Leonardo DiCaprio’s reputation as an activist has reached as far as the Middle East: On his recent trip to Israel, he was asked to help promote environmental conservation and peace in the region, PEOPLE has learned.
Israeli Vice Premier and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres requested a meeting with DiCaprio, 32, within hours of the actor’s March 11 arrival in Tel Aviv with his Israeli girlfriend, model Bar Refaeli, 21, a Peres aide tells PEOPLE.
“The meeting was pleasant and interesting,” says the aide. “Shimon told Leo about his Peace Valley project [a joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian economic development plan] and Leo spoke about [11th Hour,] his documentary on the environment.”
The DiCaprio and Refaeli were dressed casually – he wore a sweater and backwards baseball cap; she a sweatshirt and jeans. Peres told local newspaper Ma’ariv on Monday: “They called my office and asked to meet me and I immediately agreed. Leonardo apologized for not dressing properly and in order to look fine turned his baseball cap.”
The aide says Peres asked DiCaprio to help promote the stalled Middle East peace process and to further campaign for protecting the environment globally. According to the source, DiCaprio promised to help on both issues.
Reps for DiCaprio confirmed the meeting but had no further comment.
Meanwhile, Israeli police said Thursday they were deciding whether to charge two bodyguards in a scuffle with photographers during DiCaprio’s visit to a holy site on his second day in the country.
According to the Associated Press, three photographers were injured on March 12 as DiCaprio, Refaeli and Refaeli’s family toured a tunnel near Jerusalem’s Western Wall. DiCaprio’s rep, Shawn Sachs, told the AP the photographers were to blame. “Leo is horrified that anyone might have gotten hurt in this situation, but the paparazzi really made this happen,” he said.
Later in the week, DiCaprio was able to escape the paparazzi and take a quiet trip to Galilee in northern Israel. The actor, on his first visit to the country, stayed at Refaeli’s family’s home in suburban Tel Aviv, where he struck up a friendship with Refaeli’s 10-year-old brother, On, the boy told Israeli TV.
DiCaprio left Israel on Thursday, after an emotional airport goodbye from Refaeli. “They were hugging and kissing until the last minute when he had to go on the plane,” a witness tells PEOPLE. “It looked liked it was really hard for them to stay apart.”
• Reporting by ERAN SWISSA