Top American filmmaker Steven Spielberg was approached to light the Diaspora Torch at Israel’s Independence Day ceremony but turned it down because of previous commitments, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Thursday.
The multiple award-winning director said he would have been happy to come but would be filming in Japan at the time, the paper said, describing him as “very moved” by the offer.
Spielberg was one of a number of stars approached to light the Diaspora torch on Mount Herzl on Wednesday evening.
Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik, who had even publicly expressed her wish to be nominated and asked her Facebook fans to help, was also forced to turn down the offer because Israel’s invitation was issued too late.
The Diaspora torch was initiated last year by Culture Minister Miri Regev. The first two nominees, who lit the torch together, were Michael Steinhardt, co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
This year, several additional names were also reportedly considered and approved — among them actress and singer Barbara Streisand, philanthropist Lynn Schusterman and former British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks — the latter with the backing of Natan Sharansky, the outgoing head of the Jewish Agency.
In the end, the committee decided not to have a Diaspora representative at all this year.