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Revital Iyov, 25
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ARTS/CULTURE36 Under 36 2020

Revital Iyov, 25

Breaking Stories and Glass Ceilings

What you do:

Currently, I am a Director’s Fellow in the Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism program at the International Center of Photography in New York. I’m a storyteller. I believe that stories have the power to connect people and compel them to action. Storytelling is at the heart of my efforts in the media and nonprofit sectors.

The first black person to be accepted as a journalist for the IDF’s Galei Tzahal radio station, I co-founded Have You Seen the Horizon Lately, an Israeli-based nonprofit bringing a new perspective surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I recently co-organized an Ethiopian Shabbat dinner for the Sigd holiday in New York for more than 100 young adults (with the support of ROI, OneTable and others.)

Unexpected fun fact:

I had a small supporting role in the Netflix film “The Red Sea Diving Resort” alongside Chris Evans, directed by Gideon Raff. The film was shot in South Africa and Namibia and it was very precious to spend some time in beautiful Africa.

Quote you live by:

“God’s salvation comes in the blink of an eye.” — Rabbinic saying

Formative childhood moment:

From as soon as I learned to read, I became an avid news reader. Once, I read a story at the local newspaper, about a single mom raising her three kids. It took me a second, but then I realized that story was about my mom. She had struggled with something and a local journalist offered to help. I realized firsthand the power of the media and storytelling to transform one’s life.

Challenge overcome:

I had always dreamt of serving in Galei Tzahal. It is the main gateway to a career in journalism in Israel. Out of more than 2,000 applicants a year, only 30 will make it to the station. I studied at a fancy high school of the arts and most of my classmates received an invite to the initial exam, but I did not. Two points in my pre-military exam set me apart from this opportunity. Once I was told that my score is very high “for an Ethiopian.”

I called everyone I could; I even sent a fax to the commander-in-chief of the Israel Defense Forces, but he never responded. Right when I was about to give up, I realized I had nothing to lose. I decided to show up at the front door of the IDF’s chief education officer, Brig. Gen. Eli Schermister, and make a case. He was very confused at first, but decided to give me a chance and invited me to take the exam. I did very well and was one of the 30 lucky ones to make it into Galei Tzahal. I also made history as the first black, Ethiopian person to get accepted to the prestigious journalism course.

Fondest Jewish memory:

A visit to the synagogue in Gondar, Ethiopia. That was the first time I have been to a synagogue surrounded by Ethiopians/black people. The ululating of the women in Gondar still echoes in my heart, and ever since, I’ve been in search of a community that will provide me with a similar sense of connection.

Follow me: revitaliyov.com

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