JERUSALEM - Leonardo DiCaprio arrived in Israel with supermodel Bar Refaeli this weekend, creating a paparazzi storm that by Monday led to a scuffle outside the Western Wall.
The 32-year-old Oscar nominee and Refaeli, 21, have been romantically linked for about a year, and the Israeli papers regularly run breathless updates on their relationship, tinged with pride that a local girl snagged an A-list Hollywood heartthrob.
The two apparently hoped to slip into the country unnoticed on a night flight from Frankfurt, Germany. But the plane was also carrying a group of Israeli entertainment reporters on their way back from a press junket in Ireland.
By the time the two headed for Refaeli's family's home in an upscale Tel Aviv suburb, it was besieged by dozens of photographers desperate for a glimpse of the two. Popular TV host Guy Pines even rented a helicopter to survey the scene from the air, a first for Israeli media coverage, he said.
On Monday, the pair eluded their pursuers and traveled to Jerusalem, eventually visiting the Western Wall and its subterranean tunnels in the Old City, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
But the visit turned violent upon their exit, when the couple's bodyguards scuffled with photographers waiting outside. A number of journalists said they were punched and their equipment damage.
DiCaprio has received Oscar nominations for his roles in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "The Aviator" and "Blood Diamond." Refaeli is featured in Sports Illustrated magazine's recent swimsuit issue.
But more than anything, Pines said, Israelis are happy for a diversion.
"The fact that most of the headlines here recently haven't been pleasant turns the interest in this beautiful fairy tale couple into something the media can revel in," Pines said.