NoCamels is proud to present its third annual list of Israelis who’ve made a big splash on the global stage this year. The list is by no means exhaustive (or definitive) and looks at people from a range of fields including sports, entertainment, healthcare, tech, and environmental science.
Each has made an important contribution that has had an international impact.
Here they are in no particular order.
Professor Tal Dvir – Lead researcher of revolutionary 3D heart study
3D printing has come a long way since the 1980s when the process was first used for industrial prototyping of products and designs. Today, 3D has a wide range of applications including in healthcare, but can it be used to help the human body?
Professor Tal Dvir generated international headlines when just a few months ago he and his research team at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology, unveiled the first-ever vascularized, engineered heart created in a 3D printing process.
“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers,” Professor Dvir said at the time.
The miniaturized heart was made with human cells and biomaterials from a specific patient, which is crucial to successfully engineering tissues and organs. The potential is massive and can in the future change the whole organ transplantation process. Patients may no longer have to wait for transplants or take medication to prevent their rejection. Instead, their needed organs may be 3D printed in hospitals just for them, with their own tissues.
There are years and maybe even decades of research ahead until that happens, but Professor Dvir and his team took a significant first step this year toward this goal.
Assaf Granit – Coveted culinary wizard
Step into any of Assaf Granit’s thirteen restaurants worldwide and you’ll quickly understand what the hype is about. The founder of MachneYuda Group, born and raised in Jerusalem, has received worldwide acclaim for his take on modern Israeli culinary and he’s had exceptional success in London and Paris.
Granit’s Palomar restaurant in London’s West End is exalted by British food critics and has won the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes restaurants with quality food at good value, multiple times.
The Israeli chef’s most recent accolade came just this month when his Shabour restaurant in Paris, opened just three months ago, was crowned the best eatery in the French capital by Le Figaroscope, one of France’s most respected dining guides. That is no small feat in a city famous for its culinary exceptionalism.
Granit’s culinary career, which spans decades, has been constantly evolving, showcasing his multifaceted skill set. He’s a scrupulous but good-hearted personality on three Israeli TV shows, including a local version of “kitchen nightmares” where he serves up some tough love and hard truths. He’s published two cookbooks, gives regular lectures on the history of food, the restaurant industry, and culinary innovation, and provides custom workshops.
He’s also launched some social initiatives such as “Otto Ochel” (Food Truck) together with NGO Season of Culture, where he and a team drove around Jerusalem for over three weeks in a custom food truck, sharing the culinary heritage of the city from which he draws so much of his inspiration.
Inbal Arieli – Author of “Chutzpah”
Inbal Arieli has had an illustrious career spanning over two decades, beginning with her service in the elite IDF unit 8200 and all the way through to her current position as co-CEO of Synthesis, a leadership assessment and development company that works closely with the Israeli tech ecosystem.
This year, Arieli published her first book “Chutzpah: Why Israel Is a Hub of Innovation and Entrepreneurship” which argues that the secret behind Israel’s success as a world-renown tech innovator is upbringing.
“In today’s modern Israel, our ground-breaking accomplishments in innovation and entrepreneurship are the results…of how Israelis are brought up, in close-knit communities where children are motivated to embrace challenges and ask questions, even bend the rules. Where the only certain thing is uncertainty,” she says in a video promo for her book.
According to Arieli, Israel is raising generations of entrepreneurs with a disruption mindset – of which a main contributor is “chutzpah,” a mentality ingrained in many Israelis which gives them the courage to push boundaries. She points to “chaotic, noisy, sometimes even unsafe” Israeli playgrounds where children are let loose, and business environments where people are loud and talk over each other.
Israel’s “chutzpah-infused culture enables Israelis to constantly practice – from a very young age – soft skills,” such as analytical and critical thinking, active learning, problem-solving, and leadership, which are critical “skills of the future,” she says.
Informed by her extensive insight and experience with the Israeli tech scene, and based on her popular lecture “The Roots of Entrepreneurship,” Arieli’s success with “Chutzpah” is no surprise.
Dr. Talia Golan – Top oncologist and cancer researcher
Dr. Talia Golan, an Israeli oncologist and lead researcher of the Pancreas Cancer Olaparib Ongoing (POLO) Clinical Trial at Sheba Medical Center, offered hope to pancreatic cancer patients with her breakthrough study published in July which showed promising findings for the biological treatment of pancreatic cancer, a disease that is largely considered incurable.
The effective drug regimen developed by Dr. Golan and her team is a much needed medical advancement, since pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in early stages, and often resistant to treatment in later stages.
Dr. Golan was also part of a separate study, published earlier this month, that showed how a small molecule called PJ34 triggered the self-destruction of human pancreatic cancer cells in mice. In the study, the administration of the molecule reduced the number of cancer cells in developed tumors by up to 90 percent in 30 days. In one mouse, the tumor disappeared completely. The molecule is being tested in pre-clinical trials according to FDA regulations before clinical trials on larger animals and then humans begin.
Dr. Golan was named to Forbes Israel’s annual list of “50 Most Influential Women In Israel” and has said that “it is a privilege to be able to do this research.”
Erez Galonska, Guy Galonska, Osnat Michaeli, Founders of Infarm
Working in a family business can be complicated, but brothers Guy and Erez Galonska will tell you that being close is the foundation of their success. Along with Erez’s partner, Osnat Michaeli, this trio makes up Infarm – an Israeli startup based in Berlin that manufactures modular hydroponic farms integrated into supermarkets, restaurants and distribution centers. The farms are managed remotely using a cloud-based system fitted with IoT technologies and machine learning capabilities and are easily integrated into commercial environments, eliminating the need for on-site expertise while offering fresh produce.
Over the past six years, Infarm has expanded all over Germany and to the rest of Europe. This summer, the company raised $100 million in a Series B round and is poised to enter the US market as part of a partnership with Kroger, one of the largest supermarket chains in the country.
With a goal of hosting their product in 10,000 sites by 2020, the Infarm team is building a more economically viable and sustainable food future while increasing access to fresh foods for all communities.
Israeli national baseball team – Olympic competitors
Israel will be sending its biggest delegation of athletes yet to the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo next year, Vered Buskila, vice president of the Olympic Committee of Israel, told NoCamels back in October. And a big reason for that is the 24-member Israeli Baseball Team. This is the first time a team sport will represent Israel in the Olympics since 1976 when the Israel National Soccer Team competed in the Montreal Summer Olympics.
Baseball may not be nearly as popular in Israel as soccer but that may soon change thanks to the stellar efforts of the national team, one of only six teams to qualify for the baseball competition at the Olympics Games.
The team, a mix of Israelis and Jewish Americans who became Israeli citizens to be eligible to play in the games, have certainly made an impact on future generations of baseball players in Israel as well as on the country as a whole.
Linoy Ashram – Star gymnast
Rhythmic gymnastics is a hit in Israel thanks to Linoy Ashram, the talented rhythmic gymnast who is said to be Israel’s best hope for a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The 20-year-old from Rishon Lezion has picked up medals at almost every competition she has taken part in over the past several years including the 2017 World All-around bronze medalist, the 2018 World All-around silver medalist, and the 2019 European Games All-around silver medalist.
Ashram has also accomplished a slew of firsts for an Israeli gymnast. She is the first Israeli gymnast to win a medal at the World Championships in an all-around final, nabbing a bronze in 2017 at the Worlds in Pesaro, Italy . She is the first Israeli to win gold in the all-around in the World Cup series, which she won at the 2018 Guadalajara World Cup.
She is the first Israeli gymnast to set a world record, which she did when she scored 20.65 points in the clubs, the best-recorded result since the rules were changed two years ago.
One thing only could top it all — that coveted medal at the Olympic Games next summer. Linoy Ashram is ready.
Dennis Lloyd – Spotify sensation
You may not have heard of Nir Tibor, but perhaps Dennis Lloyd, global music sensation, rings a bell? Tibor’s 2016 single “Nevermind” quickly became a hit on Spotify and has earned some 500 million plays to date. He has over seven million monthly listeners on the popular music app, and his newest song, Unfaithful, has 1.2 million views on YouTube.
Tibor, 26, grew up in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. He moved to Bangkok after his military service to focus on his music, dedicating a whole year to finding his “sound.” He recorded “Nevermind” and composed at least three dozens other songs while in Thailand, releasing some of them on YouTube.
But record executives didn’t fire up his phone until the song landed on Spotify. “I opened my email and my inbox was filled with record labels from Europe and the US,” Tibor told Forbes this year. We jumped on a call and I just asked them, ‘How did you find me?’ I had maybe 90,000 views on YouTube and for me, it was huge. They all said, ‘You have to open Spotify.’”
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Since then he has traveled the world, touring, performing on late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, at music festivals, and earning critical praise in Time, Billboard, and Forbes.
Yet, many Israelis don’t even realize he grew up among them. He does hope his success will pave the way for the success of future Israeli artists around the world.
“I signed at Sony and suddenly they’ve started to take an interest in Israeli musicians and to listen more, and I send them stuff. It’s very important for me to open that window for Israelis,” he told The Times of Israel.
Lloyd/Tibor launched a European tour in November, his second this year.
Static & Ben El – Pop duo extraordinaire
Liraz Russo and Ben El Tavori, better known as Static and Ben El, are the wildly popular Israeli duo with title hits that have entered the Israeli vernacular like “Tudo Bom.” In 2017, the music video for “Tudo Bom” (“Everything is ok” in Brazilian Portuguese) had the distinction of being the most-watched video in Israeli YouTube history, with some 300 million views. In March 2018, the pair signed a $5 million ten-year deal with US record label Capitol Records to produce seven international albums in English.
This year was their year to take on the US with the backing of Israeli-American billionaire Haim Sabban and their Israeli music producer Yarden Peleg (also known as “Jordi”,) who is credited with the musical arrangements of most of their hits. In February, the pair released “Tudo Bom” with English lyrics, partnering with Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin. With high hopes for an American crossover, the song premiered on the Z100 syndicated radio program “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.” They also released “Broke Ass Millionaire” to the tune of “Silsulim,” their 2016 Hebrew hit.
While their songs haven’t exploded in America – one blogger who saw their show in New York said it didn’t have enough material and another writer from an Israeli publication said that he wished they had released original songs in English – they part of a slew of Israeli artists who have tried their luck in the US. Ninet Tayeb, anyone?
Nevertheless, Static and Ben El continue to dominate playlists of all kinds – radio, kids’ parties, work events, etc – here in Israel.
Professor Ron Milo – Sustainability and energy researcher
Not all heroes wear capes; some of them wear lab coats. Professor Ron Milo is the latter, and it’s in his lab at the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, where the discovery of an environmentally sustainable fuel was recently pioneered.
In a study published this year, Milo and his research team were able to genetically engineer a version of E.coli bacteria that is capable of surviving solely off carbon dioxide, as opposed to a natural sugar diet. The impact of this discovery is the development of a new kind of potentially carbon-neutral gas that can be integrated with a multitude of scientific applications to achieve greener results for our planet. One such way is creating eco-friendly farming chemicals that significantly reduce the output of greenhouse gas emissions, and help slow down climate change.
“Our lab was the first to pursue the idea of changing the diet of a normal heterotroph (one that eats organic substances) to convert it to autotrophism (‘living on air’),” said Milo in a Weizmann Institute statement. “It sounded impossible at first, but it has taught us numerous lessons along the way, and in the end we showed it indeed can be done. Our findings are a significant milestone toward our goal of efficient, green scientific applications.”
Eyal Gura, Eyal Toledano, Elad Benjamin – Founders of Zebra Medical Vision
Founded in 2014 by Eyal Toledano, Eyal Gura, and Elad Benjamin, Zebra uses AI to read medical scans and automatically detect anomalies. Through its development and use of different algorithms, Zebra Medical has been able to identify visual symptoms for diseases such as breast cancer, osteoporosis, and fatty liver as well as conditions such as aneurysms and brain bleeds.
The company received its fourth FDA 501(k) clearance in November, its second this year,for the identification and triaging of pleural effusion in chest X-rays. It was the first-ever FDA nod for pleural effusion, an abnormal accumulation of fluid within the pleura also called “water in the lungs.” The condition can be caused by a variety of medical issues, including acute conditions such as severe pneumonia, trauma, and pulmonary edema. Zebra also has nine CE marks.
The company says its data and research platform has already yielded AI imaging insights for millions of scans. In 2017, Zebra Medical partnered with multinational tech giant Google to provide its algorithms on Google Cloud so hospitals and medical professionals in the US can access the service for $1 per scan.
The award-winning company has also been recognized as particularly innovative by Business Insider, Forbes, and Fast Company. Though others have since entered the field with similar offerings – Aidoc, Viz.ai, and IDx, to name a few — Zebra was a pioneer, entering Globes’ Most Promising Startups in 2015, just a year after it was founded.
Toledano, Gura, and Benjamin have been credited with creating a disruptive business model in medical imaging technology that Gura says will “automate every visual aspect of medicine,” according to Forbes.
Yehuda and Maya Devir – Star illustrators
Yehuda and Maya Devir’s webcomics depicting themselves in hilarious real-life couple situations have a huge online following. They’ve already published three volumes of their series “One of Those Days,” taking fans through journeys of their married life through to the experience of becoming first-time parents.
With over five million followers on Instagram, the impressive duo also managed to snag two influential awards this year, including a YouTube award, and The Most Creative Content Maker Award at the Inflow Global Summit 2019 Awards in October.
But their big moment this year was becoming a family. “I would say our biggest accomplishment this year is the birth of our daughter, Ariel,” Yehuda Devir told NoCamels in an interview in November.
Indeed, baby Ariel is slowly becoming an influential Israeli in her own right. She already has some 221,000 followers on Instagram and regularly appears in her parents’ illustrations.
As for the couple, they’re just enjoying the moment. “We don’t know how we got here,” Devir said, “But we’re having fun.
Nuseir Yassin, Nas Daily – Vlogger, author, content wiz
Nuseir Yassin, the Palestinian-Israeli Harvard graduate who quit his six-figure job at a US-based startup to travel the world, has been mastering content creation on social media for the better part of three years. It began with a desire to document and share travel adventures with the world in the form of one-minute videos on Facebook. More than 14 million Facebook followers later, the vlogger who goes by Nas Daily (“Nas” means “people” in Arabic) has become a major global influencer whose visually engaging videos also hit a wide range of hard-hitting topics such as gender bias, social justice, and racism through stories from around the world.
This year, Nas Daily made another “career shift” when he stopped making daily videos to focus on other projects. He moved to Singapore and now makes weekly videos with his 15-employee strong firm Nas Company. His biggest project yet is a series for Facebook called “Planet Warriors,” a three-month project that shines a light on people who are helping the world.
Yassin works closely with girlfriend and travel companion Alyne Tamir, and friend Agon Hare (Project Nightfall), both of whom feature in many of his videos and whom he credits for the success
This year, Yassin has also officially launched his new book “Around The World in 60 Seconds: The Nas Daily Journey” which documents his experiences meeting locals all over the world and creating 60-second videos. The book contains stunning photos and hundreds of stories from 64 countries.
Yassin’s company also has a hand in creating a number of colorful shows by Dear Alyne, hosted by Tamir, a brilliant storyteller herself.
Both Yassin and Tamir appeared on our influencers list from last year.
Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger – Lemonade co-founders
When life gives you lemons…make Lemonade. That’s what founders Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger did in 2015 when they co-founded a new insurance platform that relies on bots to replace brokers and artificial intelligence to replace actuaries.
Not everyone loved the premise. In fact, America’s largest property insurer State Farm went after insurtech companies like Lemonade near the end of 2018 for the “cheap knockoff robots” created by the “budget insurance companies.” Lemonade has since prevailed — raising $300 million in April with a valuation of $2 billion, launching in Germany, and being named to CNBC’s Disrupter 50 list and Forbes’ 50 “Most Promising AI Companies” in the US.
At the helm of the Israeli-founded firm are Wininger, a co-founder of Fiverr, and Schreiber, a former president of Powermat and senior vice president and general manager of mobile network operators at San Disk.
Together, they have disrupted the insurance market while introducing a “social good” element into the insurance equation. When users sign up, they choose a charity or non-profit organization they care about, and once a year, Lemonade tallies up unclaimed money pooled from policyholders who chose that same cause and donates it to the organization.
Schreiber and co. were recognized in the special mentions section of TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions of 2019 for their “Giveback” element to transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good. So far, Lemonade’s Giveback funds have totaled $631,540 in 2019.
The top photo is a composite image of Inbal Arieli (top left), courtesy; Yehuda and Maya Devir (top center), courtesy; Dr. Talia Golan (top right), via the Sheba Medical Center website; Dennis Lloyd, aka Nir Tibor (bottom left), Photo by Justin Higuchi from Los Angeles, CA – Dennis Lloyd 06/14/2018 #29, CC BY 2.0, Link; Linoy Ashram (second from left) Deposit Photos; Assaf Granit (second from right), photo by Merav Ben Loulou – image provided by author, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link; Professor Tal Dvir (bottom right), via screenshot.