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Sports Illustrated Raises the Bar

Sports Illustrated Raises the Bar

Move over, Tzipi Livni. Another prominent Israeli woman is getting a fair bit of international exposure this week.

As Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition 2009 hit newsstand on Monday, Israel’s image across the world became a whole lot sexier. Bar Refaeli, a 23-year-old Israeli model, graced the cover of this year’s issue, flashing her perfect curves and suntanned skin in a barely-there bikini on a Canouan Islands beachfront in The Grenadines.

Refaeli didn’t know she was selected until Monday, when her agent called her for an alleged audition, she told the Today Show. Instead, she got to fly across America on Monday afternoon in a plane emblazoned with her image.

“For five minutes I couldn’t speak,” she said on the show, noting, however, that she did think that that the editors might just possibly pick this photo. “That specific one, I don’t know why, we all felt like, that’s the one.”

On the same day that a woman secured a prominent place in the emerging Israeli government, Israeli leaders were excited that Refaeli will join Livni as a distinct face of the Jewish State.

“The picture of an Israeli model on the front cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition gives the American public the chance to see the real face of Israel,” said David Saranga, media consul of the New York Israel Consulate, who also convinced Maxim to do a photo-shoot of former Israeli Defense Force women in 2007.

“Research has shown that many Americans don’t know what Israelis look like, and Bar presents them with an excellent image,” he continued. “Our multicultural society has a number of different faces, of which Bar Refaeli is now one of the most recognizable. Without a doubt, Israel’s image will benefit from this coverage.”

Refaeli might be famous in America for her on-and-off three-year relationship with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, but the cover photo will likely catalyze her own celebrity career, Today Show’s Meredith Vieira observed. Though she loves her life in Los Angeles, Refaeli misses her hometown Hod HaSharon, a town just east of Herzilya – but what she misses most is the hummus, she told Sports Illustrated.

“Unfortunately, I have yet to find a place that has good hummus,” she said.

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