Israel's brightest young female leaders shaping the future today

Trailblazing Israeli women from a wide range of different fields and disciplines select exceptional teenagers who have impressed them with their skills, ambition and unwavering determination
Miki Haimovich, a prominent environmental activist, TV presenter and former politician has dedicated much of her life to raising awareness of the importance of humanity being good stewards of planet Earth.
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She has produced numerous documentary series addressing social and environmental issues, delving into topics such as waste in the food industry, the detrimental effects of plastic consumption, marine and air pollution and their contribution to global warming.
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ירדן ישראלי ומיקי חיימוביץ
ירדן ישראלי ומיקי חיימוביץ
Miki Haimovich and Yarden Israeli
(Photo: Dana Kopel)
On top of her media and parliamentary work on the environment, she's also known for popularizing the Meatless Monday campaign in Israel.
Her pick is 17-year-old Yarden Israeli - a high school student and environmental activist who draws inspiration from public figures such as Greta Thunberg.
"Yarden is an exemplary youth who has awakened and actively works on the climate crisis, demanding from us adults what should be self-evident - to ensure their future on this planet. She is part of the youth climate movement that I have been accompanying for several years. I meet them at numerous events, marches, and protests, and they are an authentic and significant voice," Haimovich says.
"Yarden reached out to me for the first time about a year and a half ago regarding an activity they planned in the Knesset, and since then, we have been in touch. Before the recent elections, when she and another friend organized a panel of politicians ahead of the elections, I supported them, and I was truly impressed by her seriousness, depth, and commitment.
"She is truly one of the most impressive young girls I have encountered. What is beautiful about her is that she doesn't seek attention; she works behind the scenes, drives things forward, and does it all with great composure and seriousness.
"As a representative of the generation that caused the catastrophe we find ourselves in, I feel a tremendous commitment toward the active youth advocating for the climate. I am grateful to them because they are the fuel and hope for me."
While Yarden doesn't believe she herself can save the world, she says that she couldn't live with herself knowing she did nothing.
"As a member of the youth movement for climate action, I try to persuade government officials to take action where the greatest harm is occurring," she says.
"While I argue with my siblings to turn off the air conditioning or with my parents to use less plastic, there are people with immense power and wealth who, for example, own private jets that cause as much damage to the climate in one year as an average person does in 380 years. I prefer to channel my efforts into convincing government officials to act and prevent such individuals from polluting the environment."

'None could evoke same emotion as a 14-year-old'

Miri Mesika has been one of the most successful and beloved singers in Israel over the past two decades, with multiple gold and platinum albums under her belt.
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מיקה משה ומירי מסיקה
מיקה משה ומירי מסיקה
Miri Mesika and Mika Moshe on stage
(Photo: Shlomi Pinto)
Her choice is 15-year-old Mika Moshe. Mika embarked on her showbiz journey in 2020 through the TV reality show Music School, where she showcased her skills and finished in third place. Throughout the competition, she had the privilege of being mentored by Mesika, who played a pivotal role in her development.
"I first met Mika when she was a young teenager during the fourth season of Music School, and I immediately fell in love with her,” Mesika says. “She lives in the Galilee, a place that holds a special place in my heart, and her soul resonates with the energy of the Galilee.
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מירי מסיקה ומיקה משה
מירי מסיקה ומיקה משה
Miri Mesika and Mika Moshe
(Photo: Private album)
I wanted to give her a gift and perform a duet with her because what are the chances that a song by a 12-year-old girl would be heard if I didn't join in? But it turns out that she was the one who gave me an enormous gift—a song that has changed the lives of so many people. Since we released the song, many women have tried to sing it with me, including renowned singers, but none could evoke the same emotions as a 14-year-old girl.
There's something about her professionalism, her inner serenity and her humility that are typically found in the most mature individuals. Despite the fact that she could be my daughter, I have learned so much from her. I anticipate great success for Mika, not only in our country but also abroad, because beyond her immense talent, she possesses an ability to interpret and understand lyrics that I haven't encountered in such a young teenager. She will only continue to grow and flourish."
"After filming the show, I wanted to release a song of my own, so I reached out to songwriter Hodaya Hayut, who lives near Kiryat Shmona," recalls Mika Moshe. "I spoke to her about my life and my dreams, and she introduced me to Elanatan Shalom, the composer. Together, they created Yesh Lach Otach (You Have Yourself).
The truth is, I recorded it on my own, but Elanatan happened to be working with Miri on another song. He played her Yesh Lach Otach and she decided to join in. When they sent me the duet version of the song, I couldn't believe it. It was surreal, the kind of dream I never thought could actually come true."

'She is destined for greatness'

Shirili Deshe is an actress, playwright, screenwriter, and director. Throughout her extensive career, Deshe directed the Israeli version of the series The Golden Girls and wrote some of the most beloved theater productions of the past decades. In recent years, she has been focusing on youth shows.
She picks 16-year-old Nina Zrifin, who plays a multitalented girl named Liri the series Yaldei Beit Haetz (Children of the Treehouse), which Deshe wrote.
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נינה זריפין ושירילי דשא
נינה זריפין ושירילי דשא
Shirili Deshe and Nina Zrifin
(Photo: Avigail Uzi)
Besides being a talented actress, Zrifin also harbors many talents in real life and also dances ballet professionally and is an accomplished pianist. In addition to her artistic pursuits, she is a first-year student pursuing a degree in chemistry and physics at Tel Aviv University. She is also a member of the Israeli national chemistry team.
"I met Nina during the auditions for the series Yaldei Beit Haetz, and I instantly fell in love with her. She exudes warmth, humor, and professionalism from the very first moment, and I discovered several surprises as we started working together - she is also a dancer, singer, pianist, and university student!” Deshe says.
“On set, Nina always arrives fully prepared, a remarkable actress who quickly grasps any directorial instruction I give her and never complains. And there's something more - she has an impeccable sense of style. She's a girl who idolizes Audrey Hepburn and dresses in her inspiration, like a star from the 1950s.
But above all, Nina is generous and kind-hearted. When the new generation of Children of the Treehouse joined the series, she immediately embraced them and helped them in every way possible. I don't know if she'll become an actress when she grows up; perhaps she'll be a scientist or an astronaut. Whatever path she chooses, she is destined for greatness."
When asked about her impossible schedule, Nina displays a maturity far beyond her years. "Time is a flexible thing,” she says. “Things I love, I don't even feel like they're stealing my time. I'm always looking for something to do, unable to sit idly. From a very young age, I've been involved in art and always loved learning. I feel there's a connection between science and art; it shapes, propels and balances me.
I don't think I'm giving up on anything; there are just days when the schedule is a bit tighter. The filming for the series takes place in the summer because we're all still students. There were times when maybe I went to ballet a little less, but in the end, I learn to integrate."

Representation in STEM fields

Dr. Maayan Salton, a scientist from the Faculty of Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, embarked on her professional career studying biology and psychology.
During her master's studies, she merged the two fields by specializing in genetic counseling. In her doctoral studies, she focused on DNA repair and continued her postdoctoral research at the National Cancer Institute in the United States, where she discovered that manipulation of the gene editing process could offer a solution for drug resistance in skin cancer.
Today, she leads the laboratory for studying genetic editing variations in individuals with autism at the Hebrew University.
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תמר צהרי וד"ר מעיין סלטון
תמר צהרי וד"ר מעיין סלטון
Dr. Maayan Salton and Tamar Zohari
(Photo: Shalev Shalom)
Her choice is 17-year-old Tamar Zohari – a talented young girl with a flair for science. She recently finished third in a competition for young scientists and developers held in Israel, and also competed against the world's top high school students in the fields of science and engineering, at the prestigious Regeneron-ISEF event in Dallas.
"Tamar showed interest in the subjects my laboratory investigates, and we met when she was looking for a lab to conduct her final project in high school. Every week, she would come to the lab for a few hours. It's a relatively short amount of time, usually only allowing students to get a glimpse of the research,” Salton says.
“However, her final project, under the guidance of Ofir Gaminder, a medical student pursuing a doctorate in my lab, was much more than that. She managed to grasp the theoretical aspects deeply, conducted practical research, and demonstrated exceptionally high abilities.
I am confident that Tamar will succeed in any career path she chooses, and the skills that led her to excel in her final project will serve her well in the future. Successful women serve as examples to their female counterparts, and this is the contribution of both Tamar and myself to narrowing the gender gap in Israeli society."
Tamar Zohari chose to do her high school final project in the field of medical biology in Dr. Salton's laboratory. "The research began with a story of a family that came to genetic counseling at Hadassah Ein Kerem with a child on the autism spectrum with low functioning and other neurological difficulties and problems,” the aspiring scientist says.
“They turned to Dr. Salton's laboratory, and a mutation was found that exists only in him and five other individuals worldwide. I found a close connection between the gene I researched and the gene found in the child. It turned out that this gene could be implicated in the development of autism as a whole."
Zohari believes that the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields can be attributed to societal discouragement. However, she expresses gratitude for her supportive parents, both with backgrounds in marine biology, who have played a significant role in encouraging her to excel in the field.

'My entire day revolves around the violin'

Conductor Talia Ilan began her musical journey as a pianist, but her passion has always been drawn toward conducting. After completing her military service, she studied conducting under several renowned professionals in Israel and around the world, including Argentine-Israeli maestro Barenboim, and led prestigious orchestras.
She chooses 16-year-old Noga Barlev - a young virtuoso violinist who has been playing the delicate bowed string instrument since the tender age of 5.
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נגה ברלב וטליה אילן
נגה ברלב וטליה אילן
Talia Ilan and Noga Barlev
(Photo: Eli Dasa)
"I met Noga a few years ago at the Israeli Conservatory in Tel Aviv (Shtriker), where my daughter Noya also studies violin, and I had the opportunity to hear her many times in joint concerts,” Ilan says.
“Noga devotes herself to music, and it seems like she fills her entire world with it. I was very impressed by her progress and her impressive maturity in her playing, and I believe she will continue to thrive and achieve international recognition, as she already does.
I wish for myself that one day Noga, like her sister Leah, who is a wonderful pianist and has performed with me in a concert with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, will play alongside me as a soloist in one of the concerts."
When asked why she specifically chose the violin, Barlev says that when she was in kindergarten, she saw a child playing the violin on YouTube, and that instrument simply mesmerized her. "I asked my mom to take me for lessons, and the rest is history," she says.
"Basically, my entire day revolves around the violin. I practice as much as necessary to achieve my goals. For example, in two weeks, I have an audition for a scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. When I was 12 years old, I already received an excellence scholarship from them, and I also received a study scholarship from the Ronen Foundation."
"I consider myself a regular girl, and I have the hobbies of a regular girl. I love knitting, listening to music, photography and drawing. I have 17 cats, and I spend time with them."

'They represent our greatest talent'

Yael Arad, chair of the Israeli Olympic Committee (the first woman in the position), will forever be remembered as Israel's first Olympic medalist after winning a silver medal in judo at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Arad invests most of her efforts in competitive sports voluntarily. For a living, she specializes in entrepreneurship, business development and marketing strategy.
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נבחרת ההתעמלות האמנותית עם יעל ארד
נבחרת ההתעמלות האמנותית עם יעל ארד
Yael Arad (in the back, middle) and the Israeli artistic gymnastics team
(Photo: Yuval Hen)
She picks the Israeli artistic gymnastics team, which recently returned from the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, where they achieved remarkable success, winning three medals: a gold medal in the hoop exercise, a silver medal in the all-around exercise and a silver medal in the team competition.
The gymnasts - Ofir Shacham, Diana Svartzov, Hadar Friedman, Shani Baknov, Liza Benchuk, and Romi Pritzki - are all under the age of 18 and secured their spots in the 2024 Olympics in Paris last year at the Sofia World Championship, where they won a silver medal in the team competition.
“The process of building young athletes for international success is a lengthy one, with a very low ability to predict success at the beginning of the process,” Arad says. “Statistically, we know that the more athletes we have at the base of the pyramid, the greater the chance that one of them will fulfill the vision of Olympic success.
Our artistic gymnastics team members are already vice world champions and reigning European champions for 2022, and they are undoubtedly strong contenders for an Olympic medal at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris. Today, they represent our greatest talent."
Team captain Romi Pritzki dishes about the significant sacrifices she and her teammates had to make to achieve success.
"I sacrifice quality time with my family, with myself, and even leisure activities," she says. "This is my life at the moment; I have a goal, and I have no problem giving up for it. I don't believe you can reach the Olympics without making significant sacrifices."
"The girls on the team are my best friends; we've experienced so many challenges and successes together. They're like my family, and I don't currently feel the need for additional companions in my life."
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