Israel’s Celebrity Charm Offensive: The Truth Behind the Glamorous Trips

Jessica Buxbaum explores the complex web of connections between celebrities, media companies, and pro-Israel organizations, as the battle for public opinion rages on.

Since Israel launched a war on Gaza in October, it’s been accused of genocide, been on trial for war crimes, and seen allies stop approving weapons shipments. Yet amid the storm of negative press and genocidal war, some organizations are attempting to shift the narrative in Israel’s favor by taking celebrities and social media influencers on propaganda-fueled trips to Israel.

According to the Israeli newspaper Globes, the Maccabee Task Force (MTF) and Rova Media are the organizations working to send celebrities to Israel. Israeli television production company Eight Productions helps document the trips for media purposes.

“We’re in contact with the IDF [Israeli military] and the hostage families, and also with the president of Israel and former prime minister Naftali Bennett. We simply produce the content together with the visiting celebrities, the whole goal being for them to come here and be our ambassadors to the world,” Eight Productions’ owner,  Dafna Danenberg, told Globes.

Eight Productions confirmed to MintPress News that MTF and Rova Media fund the trips.


Who is going on these trips?

The list of celebrities who’ve toured with MTF includes Nathaniel Buzolic, Michael Rapaport, Debra Messing, Scooter Braun, James Maslow, Montana Tucker, Guy Nattiv, Eve Barlow, Lee Kern, Kosha Dillz and Matisyahu.

Even before the war, MTF was sending celebrities to Israel, but according to one of MTF’s media directors, Uriel Dison, these trips were less politically charged.

“But now we don’t bring people to travel around,” Dison told Globes. “They have to come and see with their own eyes the results of the war and become sort of wartime ambassadors.”

Dison added that it was challenging to convince high-profile individuals to come to Israel, but after a few trips, his “phone is bursting with requests from people. Influencers connect us to other influencers and celebrities to other celebrities, so it’s self-perpetuating.”

Rova Media hasn’t disclosed who it’s sending to Israel, only mentioning to Globes that “there are journalists, social media influencers, artists, and more.”

However, according to their social media accounts, they’ve partnered with social media influencer Caroline D’Amore to produce content in Israel and hosted Aboriginal Australian athlete and former politician Nova Peris and social media influencer Brooke Bello in Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post, the agency documented American singer Tucker’s trip.


MTF and Rova Media didn’t respond to requests for comment on these tours.


Who is behind the campaign?

Rova Media was founded in October 2023 by Dan Luxenberg and actor Buzolic with support from BZ Media to shape Israel’s image as the war began. The organization’s Facebook page was created on October 27, 2023.

Buzolic, who is a born-again Christian, has frequently traveled to Israel throughout the years and explained to the Times of Israel his mission with Rova Media:

My next-door neighbors, who are Lebanese and Palestinian, tell me how deluded I am. I speak to the people in the middle, I’m trying to shift them,” Buzolic said. “One thing I’ve learned about the pro-Palestinian narrative is they just have content, no context. We want to provide context for the content we’re providing.”

The company has partnered with entertainment firm Roc Nation, founded by rapper Jay-Z, and the Hostage and Missing Families Forum (“Bring Them Home”), the Israeli movement to free hostages taken by Hamas during its attack on October 7, 2023.

Rabbi Ari Lamm and Justin Hayet run the New York-based BZ Media and produce pro-Israel content targeting a Gen Z audience. Lamm founded SoulShop, a faith-focused entertainment company, where Rova’s Luxenberg is CEO. Hayet was a university campus fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a pro-Israel media watchdog often targeting journalists for perceived anti-Israel coverage and paying students to write articles smearing pro-Palestine activists. He also worked for Danny Danon, a lawmaker with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, during his term as the ambassador to the United Nations.

MTF was founded by the late pro-Israel billionaire donor, Sheldon Adelson, in 2015 to combat the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses, harassing activist groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and leading smear campaigns against pro-Palestine students and faculty.

Miriam Adelson, Sheldon Adelson’s wife, currently serves as MTF’s president, while infamous pro-Israel lawyer Alan Dershowitz is one of the organization’s directors. Miriam Adelson’s son-in-law and new owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, Patrick Dumont, serves as treasurer. David Brog, former head of Christians United for Israel, an evangelistic Israel lobby group, is the current executive director. The Adelson family primarily funds the organization, pumping over $10 million into MTF in 2022. Joseph Fisch, founder of United States Beverage, has also contributed to the organization.

MTF funds Hillels, Jewish student groups, and other Jewish life institutions on college campuses to find students for its tours. According to its most recent tax filings, it funds Jewish campus life groups at the following universities in the U.S. and Canada: American University, Arizona State University, Binghamton University, Boston University, Brandeis University, California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, Florida International University, Florida State University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Hunter College, Indiana University, Kent State University, Michigan State University, Northeastern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Syracuse University, Temple University, University of Arizona, University of British Columbia, University of California Los Angeles, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Florida, University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Michigan, University of Missouri, University of Southern California, University of Vermont, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech, Washington University, Wayne State University and Yale.

Its largest contribution in 2022 was to Chabad on Campus International, the campus educational arm of the Chabad Lubovitch movement. This movement consists of ultra-Orthodox radicals who often carry out revenge attacks on Palestinians. It also supports Jewish student unions in Australia, New Zealand, France, Austria, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. In 2022, it spent over $5 million on Jewish student groups and other related organizations.

While touting itself as a campus educational program, behind the scenes, MTF is financing several Israeli propaganda campaigns. The organization was one of the primary funders of, the now-defunct app set on creating an anti-BDS, pro-Israel troll army. MTF currently supports Students Supporting Israel, a pro-Israel movement working to pass university initiatives favoring Israel, like investment resolutions and stopping Israel divestment acts. MTF also funds Prager University, a billionaire-bankrolled media empire attempting to turn today’s youth into right-wing extremists.

The organization is notorious for taking non-Jewish university students on trips to Israel and returning them as brand ambassadors for Israel at their schools. MTF specifically targets student “influencers,” which often translates to individuals of color and those involved in Black and Asian student unions.

“They say they’re targeting ‘student leaders’ who they hope to convince to vote no on potential divestment resolutions,” University of Minnesota student Josh Spencer-Resnik told Jewish Currents in 2019. “[And it’s], especially leaders of minority student groups.”

According to MTF’s donation page, it sends 25 students to Israel yearly and has boosted its efforts amid the war, saying they’ve reached thousands of students since October 7, 2023. These trips are generously subsidized.

“[W]e are working to make sure campus anti-Israel groups face consequences for openly endorsing Hamas’ terror, and we are arranging a special Wartime Fact-Finding mission to Israel for some of our most influential non-Jewish MTF trip alumni,” MTF wrote on its website.

In January, the Times of Israel profiled a recent MTF student trip. According to the publication, the trip consisted of meeting with Israelis — but not Palestinians — on the current situation. The group visited bomb shelters in the southern Israeli city of Sderot and toured Kfar Aza, a kibbutz (Jewish commune) Hamas militants attacked in October. They met with Miri Eisin, a retired colonel and former political adviser, Jonathan Elkhoury, who uses his Lebanese-Israeli nationality to advocate for Israel on U.S. college campuses, survivors of the Hamas attacks at the Nova Music Festival, and a volunteer medic about sexual assault allegedly committed by Hamas militants during the October attacks.

“Campuses have become battlegrounds. We wanted students who document what life in Israel has been like since October 7 and who could make a difference on campus when they return,” MTF national director Ben Sweetwood told the Times of Israel.

MTF appears to be succeeding in its campaign — churning out Israeli propaganda puppets at universities while genocide rages in Gaza. Many of its recent wartime alums are now acting as Israeli state mouthpieces on social media.




Following his MTF trip, USC student Logan Barth wrote on Instagram, “[E]very IDF soldier I spoke to emphasized that the last thing they want are innocent Palestinians dead – they want peace. But that is difficult when the people who killed his family members are hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”

“This is NOT genocide,” Barth added.

Feature photo | Colombian singer Shakira visits the the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Oded Balilty | AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.