has gained a reputation for his incendiary language related to Palestinians, and also for posting graphic content related to the war. 

Scooter Braun

Music executive Scooter Braun, known for managing the careers of Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Kanye West and Taylor Swift — the last of which ended in an ownership dispute over the rights to her own music — has spent the past two months using his various social media platforms to draw attention to the hostages and the rise in antisemitism that has accompanied the war in Gaza. 

On Monday, Braun, who is Jewish, visited Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Gaza border.

“Today… was…a… day,” he shared on Instagram. “I am deeply glad I came. This is not a political trip. This is about humanity and support for those innocent lost on October 7th and the hostages still missing. What I saw and witnessed today will never leave me. I felt pain for the entire region. I saw it with my own eyes. I saw pain and sadness and grief while all at the same moment witnessing love and hope and conviction. I walked away overwhelmed and empowered all at once.”

Emily Austin

Jewish sports reporter and social media influencer Emily Austin called her visit to Israel an “emotional roller coaster.”

“Tears, smiles, and screaming (we encountered multiple close calls) and everything in between,” she wrote in an Instagram post Friday. “I’m grateful to be in country [sic] full of such special people, who put their lives on the line every day to protect their existence. I am proud to be an Israeli, forever and always.”

Austin, along with Caroline D’Amore, visited some of the kibbutzim that were attacked on Oct. 7, and wrote in another post that “pictures and videos will never do justice to depict the evil that occurred this day.”

Gregg Sulkin

Actor in Marvel’s “The Runaways” and former Disney Channel star Gregg Sulkin arrived in Israel Tuesday morning and spoke with families of the hostages. He also met with Moran Yanai, a jewelry designer from Beersheba who was kidnapped from the Nova Music Festival and released from captivity on Nov. 29.

“Returning to the Western Wall, years after my Bar Mitzvah, I felt a profound connection to my heritage,” the Jewish actor wrote on Instagram. “Standing here, I am reminded of the enduring spirit and resilience of the Jewish people. In the shadow of these ancient stones, I reflect on our everlasting prayers for peace. Proud of my roots, humbled by our history, and committed to a future where peace reigns supreme.”

He also shared a picture of his hostages dog tag and an Israeli flag emoji. PJC

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