Almost a year into her role as Israel’s inaugural special envoy for combating antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel, Noa Tishby is often on the road. But when the actress is home in Los Angeles, something like a regular day takes shape.
She is up at 6:15 a.m. to prepare lunch for her son for school. After she wakes him, the two eat breakfast together. She takes him to school, “then I’ll go to work out if I’m a good girl that day,” she told JNS. Next, she will “just go slam it.”
“It’s reading and writing, recording videos, scheduling for the next few days and doing meetings,” she said. “Speak around LA at high schools. It’s extraordinarily busy.” And that is all when she is not traveling.
The week before she talked over the phone with JNS, Tishby had taken the Saturday night red-eye flight to Florida. She visited six cities in five days—speaking at schools in Florida, Massachusetts and North Carolina—and flew back to Los Angeles on Friday morning “and went to pick up my son from school as if nothing happened.”
If this sounds like Tishby, whose credits include “Star Trek” and “NCIS,” is left with little time for acting, that is by design. “I can’t tell you how disinterested I am in acting,” she told JNS.
When she landed a contract with Simon & Schuster for what would become her 2021 book Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, Tishby felt that the project was what she was meant to do.
“I just had one of these ‘aha’ moments,” she said. “It was like, ‘Oh, right. So everything led me to here. Of course. This makes so much sense.’ ”
She has turned down audition requests, even from casting directors with whom she has worked in the past, Tishby told JNS, saying “my work right now is so much more rewarding.”
“I was asked this the other day, and people are like, ‘Are you saying absolute no?’ And I’m like, ‘Look, I’m not saying absolute no,’ because I’m a trained actor and I’ve done this since I was 8 years old. But it does not hold the same interest to me as it did in the past,” she said.
‘This new hip social-justice cause’
She has also been an activist for 15 years, and amid rising antisemitism, her work feels more important than ever. “I’ve been in this world for a very long time, and I never imagined that we’d be having conversations about whether or not Hitler had some positive traits that we should appreciate,” she said. “I’m blown away by what’s happening, and I feel like my voice is needed—actually needed—and I’m not as needed in a series regular on a procedural show on network TV.”
As she describes in the book, Tishby’s activism began gradually, when she realized on trips to America that the U.S. public had strong feelings about but little understanding of what was happening in Israel.
“We’re talking about over 20 years of me just not being able to shut up,” she told JNS. “Over and over and over again, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I can’t not say to people, ‘No you’re wrong about this, and this is what actually happened. This is what reality is.’ ”
“It’s not as if I was some actress that just one day woke up and I was like, ‘Oh, I should write a book,’” she added. “I’ve been doing this work for a long, long time.”
But acting and Tishby’s two-and-a-half years of military service did help prepare her for her activism. “It trained me to stand in front of every type of audience. And being able to hold an audience, to learn how to feel a room,” she said. “In my military service, it was about singing, acting, sketch comedy and hosting, so that definitely trained me. It gave me real-life training to stand in front of Congress and stand in front of thousands of people and speak about what I believe in.”
Since she was appointed Israeli special envoy in April 2022, Tishby is most proud of having testified at a congressional hearing, she told JNS. She also appreciates having been able to work with Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and John Mann, advisor to the U.K. government on antisemitism.
“But being in front of Congress and knowing that my speech is in the archive of Congress and being on the record with what I was saying was definitely the highlight of my position so far,” she said.
The thing that most enrages Tishby is the anti-Israel rhetoric that forms, she said, between 69% and 84% of online antisemitism. “It’s the most insidious, and it’s the hardest to decipher,” she said. “People think they are acting for some sort of noble cause; I call it in my book ‘this new hip social-justice cause.’ People think that they’re protesting for peace and justice, and they’re actually protesting for the destruction of the single Jewish state in the world using tropes and slurs that have been around for thousands of years.”
“Just change the word ‘Jew’ to the word ‘Zionist,’ and here you go,” she added.
Online accusations of bloodthirsty Zionists killing Palestinian children echo medieval blood libels accusing Jews of drinking Christian children’s blood. “It’s pretty obvious that it’s not cool to be an antisemite unless you’re Kanye West,” Tishby said. “But it’s just totally cool to be an anti-Zionist, and that is nothing but antisemitism in disguise.”
Social media is the “primary venue for the filth of humanity,” with Israel being “patient zero,” according to Tishby. And social media, with its global reach, is no longer just the city or town square. (She thinks TikTok is the worst, and Twitter has gotten more antisemitic under Elon Musk’s leadership.)
“Elon, if you’re reading the Jewish News Syndicate, please give me a call,” she added. “Slide into my DMs please, Elon, and we’ll have a conversation about that. How about that? I’ll be so pleasantly surprised if he actually does that.”