JERUSALEM — Jay Leno is making a comeback – in Israel.

The late-night legend says he will return to Israel in June to host the award ceremony for the second annual “Genesis Prize.” Leno also hosted the inaugural ceremony last year for what is billed as “the Jewish Nobel Prize.”

The $1 million prize is being awarded to Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas in recognition of his “passion” for his Jewish heritage and Israel.

Leno said he was thrilled to be invited back, comparing the warm welcome he received last year to a raucous Italian wedding.

“People seem to be genuinely happy to see you,” he told The Associated Press. “There you kind of get swarmed. People run over, and the grandmas pinch your cheeks. So that was kind of fun.”

He said he felt that people seemed especially appreciative of his decision to visit at a time when entertainers are under pressure to boycott Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians. “Israelis are thrilled when you actually show up,” he said.


Leno, who is not Jewish, described himself as a big supporter of Israel.

“It seems like they (Israel) have the worst PR in the world,” he said. “I don’t understand how Israel is the bad guy here. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The Genesis Prize Foundation said the June 18 ceremony will include a tribute to Douglas, a celebration of the contribution of Jews to Hollywood and Broadway and a segment on diversity and tolerance.

Douglas, whose father, actor Kirk Douglas, is Jewish, has said he will donate his prize money to projects that promote inclusiveness in the Jewish community.

— From news service reports

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