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Luiz Gandelman
(He/Him) Unapologetically Jewish, Latino, Israeli, Zionist, and Liberal.

10 Israelis Making an Impact in Israel and Abroad

It is no surprise that Israelis are changing the world. Israeli inventions like Waze have revolutionized technology, and celebrities like Gal Gadot have made waves in the global entertainment world. Many Israelis make a heavy impact worldwide, but many do so just as effectively inside Israel. Here is a list of 10 Israelis making global impacts inside and outside the State of Israel. Some of these people are better known than others, but they all work to positively improve the world around them.

  1. Iyad Shalabi
    Israel’s Iyad Shalabi celebrates after winning the gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke S1 category at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, August 25, 2021. (Keren Isaacson/ Israel Paralympic Committee)

    Israeli-Arab Paralympic swimmer Iyad Shalabi became the first Israeli-Arab to ever win a medal in either the Olympics or Paralympics. Born in Shefa-Amr, a primarily Arab city near Haifa and Nazareth. Shalabi was born mute and deaf, and after an accident at age 12, became paraplegic. He met Israeli Paralympic swimming coach Yaakov Benenson, who helped him train to win big. A documentary about Shalabi was even shown at the Jerusalem film festival, detailing his journey with his father in training for the Paralympic swimming world championship in Glasgow, Scotland. Shalabi earned nationwide praise, with President Herzog even personally congratulating him. Shalabi’s win is not only a win for himself, but for Israeli Arab and Paralympic sports in Israel as a whole.

  2. Dov Lipman
    Former Yesh Atid Member of Knesset Dov Lipman, right, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, left. (Times of Israel, from: Yaakov Lederman)

    Originally from Washington D.C., in the United States, Dov Lipman grew up in Maryland like many Jews in that area. He attended Jewish High School and even became ordained as a rabbi. In 2004, Lipman and his family made Aliyah. Religious tension and extremism heavily upset Lipman, prompting him to become a political activist to fight these issues. In 2012, Lipman was chosen by Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid as the party’s 17th member on the electoral list. With 19 seats won by Yesh Atid, Lipman renounced his American citizenship and served in the Knesset. Lipman worked in various committees and positions, even attending Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Lipman became a strong advocate of incorporating Haredim into Israeli society, including the army and the workforce. He was also the first American-born MK in nearly 30 years, so he became a strong influential figure within the Anglo community in Israel. Upon leaving the Knesset, Lipman went on to establish Yad L’Olim, an organization dedicated to helping new Olim make Aliyah. His organization has helped thousands of Olim and their families, providing much needed help in the complicated world of Aliyah.

  3. Deni Avdija
    Serbian-Israeli basketball player Deni Avdija playing for the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball League. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

    Born in Beit Zera, Israel, to an Israeli mother and a Serbian father, Avdija grew up playing basketball, going on to play on the Youth National Team before beginning his professional career in Israel. In 2020, Avdija was drafted 9th overall by the Washington Wizards, an NBA team from Washington D.C. Avdija became a star player, helping both the Wizards and the Israeli national team soar to victory. As if Avdija’s incredible ball skills aren’t enough, he also takes the opportunity to expose Israel and Judaism to those around him. Avdija brought new attention to Israeli basketball and Israeli NBA fans, with the Wizards even creating Hebrew social media primarily geared around Avdija. He also takes the opportunity to educate. On April 7, 2021, on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Avdija wrote the word “Yizkor”, or “remember”, on the side of his sneaker, in honor of the victims of the Shoah. In May of 2022, amid a heavy wave of terror attacks in Israel, Avdija drew stars of David and wrote “Am Yisrael Chai” on his sneakers in support. He even shared Hanukkah with his Wizards Teammate and the Rockville Jewish Community, in Maryland. Avdija is a true ambassador to the Jewish people and Israel, not just in basketball, but off the court as well.

  4. Efrat Tilma
    Efrat Tilma with Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll at Foreign Ministry event on Wednesday in Jerusalem (Ynet News, From: Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson)

    Born in Israel one year before the formation of the state, Tilma grew up in a society hostile to who she was. She was arrested by police for wearing women’s clothing, and had to get her reassignment surgery done in Morocco, as Israel did not offer the procedure. Despite all of her struggles and hardships, Tilma pushed through, becoming a leading LGBTQ+ rights activist in Israel, and becoming one of the country’s leading ambassadors to the transgender community. In 2011, Tilma made history when she volunteered for the Tel Aviv police, becoming the first transgender woman in the country to do so. She was issued an apology for the past and even given a Medal to honor her and her work. She went on to meet with then President Reuven Rivlin, and more recently Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll, leading to her becoming a prominent figure in LGBTQ+ activism inside the State of Israel. Tilma’s fame even led to her being chosen as a judge for Miss Trans Israel, which was won by Talleen Abu Hanna, who went on to play Tilma in a documentary about her, Made He a Woman.

  5. Ashager Araro
    Ethiopian-Israeli activist and social media influencer Ashager Araro speaking in the Muller Chapel on Oct. 12 at Ithaca College, hosted by Hillel at Ithaca College. (Kevin Yu/The Ithacan)

    Ashager Araro was born as her parents were escaping Ethiopia on Operation Solomon. She grew up in Yavneh, in Israel. Araro leads the normal Israeli life, serving in the army reserves, and being active in politics. She has made it her mission, however, to showcase Ethiopian Jewish culture to those in Israel and abroad. Her family owns and operates Balinjera, an Israeli-influenced Ethiopian restaurant near Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. Araro herself, however, founded Battae, an Ethiopian-Jewish heritage center in Tel Aviv. At Battae, Araro teaches visitors about Ethiopian Jewish culture and history, including elements such as food and dancing. Araro is opening Israeli minds by exposing them to a culture that they are surrounded by but may not take the time to learn about. Araro is also changing the narrative on social media. She is active on her Instagram, @blackjewishmagic where she has almost 40 Thousand followers. Araro raises awareness to Ethiopian struggles in Israel and advocates for Israel. She is also a big promoter of peace, engaging in online and in person dialogue with Palestinians to promote peace. Araro is a perfect example of a young Israeli using social media to change the narrative in Israel and the narrative surrounding it, making powerful and important change.

  6. Michael Solomonov
    Israeli chef Michael Solomov doing what he does best: cooking delicious Israeli food to share with the world. (Colin Lentos/Runner’s World)

    Michael Solomonov was born in Israel, but he grew up in Pittsburgh, in the United States. He moved to Israel again when he was 18, and speaking very little Hebrew, began working at a bakery. He eventually moved back to America where he worked as a chef. His life changed during the Yom Kippur War, as his brother, a soldier, was killed. Solomonov began focusing on Jewish and Israeli food, his love of which he credits his brother for fostering. It was here where he hit his big break, with many of his restaurants taking off, and him receiving 4 awards from the James Beard foundation for his cooking and his restaurants. His Philadelphia restaurant Zahav began this cycle of success, and his other restaurants, such as Laser Wolf, Dizengoff, and Federal Donuts, among others. Solomonov also released a cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Solomonov also reported being addicted to heroin and crack while he was opening Zahav, a battle he fought with the help of his wife and business partner. He overcame financial struggles, loss, and addiction, allowing him to now become one of the most respected icons of Israeli cuisine in the United States.

  7. Hen Mazzig
    Israeli writer and activist Hen Mazzig, a proud Zionist activist and Mizrahi Jewish LGBTQ+ advocate in New York (Jewish Journal/Hen Mazzig)

    Many organizations and people fight very hard daily to defend Israel and make their voices heard, but few make an impact the way that Hen Mazzig does. An Israeli LGBTQ+ Jew of Amazigh and Iraqi descent, Mazzig offers a unique and interesting perspective into the highly nuanced situations in Israel. With 72.3K followers on Instagram, Mazzig promotes messages of coexistence and educates people on Israel, Antisemitism, and Jewish people. He is a regular writer for Newsweek, the LA Times, NBC, and the BBC, as well as a former IDF Officer, having served in a unit that helps promote and foster development of Palestinians in the West Bank. Mazzig is regularly interviewed as an advocate for Israel and the Jewish people abroad, but he is also a strong advocate of Jewish LGBTQ+ issues and Mizrahi Jewish issues, an area where he is one of the only and loudest voices. Mazzig created the hashtag #jewishprivilege, a hashtag created to counter an antisemitic and anti-zionist movement to expose supposed “Jewish privilege”. Mazzig kicked off a trend where Jews from all around the internet began sharing their experiences with antisemitism and persecution and using that hashtag, completely flipping it on its head. Mazzig is one of the most powerful Pro-Israel and Jewish voices on the internet, and his online activism is helping shake up the conversation about Israel, Jews, LGBT+ Jews, and Mizrahim.

  8. Stephane Gagba (Stephane Legar)
    Togolese-Israeli singer Stephane Legar in the music video for his song “Merci”. (Stephane Legar/Youtube)

    You’ll be hard pressed to find a young Israeli who does not listen to Stephane Legar. Known for top hits like “Comme Ci Comme Ça” and “Mapiot”, Legar constantly produces some of Israel’s best music. Being fluent in Hebrew, French, English, Spanish, and Ewe. Stephane’s parents were Togolese diplomats in the Nigerian embassy in Israel, which led to Stephane being born in Bat Yam, Israel. He attended schools in Holon and Rishon Letziyon, before joining the IDF in 2017, where he helped explain the recruitment process to High Schoolers. Although he was born in Israel, Stephane did not have Israeli citizenship until the completion of his army service, something that almost led to him being deported in his youth. While still in the army, Stephane’s hit single “Step fun” took off, propelling him to fame. He rose as a superstar in Israel, until eventually he gained popularity worldwide, especially in France, where he is signed to Warner Music France. He has collaborated with the likes of Itay Levy, Eden Ben Zaken, Static and Ben el, and countless other Israeli superstars. He was even nominated twice for MTV Europe as best Israeli act. Stephane’s music incorporates Hebrew and French, as well as often English and even small bits of other languages. He sings about his conflicting identities and his life in Israel as a non-Jewish African Christian. His song “Naim Meod” focuses largely on this. Stephane brought Israeli music to France and Africa, and hopes to keep doing so. He has dreams of helping kids in Togo learn Israeli music and have the same opportunities as him. Stephane fights for social change inside and outside Israel, doing so always with a smile on his face and a new hit ready to be released.

  9. Gidon Lev
    Gidon Lev, a Czechoslovakian-born Israeli Holocaust survivor now-turned tiktok star. (Erez Kaganovitz/Humans of The Holocaust)

    Gidon Lev was born in Czechoslovakia in 1935, not too long before Nazis invaded his country and began murdering their Jewish people. Gidon was placed in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, where he was imprisoned from ages 6-10. Of the estimated 15,000 children imprisoned there, Gidon was one of the about 100 believed to have survived. Lev fled Europe after the Holocaust, immigrating to America and Canada before making Aliyah in 1959. Lev worked as a farmer on a Kibbutz in Northern Israel, then went on to enlist in the IDF, serving during the Six Day War and the War of Attrition. With the help of writer Julie Gray, Gidon published his story in the book The True Adventures of Gidon Lev: Rascal Holocaust Survivor Optimist. Gidon did not stop with his book, however. Running a tiktok with over 400 thousand followers, Gidon uses his social media presence to educate others, doing so on a platform known for short dance videos. He regularly calls out antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, having gone after the likes of American podcaster Joe Rogan and many others who have denied or downplayed the Holocaust, an area that hits home for him. Lev uses tiktok in hopes of educating youth about the Holocaust, doing so rather successfully. Antisemites and Holocaust deniers plague. Gidon’s comment sections, but the overwhelming support he receives from the internet rules supreme. In today’s day and age, information about the Holocaust is dwindling, especially in regards to youth. Gidon Lev is hoping to counter just that, doing so with a positive message and a lived experience that is of immense value and credibility.

  10. Nuseir Yassin (Nas Daily)
    Palestinian-Israeli social media influencer Nuseir Yassin, known as Nas Daily. (Tubefilter)

    When the words Palestinian-Israeli are said together, they are usually followed by the word “conflict”. This is not the case for Youtube sensation Nussier Yassin, better known as Nas Daily, who is a self-described Palestinian-Israeli Youtuber. Nas was born in Israel and grew up there, going on to attend Harvard, in the United States. Nas married Israeli-American influencer Alyne Tamir, someone he often creates content with. As an Arab Muslim, Nas dealt with all of the struggles of growing up Arab in Israel, an issue he touches on often. Nas created the channel Nas Daily, which has over 15 Million followers across Youtube, Tiktok, and Instagram. He travels the world looking for incredible people and their stories, using them to spread knowledge and a positive message of humanity. Many of his videos touch on Israel, with Israeli technological innovation, interfaith coexistence in Israel, and even socio-economic situations in Israel being prominent in his content. His videos promote cooperation and peace all around the world, leading to different people from all walks of life becoming his fans. Nas regularly addresses his complicated identity. He calls himself Palestinian-Israeli, something he admits angers both Israelis and Palestinians alike. His moderate and proactive view is not necessarily popular, as he regularly calls out Arab antisemitism and terrorism, while also simultaneously being vehemently against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and regularly calling out racism within Israel. These moderate and proactive views anger extremists on both sides, but serve as a breath of fresh air for moderates and those who seek peace. Now living in Dubai, (being one of few Israelis to do so) Nas continues to spread his positive message worldwide, educating and connecting the world wherever he goes. Arguably among the most famous Israelis, Nusseir Yassin is changing the world, one video at a time.

About the Author
Luiz Gandelman is an 18 year old student originally from São Paulo, Brazil, who lives in Miami, Florida. He is involved with multiple Jewish and secular youth groups and political organizations. Luiz is a big basketball and Star Wars fan and an avid scuba diver. He is also a fan of geography, politics, history, and anything of the sort. Most importantly, he is a proud Jew.
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