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Meet The Teenage Mentalist Out To Conquer The World

Seventeen-year-old Nevo Abutbul talks about what makes a mentalist great, and why it’s not magic.

When 17-year-old Nevo Abutbul joins the Israeli army next year, he’s going to have the coolest job ever: he’ll be the military’s very first mentalist, spending his service wowing soldiers with his quick wit, mindreading capabilities and all-around awesomeness.

“I’m the youngest mentalist in Israel and the world,” Nevo tells ISRAEL21c. “I began trying my hand at magic at the age of six, and mentalism by the age of nine.”

It’s less about formal training and more about your own strengths, he says.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve been playing games like guessing which hand is holding a coin or how many coins I’m holding. I kept on practicing how people think,” he explains.

“What drew me to it and made me curious is people’s reactions and the ways the brain works. I learned about body language, NLP [neuro-linguistic programming]. I slowly but surely began building myself a mentalist toolbox.”

Nevo Abutbul says mentalism is all about understanding the brain and body language, not magic. (Nir Slakman)

In the few years since, Nevo has performed on TV shows in Israel and abroad, appeared on top stages and entertained VIP crowds. His plans for the next couple of years — aside from donning a uniform — include taking the world by storm.

And his first stop is America.

Unlike Israel, which adores its veteran, homegrown mentalists (hello there, Uri Geller and Lior Suchard), the US isn’t that familiar with the field. Which is perfectly fine with Nevo.

“It’s not popular, and people abroad don’t really know much about it, at least not in America. My goal is to associate mentalism with Nevo. I want to familiarize people with the field and also influence them to follow their own dreams. No matter how old you are, you can always fulfil your dream. That’s a goal that’s really important for me to promote,” he says.

Not like other high school seniors

“I’m a 12th grader, and it’s not easy with all the shows and the TV. I miss a lot of school and it’s not simple. But I’m a good student, I put in an effort in my studies and it’s important to me, so I make sure to catch up,” Nevo says. “I’m living the dream and fulfilling myself every day anew.”

Although he has less time to hang out with friends, “My friends are loving and encouraging, and I’m learning to balance it all with school and a relationship. Those are the kind of things that keep you grounded and help maintain balance.”

Nevo Abutbul wows the crowd at a recent stateside tour. (Courtesy of Sarit&lorens)

To become a successful mentalist, even at a young age, some basic traits are required, he says.

“As a mentalist, you have to be very, very sharp, very focused, to pay attention to the little details and to think a few steps ahead,” he explains.

“You have to understand why things are happening and influence the way they happen. And, of course, you need charisma and performance. Without it you can’t hold an hour-long show with a concentrated audience.”

Mentalism vs. magic

Many people don’t really know what differentiates mentalism from magic.

“Magic is about utilizing movement – hand movements, deceptive tricks,” Nevo explains.

“Mentalism has more to do with the brain, more with psychology and body language. I deal with the brain, not with quickness and things that fool the eye.”

Still, a lot of people have a misconception that mentalism is all about methods.

“I’m actually in favor of supporting that view, because it makes it entertaining and gives people great pleasure,” says Nevo.

“In Israel, of course, more people try to find out how you do it all, while elsewhere in the world they believe you more.

“But I don’t try to fool people, only to make them happy and surprise them,” he concludes. “I really enjoy doing it; it’s my passion.”

Learn more about Nevo Abutbul here.

Produced in association with ISRAEL21c.

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