Abigail Klein Leichman
April 14, 2011, Updated June 22, 2015

We know you’re already well acquainted with the extraordinary beauty of Israeli supermodels Esti Ginzburg and Bar Refaeli. That’s why they’ve captured the two top spots on ISRAEL21c’s list of Top 10 Israeli models. But you may not be as familiar with the other eight chosen from a surprisingly long list of candidates from a country the size of New Jersey.

1. Esti Ginzburg: 5’8, born in 1990

Esti Ginzburg

Esti Ginzburg

Currently appearing in the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue – for the third straight year – Tel Aviv resident Ginzburg started her career with a milk advertisement at age eight, and by 14 had an Elite Models contract. In 2006, she signed a two-year deal with Israeli clothing chain Fox, replacing top model Yael Bar Zohar. A frequent face on the covers of fashion mags such as the French ELLE and the Israel Cosmopolitan, Ginzburg has modeled for Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, FCUK, Clarins, Pull and Bear and another Israeli fashion chain, Castro.

Ginzburg made her acting debut in the 2010 Joel Schumacher film Twelve and endeared herself to many Israelis for her choice to join the Israel Defense Forces in 2009. A vocal champion of military service, Ginzburg has publicly criticized fellow Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli for dodging the draft.

2. Bar Refaeli: 5’7, born in 1985

Bar Refaeli

Photo by Flash90
Bar Refaeli during a fashion shoot at the Dead Sea.

The first Israeli model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (2007), Refaeli started her career even younger than Ginzburg, at the age of eight months. By age 15, she was featured in ad campaigns including a commercial for the popular Israeli pudding snack, Milky. Crowned as Model of the Year in an Israeli beauty contest in 2000, she’s been the cover girl for the French ELLE, Maxim and the Italian GQ.

Among the more recent credits of the model voted among FHM Magazine’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World in 2008 and 2010, Refaeli became spokesperson for Garnier International in 2009. Perhaps best known as Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend, Refaeli co-starred in the Israeli TV series Pick Up in 2005; co-hosted Tommy Hilfiger Presents Ironic Iconic America in 2008; and hosted MTV’s 2009 revival of House of Style. Now she is starring in a psychological thriller, Session.

3. Chava (Hava) Mond: 5’9, born in 1983

Chave (Hava) Mond

Photo by Ben Hopper/Alondon magazine
Chava Mond

Mond has the most atypical background for an Israeli model, as she was raised in the kabbalistic Galilee city of Safed by religious, English-speaking parents. When she was traveling in London with her aunt at age 16, a Select agent spotted her and offered her a modeling job. She insisted on first finishing high school and National Service, the army alternative for religious Israelis. When she finally was ready, she made it clear that she would not work on Saturdays, eats only kosher food and won’t model swimsuits and underwear.

Though these stipulations have lost her a job or two, they haven’t slowed her career’s trajectory. Now working mostly in London, Mond has modeled for clients including French Connection, Laura Ashley, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Armani Jeans, Pantene and Gina Bakoni. She’s been pictured in The Times, Cosmopolitan, In Style, Harvey Nichols magazine and Marie Claire; and has been featured on the catwalk for Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and London Fashion Week.

4. Sarai Givaty: 5’7, born 1982

Sarai Givaty

Sarai Givaty

Givaty is definitely a cover girl (Maxim, Cosmopolitan, The Grip, Go and others) but she’s mostly made her name as an actress, beginning with her stint playing an American reporter on the Israeli nighttime talk/variety show Kol Layla. She attended acting school at New York’s HB Studios, and in 2007, Givaty’s first film, The Passage, premiered to critical acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival.

Since then, she’s been in projects including an Enrique Iglesias video and in the pilot for a TV show starring Christian Slater. In 2009, she came back to Israel to star in the TV series The Pilots’ Wives. A piano and guitar player, Givaty gives concerts in both Israel and Los Angeles.

5. Gal Gadot, 5’11, born in 1985

Gal Gadot

Miss Universe, Gal Gadot

Gadot achieved global face recognition when she represented Israel at the 2004 Miss Universe beauty pageant. Three years later, she was one of the Israeli models serving in the IDF to be photographed by Maxim magazine. It was her photo that adorned the invitation to the launch party for that issue, and afterwards appeared on the cover of the New York Post.

In 2008, Gadot was chosen to be the leading model of Castro. Like many others she is combining a modeling and stage career, and has been featured in the Israeli drama Bubot (Dolls), the movie series Fast & Furious with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker; Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz; and Date Night with Mark Wahlberg. Her most recent role is in Fast Five, the fifth film in the Fast and the Furious series.

6. Moran Atias, 5’9, born 1981

Moran Atias

Moran Atias

Atias made her TV debut at 15 on the Israeli youth show Out of Focus. At 17, she was heading down the fashion runways of Germany and Italy, where designer Roberto Cavalli discovered her and made her his home model. She’s appeared on many magazine covers and fashion runways, hosted a TV talk show and starred in commercials for major clients such as Oil of Olay (US) and Orange Mobile (Israel). Atias has had roles in English, Italian, Hebrew and Spanish films including Days of Love, The Next Three Days, The Mother of Tears and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

Mainly based in Milan, Atias has led municipal campaigns against graffiti and animal cruelty. In 2010, she joined other actors on a humanitarian mission to Haiti, and has served as a goodwill ambassador for IsraAid, The Israel Forum for International Aid. Last year, on behalf of Artists for Peace and Justice, she emceed a charity event at the Cannes Film Festival and another in New York to benefit Haitian children.

7. Ofer Schechter: 5’5, born 1981

Ofer Schechter

Ofer Schechter.

Schechter’s first childhood gig was a TV commercial for a watermelon ice pop. Following his army service, he took acting lessons and starred in ad campaigns for Cellcom wireless provider and Bamba, Israel’s unofficial national snack food. Not to be outdone by the ladies, in 2006 Schechter was the lead model in a swimsuit campaign for the Israeli manufacturer Pilpel.

Since 2002, Schechter has been honing his on-stage talents in everything from musical theater and drama to soap operas and satire, gaining controversial notoriety first for baring his bottom on the Israeli youth TV show Exit and then for portraying a gay man in the tele-novela Ha-Alufa (The Champion). He’s also done Hebrew voice dubbing for films including Avatar: The Last Airbender and Cars.

8. Israela Avtau, 5’9, born in 1988

Israela Avtau

Israela Avtau

The Ethiopian-Israeli Avtau is sometimes compared to British supermodel Naomi Campbell. Originally planning to become a flight attendant, she won the Israeli Elite Top Models contest at age 16, and – finding there was little work for her in Israel — left four years later to seek her modeling fortune in New York, where she now resides except for frequent visits back home. Avtau has just begun multimillion dollar campaigns for Avon cosmetics in the US and for Factory 54 in Israel. She is said to be the highest-earning Israeli-born model (after Bar Refaeli), and follows in the footsteps of Israel’s first Ethiopian supermodel, Esti Mamo, 25, who was discovered in a Tel Aviv supermarket when she was just 15.

9. Yael Goldman: 5’9, born 1978

Yael Goldman

Yael Goldman

The face of Israeli jewelry giant H. Stern, Goldman has modeled for Armani, Gallery Lafayette and McDonalds, and has been the home model for Castro. Like several other models, she appeared on the youth TV show Exit and later hosted extreme sports program AXN-Mania. She’s also been on a reality program and a satellite TV sci-fi show, and appears with Sarai Givaty on The Pilots’ Wives.

10. Tehila Rich: 5’9, born in 1981

Tehila Rich

Tehila Rich

The kibbutz-bred daughter of a Dutch mother and American father, Rich has been the face of Golf clothing chain for nine seasons. Dividing her time between Israel and New York, she has also appeared in ads for Castro, Frannie, Careline cosmetics and perfumes including Perry Ellis and Jagler Sport.

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