Inside Quentin Tarantino’s new life in Tel Aviv, Israel

It took a full day for the Israeli press to learn that Quentin Tarantino was hanging out in the obstetrics department of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital in early July. He and his wife, Daniella Pick, were expecting their second child, a girl who was set to join their 2-year-old son Leo – but as it has become their style in Israel, the Tarantinos have been hiding from view.

So much so that the other moms-to-be on the floor had no idea they were keeping company with an Oscar winner. “I heard from our midwife that he was there but never saw Tarantino,” said Carnie, an actress who gave birth to her daughter in Ichilov at the same time.

The black humored director of films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill” has been living a modest life in the sunny Mediterranean metropolis for three years. Tel Aviv might seem like an unexpected landing for Tarantino — but it might just be happily ever after.

Tarantino and Pick initially planned to split their time between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv, but made Israel their main base in the early days of the 2019 pandemic lockdown.
Tarantino and Pick initially planned to split their time between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv, but made Israel their main base in the early days of the 2019 pandemic lockdown.
Best Image / BACKGROUND

Tarantino, 59, and Pick, 38, met in 2009 when he premiered his film Inglorious Basterds in Israel, they went back and forth before marrying nine years later in an intimate Reform Jewish ceremony at their Beverly Hills home.

Pick is effectively a king in Israel, where she’s been as famous as Tarantino since birth. Her father is Svika Pick, an iconic 1970s Israeli pop musician with long locks and an eccentric sense of style, and she’s a musician herself – in the early 2000s, she and her sister Sharona were in a band called The Pick Sisters.

Tarantino is known in Tel Aviv as an avid cyclist.
Tarantino is known in Tel Aviv as an avid cyclist.
Moti Lebton

When the couple’s son Leo — named after his maternal great-grandfather, not Dad’s frequent star DiCaprio — was born in February 2020, it was a fusion of two cultural icons for Israelis. “There is one person whose father is Quentin Tarantino and grandfather is Svika Pick.” marveled viral tweets in Hebrew after Leo’s birth. (A follow-up tweet earlier this month noted that there are now two such little ones in Israel.)

Shortly after marriage, the couple bought a 2,900-square-foot, six-bedroom mansion on Elkakhi Street in Ramat Aviv Gimmel, a quiet neighborhood in north Tel Aviv and within spy distance of the Mediterranean Sea. (The director still owns an apartment in New York City along with a home in Los Angeles that he bought in 1989, where he and Pick married.)

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Tarantino settled in after completing production on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2019 and planned to split time between Tel Aviv and LA. Then the pandemic struck — and it never went away.

Since then, the Oscar-winning director has become a regular dad in Tel Aviv — the type of guy locals regularly bump into walking down the street or attending a toddler’s birthday party with his child at a local playground (where he happily hummed “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew).

In his early years in Israel, Tarantino witnessed an armed conflict between Israel and Hamas in May 2019. “My Israeli friends tell me, ‘After the missiles, you can now officially call yourself an Israeli,'” Tarantino told the country’s Yediot newspaper Aharonot in a 2021 interview.

The couple is often spied on "Every day" Excursions such as shopping in local malls.
The pair are often spied on on “everyday” outings like shopping at local malls.
Moti Lebton

His first neighbors knew he was there — the family’s moving boxes had “Tarantino” written all over them, according to Orit Bezalel, who lived two houses away — but the director was like a ghost at first.

“I’ve never seen or heard of him,” Bezalel said. Her son, an aspiring filmmaker, was hoping to meet the longtime idol, who now lives very close to his childhood home – but it never happened.

But then the pandemic happened, and something seemed to shift. In early 2020, the Tarantino family rented a 5,000-square-foot mansion in Tel Aviv’s Shikun Tzameret neighborhood for a reported 80,000 NIS (around $23,000) a month. It’s a chic, if somewhat sleepy, address in north Tel Aviv and close to Israel’s trendiest shopping address, Kikar HaMedina (State Square).

In a city where most people live in boxy apartment buildings, Shikun Tzameret is a rarity: a cluster of architecturally stunning private mansions tucked among luxurious residential skyscrapers, but with a small-town vibe. Built in the early 1950s, it’s always been where old money guys and successful creatives flocked to live tasteful, if not necessarily flashy, lives.

Tarantino can often be seen jogging, walking, or biking in Park Hayarkon, a sprawling city park on the Hayarkon River. While most Tel Avivians tend to leave Tarantino alone, he’s become the catnip for local paparazzi, who’ve caught him refilling his water bottle at the park’s water fountains and buying toddler bikes at the mall.

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“I love the country and the people are really nice, very nice to me, and they seem excited that I’m here,” Tarantino said in a 2020 interview with Yediot Aharonot.

Last month, Tarantino received an honorary doctorate from the prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem, both in recognition of his impressive career and for making Israel his new home.
Last month, Tarantino received an honorary doctorate from the prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem, both in recognition of his impressive career and for making Israel his new home.
Hebrew University

He told Bill Maher in a 2021 interview that Tel Aviv is like a smaller version of LA with “great restaurants, cool bars, cool clubs.”

In June, Tarantino and Pick were spotted at the Nilus, a hip bar on seedy Allenby Street. He’s also a fan of the restaurant at Hotel Montefiore, Tel Aviv’s first “boutique” hotel, popular with the city’s stylish crowd (and the likes of Mick Jagger when he’s in town). Co-owner Mati Broudo can confirm “this wasn’t Tarantino’s first visit” to the hotel’s restaurant – he also visited during the same 2009 trip to Israel where he met his wife.

And he’s a regular at Café Zorik, a neighborhood coffee shop on family-friendly Yehudah HaMaccabi Street, within walking distance of the family’s mansion. When the manager is in town, a local waiter claims he takes his usual spot at the bar two to four times a week.

Zorik often speaks English, which probably suits the director’s limited Hebrew. During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in 2021, he admitted that he understands the language of a toddler, such as knowing the names of farm animals. His son calls him Abba, the Hebrew word for papa.

The Hotel Montefiore, Tel Aviv's first boutique hotel, where Tarantino dined repeatedly.
The Hotel Montefiore, Tel Aviv’s first boutique hotel, where Tarantino dined repeatedly.
Sivan Askayo

Tarantino was also spotted last month at an Andrea Boccelli concert in Tel Aviv, where he sat just a few seats away from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two have apparently been introduced, but Tarantino doesn’t play politics — or favorites: He also recently met former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the man who ousted Netanyahu from power in May 2020.)

Another place Israelis are looking for Tarantino is in movie theaters. There’s the Cinema City Glilot theater complex north of Tel Aviv, where Tarantino has been spotted in the concessions queue, waiting for popcorn – and scrutinizing his own work. An observant moviegoer spotted Tarantino on the back row at a Once Upon a Time in Hollywood screening (and, of course immediately posted it on Twitter).

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Tarantino has also become more formally involved in the local film scene. Last February, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque held a retrospective featuring all of his films. He was due to perform at two of the screenings but only made it to one after catching Covid. (The event went ahead as planned, and the Cinematheque asked viewers to send videos of themselves wishing the director well, which was then used to put together a “Get Well, Quentin” montage for him.)

The director also received an honorary doctorate from the prestigious Hebrew University in Jerusalem this June in recognition of his career and new life in the Jewish nation. “Following his marriage to actress and musician Daniella Pick, Tarantino considers the State of Israel his homeland and publicly supports it around the world,” the university’s announcement for the event said.

Svika Pick (left), Tarantino's father-in-law, is one of Israel's most famous rock stars.  He is pictured here with Dana International (centre) who won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest for Israel.
Svika Pick (left), Tarantino’s father-in-law, is one of Israel’s most famous rock stars. He is pictured here with Dana International (centre) who won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest for Israel.
PA Images via Getty Images

Tarantino has famously said he will do 10 films before retiring at the top of his game. His latest 2019 film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, was #9. The director’s first, Reservoir Dogs, was about – perhaps prophetically – a diamond heist that originated in Israel. So, will Israel make another cameo appearance in his 10th – and possibly last – feature film?

Maybe. “When you’re shooting a movie in Jerusalem, you can’t point the camera anywhere that you’re not shooting something amazing,” he told Maher. But any potential film would stay away from politics. “I would not make a film about the political climate [in Israel].”

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