Mili Avital - I’d say the biggest role that put her on the American map, would be playing Sha’uri in the original Stargate movie with James Spader. Avital was born in Jerusalem to two graphic designers named Noni and Iko (And if you are wondering, no these are not typical Israeli names).
Mili may have been born in Jerusalem but she didn’t stay there for long. She was raised in Tel-Aviv and Ra’anana and attended the Thelma Yellin High School of Arts in Giva’atayim. She began her acting career at the age of 17 and even won the 1992 Israeli Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Two years later she decided to move to New York to take the Circle in the Square Acting program. A year later, while working as a waitress, she was discovered by an agent and two weeks later, she landed the female Lead in Stargate.
Avital did not want to be type cast in her acting career, and after training with dialect coaches for many years, she has been cast in American, British and Southern roles. Her filmography includes: Stargate, Invasion of privacy, The End of Violence, Kissing a Fool, After The Storm, Uprising, The Human Stain and When Do We Eat. After being in movies that clearly no one knows about, (Except for Stargate of course) she started appearing in more recent TV shows such as Damages, Law & Oder: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent as recently as 2010.
Oded Fehr – Mostly known for the character of Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns with Brendan Fraser. For those of you who have seen the movie but not very familiar with the characters, Ardeth would be the main guy on the horse with all the face paint who is protecting Hamunaptra (See picture).
Oded was born in Tel-Aviv to a Jewish day-care supervisor (Mother) and a German born Physicist (Father). Like a good Israeli kid, he went to serve in the Israeli Navy after graduating high-school. After completing his service, he briefly lived in Frankfurt, Germany where he took drama classes and worked security for El-Al (Israeli airline) in the German airport. Those drama classes may have inspired him because he later decided to attend the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England.
Now Fehr is one of the few Israeli guys who have been around the Hollywood block. Some of the more known movies he has been in include: Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Cleopatra, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. He also made guest appearances on TV shows like: Persidio Med, Sleeper Cell, Burn Notice, Medium, Covert Affairs and as a repeating character named Zankou on Charmed.
Ayelet Zurer - Primarily known in the U.S. as Vittoria Vetra, from the legendary movie Angels & Demons (Second part of the Da Vinci Code) with Tom Hanks. Zurer was born and raised in Tel Aviv, even though her mother didn’t relocate to Tel Aviv until after World War II, during which time she was hiding in a convent in Czechoslovakia.
After finishing the required military service (Which I escaped), Zurer moved to New York to develop her acting skills. It didn’t take long for her to miss the mother land, and in 1991 she moved back to Israel and began starring in a series of films and television shows. One of the more popular dramas was called “Betipul” (2005), where she played a seductive patient who initiates a romance with a doctor. The series became so huge, Zurer won a Best Actress award from the Israeli Television Academy and the series was remade as the highly successful Emmy-and-Golden Globe-winning HBO series named In treatment.
Zurer’s Hollywood credits include Steven Spielberg’s Munich (which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture), where she played Eric Bana’s wife. Vantage point, along side Dennis Quaid and Sigourney Weaver, where she played an exotic terrorist named Veronica. And of course the aforementioned Angels & Demons along side Tom Hanks where she played a physicist trying to stop anti-matter from exploding in the Vatican.
Noa Tishby – This lady really does it all. Tishby first got her big break at the age of 16, when she appeared in the musical “King David” for which she got national recognition. She got a full scholarship to The National Museum of Arts and soon after was hired to play the lead in Israel’s highest rated prime-time drama “Ramat Aviv Gimmel” (1995). I totally remember that show… it was like the Days of Our Lives of Israel.
Tishby is also a singer. She was the first Israeli artist to release an English-speaking album (Called Nona) and also the first to hit #1 on the nation’s top-selling album charts. Not only is she an actress and a singer, Tishby also has her own production company called Noa’s Arc… how clever. Tishby was actually the producer of the Israeli show Betipul, turned HBO hit In Treatment, in which Ayelet Zurer starred. It was the first Israeli television show to become an American series. In Israel, Noa Tishby’s image graces billboards, fashion magazines and in 2007, she was even voted “Israel’s Sexiest Woman”.
Noa didn’t stop there. After moving to Los Angeles with her Australian media personality husband, Andrew Günsberg, she has been one busy bee. Since 2003, Tishby has guest stared in many popular shows like The Drew Carry Show, CSI: Miami, Nip/Tuck, Star Trek: Enterprise, Las Vegas, The 4400, Charmed, CSI: NY, Big Love, NCIS and of course Leverage, where she enjoys kicking Elliot’s ass on occasion. Tishby also appeared in several movies like The Island with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson and Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past with Matthew McConaughey and Jenifer Garner.
Natalie Portman – Probably the most known Israeli actress would be Natalie portman, for her role as Queen Amidale / Padme in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Portman was born in Jerusalem to an Israeli fertility doctor and an American homemaker who now works as her agent. Both her parents however were of Jewish descent, her father has Polish and Romanian ties and her mother has Austrian and Russian ancestors.
Portman’s parents actually met at Ohio State University but married in Israel where Natalie was born. When she was three years old, the family moved to Washington, D.C., then relocated to Connecticut in 1988, and then settled permanently in Long Island, New York, in 1990. Even though Portman grew up in America, she still considers Jerusalem her home and speaks both Hebrew and English.
After making a few successful movies like Beautiful Girls and the Star Wars movie that put her on the map, Portman decided to attend Harvard University “Even if it ruined her career” she said, she “would rather be smart than a movie star”. In June 2003, Portman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Since she graduated, Portman appeared in more successful movies such as: Cold Mountain, Garden State, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Domino, V For Vendetta, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and Brothers.
<-The Israeli guy you would never expect->
Gene Simmons – Simmons was born Chaim Witz in Haifa in 1949 and moved to New York City when he was only eight years old. His mother was a Jewish Hungarian immigrant named Flora Klein who survived the Holocaust and his father, Hungarian born Feri Witz (Who did not accompany them to the states). After little Chaim arrived in the U.S., he decided to change his name to Eugene Klein after his Mother’s maiden name. In the late 1960′s however, Eugene changed his name to Gene Simmons to honor legendary rockabilly performer Jumpin’ Gene Simmons… and so the lead singer of KISS was born.