Frederique Gotez
Frederique Gotez. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Tomer Appelbaum
Danny Rosenberg, aka Kelsang Sharab, with his friend Oded (left). Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Frederique Gotez, 33, PR woman from Lyon, France

Where are you flying to?

I don’t know yet.

Don’t you have a ticket?

I wish. I just missed my flight. Boarding was closed just two minutes ago. It was open until 7 and now it’s 7:02.

Maybe they’ll let you through if you run.

No. It’s hopeless.

What will you do?

What can I do? We’ll see, maybe they’ll find me another ticket. Oh, but I have to leave here this evening. I have to.

Where to?

London, Geneva, Paris, Europe − and from there a connection to Lyon. The main thing is for me to be at work tomorrow morning, come what may. Otherwise they’ll kill me.

Why did you miss the flight?

Because of love.

Seriously?

Yes. Look, here he comes. It’s all because of him.

Who is that?

It’s Emilio (pictured).

I still don’t understand what happened.

We were just having fun and we lost track of time.

When did you meet?

Two weeks ago, here in Tel Aviv.

Did you come for sightseeing?

No. I am Jewish. My sister immigrated to Israel three years ago. I came to visit her two weeks agi and I was supposed to be here for 10 days. Then, just three days before I was supposed to go back, I met this young man. It was totally crazy.

Where did you meet?

He works in a restaurant, in the most famous sabih place in Tel Aviv, the one on Frishman Street. Do you know it? I went there to eat, I looked over the counter and then I saw him and he saw me. It was ... it’s indescribable. It was love at first sight. It’s the first time I have ever felt anything like that in my life. I didn’t know it really existed. I didn’t think it was possible.

You just started to talk?

I think so, but I don’t really remember. I think we hardly talked. He just came over and picked me up in his arms, took me out of there physically, and there was no need to explain anything, we both knew. It was obvious that we had to get to know each other. But we only had two nights to be together and then I had to fly home. It was terrible to part, and the moment I got home to Lyon I bought a ticket back here.

You landed and took off on the same day?

No. I wanted to, but it took a whole week. It felt like an eternity. I had to persuade my boss to let me do it, and that was a major effort. I had just returned from a two-week vacation, and even though we don’t work Saturday and Sunday, I had to ask him to let me have Monday, too, and Monday is an important day. He didn’t really want to give me another day, my boss.

How did you persuade him?

I told him that there are moments in life you cannot allow yourself to miss. Because if you let them, they will pass and you will always regret it. I said I had to go and it had to be now, it couldn’t wait. He saw the look on my face and gave his consent.

What will the two of you do now?

We will talk. Skype, e-mail, SMS. Whatever we can. But in any case I am planning to come back here as soon as possible. My Hebrew is getting better. [In Hebrew:] Zeh haya arba yamim madhimim − it was four incredible days.

Emilio: Arba’ah. Never mind, she will soon speak fluently.

Maybe you will simply immigrate to Israel?

I am definitely considering it.

What did you do on your current visit?

There wasn’t much time. We saw some of the city, we slept, ate. He made me a queen’s breakfast and made patties and fish for Shabbat. He is a really good cook, he has many talents.

What do you think of Tel Aviv?

It’s wonderful.

Is it a romantic city?

Not at first impression, everything is a little crowded and gray. But it turns out that it can be.

Danny Rosenberg, 40, Tibetan monk, single. Arriving from Newcastle, England.

Danny Rosenberg is a name I no longer use − only when I am in Israel, among old friends. I have a Tibetan name, a monastic name.

Which is?

Kelsang Sharab.

What does the name mean?

“Kelsang” means “fortunate” in Tibetan, and Sharab means “wisdom.”

How long have you been a monk?

I will soon celebrate my eighth birthday. It happened on July 29, 2004. But I had been practicing Buddhism for six years before that.

How did it happen?

I completed my service in the Israel Defense Forces and went to visit foreign places. The goal was a motorcycle trip. I never came back from the trip. I found Buddhism in Amsterdam, of all places.

Where do you live now?

In Newcastle, with two other monks, in a kind of non-commune commune. Each of us has his own private life, but we rent a common living space. I teach and I am involved in the life of the community.

What does a monk’s daily schedule look like?

I get up at 5:30 A.M., do morning meditation and eat breakfast. Afterward I spend two hours on my private studies and after that I sometimes teach. Then comes lunch followed by private meetings with students, one on one. Our center in Newcastle isn’t very big, but it still requires administrative management. At 5, I go back to prayers and in the evening I teach.

What do you teach?

Buddhism. Both meditation and theory. People who are just starting to learn Buddhism usually have one of two incentives. There are some who have all kinds of mental problems that they want to deal with, inner tension, and meditation helps for that. On the other hand, some people are more interested in the theoretical part: What does Buddhism mean? What are its principles? That is all in the initial stage. In a more advanced stage, the difference disappears and you understand that meditation and theory are actually one and the same.

What does your mother say about all this?

At first it was hard for her to take, but gradually she sees how life develops and her son is not suffering from problems that many others suffer from. She understands that maybe there is a reason I chose this life. The absence of grandchildren is always a problem for a Jewish mother. She does have my sister, but she is still waiting. She always says she wants a grandchild.

What did you do on the flight?

I entered into my inner thoughts, I enjoy that. I haven’t listened to music or seen films for a long time. I do personal meditation that involves counting mantras. It sounds a bit technical; you have to know the terminology and the meaning of the mantra. But I also do simpler meditations. When we are uptight, thoughts make the muscles clench. One tactic is to concentrate only on the breath in the region between the nostrils and the upper lip, on the feeling of the air that enters and exits, and then when distractions arise...

Such as a thought that the plane is about to crash...

Exactly. Then you have to go back and concentrate on the feeling of the breath. You will then stop being distracted and remain with your consciousness and a calming feeling of space and cleanliness.

What will you not miss on your visit to Israel?

I always go to Abu Hassan [a restaurant] in Jaffa or to Ronen, the hummus place on Basel Street; I grew up around there. And of course I will visit my mother in Kiryat Tivon.

Where will you go from here?

We are going straight to Abraxas North in Tel Aviv to have grilled cauliflower, and then the main thing: to hear my good friend Oded (pictured above, left), who is going to deejay there. That was his wish for many years − to deejay.

Oded: Actually, I was supposed to deejay last week, but they suddenly switched the date.

Danny: And so I was able to come and hear him.

May Buddha be with you.

See, you already understand how it works.