Aviram Ribo
Aviram Ribo. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Tomer Appelbaum
Etty and Linoy Peretz. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Etty, 43, and Linoy Peretz, 20, Flying to Kiev, Ukraine

Are you going on vacation?

Etty: We are going for the soul. To Uman, to the rebbe − Rabbi Nachman from Uman.

Is this the Uman season? Isn’t the celebration at Rosh Hashanah?

Etty: There is no season for Uman. Uman is all the time.

How long are you going for?

Etty: For four days and nights.

Are you Bratslav Hasidim?

Etty: No!

Then are you religious?

Etty: I’m nothing. I am a tradition-observing Mizrahi. I don’t belong to any circle. I only vote for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Then why go to prostrate yourself on the rabbi’s grave? If one is allowed to say that he is actually dead.

Etty: It’s a spiritual thing. A spiritual vacation. I have a lot of friends who went and go there and came back different. With a sublime feeling.

Linoy: I came for the trip. It’s my first flight abroad.

Etty: Don’t say that. Don’t you have anything to ask [the rabbi] for?

But you believe in God.

Etty: Sure.

Don’t you have to believe in the rabbi to go to Uman?

Etty: I’m hearing that for the first time from you.

I didn’t mean to offend, I want to understand.

Etty: Look, if you want prayer, pray. You don’t need the tzaddik [righteous man]. But I want to know what this thing is that people talk about.

And what is it, actually?

Etty: That’s just it: You have to go in order to know. Ask me when I get back. But you can see it in people. I’m not sure it can be explained.

Do you know what you want to ask him for?

Etty: Satisfaction from the children. I have eight, and a first grandchild on the way.

Congratulations.

Etty: And I want to ask the tzaddik for a match for Linoy.

Linoy, do you also want a match?

Linoy: Sure.

Already?

Etty: Soon. He should be, like, ready in a year or two.

How will you get along there?

Etty: We are going on an organized tour. There are all kinds of organizers.

Aren’t there some called Tzaddik Tours?

Etty: There are a lot. The best thing is to go on an organized tour the first time. They do it a lot and know things. After that you can do it alone. It’s also important that the organizers look after everything. There is kosher food that is brought from here to there, and you cook in an apartment-hotel. There is a bus driver. And besides, we know some of the people. There are others from Beit Shemesh and also some from Ashdod and from Lod.

What will you do there? Is there an itinerary?

Etty: We land in Kiev, Ukraine. Then there is a bus trip of four-and-a-half hours, like going to Eilat, and then we arrive at the apartment-hotel that is in the compound of Rabbi Nachman’s tomb. I don’t remember exactly what is planned, but besides the rabbi’s tomb there are also trips to a few more graves of righteous men in the area. There are many, many graves of tzaddikim there. The Ba’al Shem Tov is also buried there, in Mezhybozhe, a nearby town, and also the Maharsha and Rabbi Natan from Bratslav, Rabbi Nachman’s disciple. In the morning there is the shaharit prayer service, and there is a Torah lesson for those who want to go. There is also a Shabbat meal with joy and dancing.

With all the Bratslav types, there will probably be chaos.

Etty: Maybe we’ll find some Jewish Ukrainian hunk.

What does that mean?

Etty: For Linoy [laughing]. I didn’t mean for me.

What will you do on the plane?

Etty: I am afraid to sleep, I will not sleep on the flight, but there’s nothing to worry about, because I have a bag full of kosher snacks and we have plenty to read − the prayer for travelers, Psalms, a prayer book, everything.
Where will your next trip be?

Etty: Thailand.

Linoy: Together, and we will have a great time.

Etty: And besides, my husband is afraid to fly. He doesn’t fly with me.

Have a good trip.

Etty: The virtues of the tzaddik will protect you and us. Yallah, we won’t have time for the duty-free. We have less than an hour.

 

Aviram Ribo, 31, arriving from Los Angeles

Where are you coming from?

From L.A. This is a tryout visit − I want to try living in Tel Aviv. I’m going to look for an apartment and let’s hope we find something.

Have you heard that things are tough here?

People prepared me psychologically not to be pampered and to be ready to live in a matchbox. It’s true that there is something revolting about L.A. apartments, but I understand that even so, they are more normal in size than here.

Where would you like to live?

In Tel Aviv, somewhere where I go outside and it’s nice. Ben-Yehuda Street. Near the beach.

Your Hebrew is excellent.

My parents are Israeli. I was born here and we moved to the United States when I was very young. I even came back to do military service: I was in the air force.

You didn’t have to.

I did have to, actually, because I wanted to go on being an Israeli citizen. I wanted the ID papers and was also happy to serve, even though it was a little boring. I was in an outpost on the northern border and it felt more like an old-age home than being in the army.

So you give up the City of Angels just like that?

When I am in L.A. I say I am fed up with that ghost town, when I come to Israel I get bored, but I said that this time it will be different. Last time I came for a three-month visit, but this time I am going to try to live here, not visit. It won’t be an attempt of one month, but of half a year and more, and I hope to find a job.

What kind of work would you like?

Last time I auditioned for “Big Brother.” I went to acting school and tend more to theater than cinema. But in the United States I got into real estate. I just want to work, to find something that will make me happy. I hope one day to find something that will be a challenge for me.

It’s hard to give up a steady job.

It’s true that I had a good job there, but it’s not like I gave up something. I thought about the life I would have in Tel Aviv. If I find a good job with a good income everything will be good.

What do your parents say?

They feel numb because I make so many decisions, they don’t know what to say. The truth is that I myself feel numb, but the decision to move here is both exciting and scary.

What’s scary?

I ask myself what I did and why I did it. It’s a change, and I like changes, but unfortunately when I make them they come from impulsiveness, and then there are consequences that I am not always ready to cope with.

Who will support you?

I have a lot of family here, and there is Anna, a good friend. We have known each other for many years, from the United States.

Anna ‏(not in the photo‏): I came back to Israel, too, eight years ago. I came back because of family. I wanted to be at home.

What did you bring in the suitcases?

All Star shoes in all kinds of colors ‏(gray, black and blue‏), and sheets, which are really different in the United States. They’re made from Egyptian cotton with a fiber density of 500; you won’t find anything like that here. Certainly not for $30. But the most special thing is the book.

The book?

I brought a book that’s been with me since I was 21. It’s called “The Super Being” and it’s connected with my being a man and my relationship with this world. It’s been with me for years and I don’t have to read it anymore: It’s enough for me to look at it and it reminds me not to fall mentally. However much life is a matter of circumstances, it doesn’t matter what happens to us, because we have the power to get to where we want.

If you know where you want to get to, that’s already something.

Look, I already got here. How do we put it − “Welcome.”