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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Show me the bunny: Playboy comes to Israel

Several people were walking around Hugh Hefner's Playboy estate in Los Angeles this past November trying to pronounce a Hebrew phrase – shfanfanat Playboy ("Playboy bunny"). They'd just learned it and were having fun rolling it around their tongues.

The Israelis who taught Hefner and his staff the new term weren’t just in L.A. for a language lesson, they were there to do business and get tips on editing and producing the first Israeli edition of the famed adult magazine.

The man behind the plan to publish Playboy in Israel is Daniel Pomerantz, 37, an American Jew who immigrated to Israel last year. After a career as a lawyer in the United States, he decided that his place was in Israel.

At the same time, he thought it'd be a great idea to bring Playboy on aliyah with him to satisfy the curiosity of Israeli men. He and several other U.S. businessmen bought the rights to distribute an Israeli edition and are investing a million dollars in the launch, which is a few months away.

“We went to Hefner’s estate with the Israeli team to learn from the Playboy experts,” Pomerantz told TheMarker. “Hefner was very excited that there was a word [for bunny] in Hebrew – it proved that there is a cultural link between the Playboy brand and Israeli culture."

Playboy magazine, founded by Hefner in 1953 and known first for its photo spreads of nude women and second for its high-quality written content, is one of the best-known brands in the world.

Although circulation in the United States has dropped and the company has had its share of crises, it is still a huge entertainment corporation that includes significant online activity, erotic television stations (which operate in Israel under a separate franchise) and magazines in some 30 countries. Playboy has never appeared in Hebrew although a local edition of its competitor, Penthouse, appeared in Israel between 1989 and 1993.

The leading men’s magazine in Israel is Blazer, published by the Yedioth Ahronoth Group, which, alongside articles and columns, includes more than a few revealing photos. Playboy plans to enter the same niche, but to be more daring.

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