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Rehovot

  • The cast: Henri (56.5), Muriel (50), Shani (22), Emilie (20), Dan (18.5), Isabelle (11).

  • The home: In the center of town, the house is detached with two floors, a red roof and a gray stucco exterior, and is chock full of objects. The family moved here in 1986, paying the shekel equivalent of $90,000 and receiving 89 square meters built on a lot of 375 square meters. They finished paying off the mortgage a year ago ("without throwing a party").

  • Comprehensive tour: There's a blue gate and chrysanthemums and other flowers in the yard, plus a lot of faded stuff on the porch. The front door opens onto a tiled foyer and two work tables: Muriel's, with a computer and books in French; and Henri's, with tools and a mass of electronic components ("I've ruined everything I tried to fix"). On to the living room.

  • The living room: A lot of light streams in through a large window ("The window was why we bought the house"), illuminating a dominant dining-room table covered with a white tablecloth, floor tiles in a yellow hue - and the fact that the room lacks a television set. Adjacent is a kitchen with lots of cupboards, a mineral-water device and flowers on the windowsill. Before sitting down, we peek into the bedrooms.

  • The bedrooms: The master bedroom has blue floor tiles; the three children's rooms have green tiles. Isabelle's room has a bunk bed and a herd of horses on her desk. It turns out that she rides a real one (Osama) on Kibbutz Na'an. Opposite is Dan's room. On his desk is a computer with its insides exposed (ready for upgrading) and the best-selling novel by Ron Leshem, "If There is a Heaven." Next door is Shani's room , containing a huge teddy bear, Hermann Hesse, many clothes and a Canon camera (a hobby). Emilie, who is doing her army service, doesn't have a room these days, and when she's at home she sleeps in Isabelle's room. In addition, there is a very small bathroom which contains a washing machine ("our weak point").

  • Livelihoods and occupations: Henri manages computer-assisted programming systems for a Tel Aviv company. He is engaged in developing ymax, a cellular Internet system which, he says, operates in only one place in Israel - in the Bedouin town of Rahat, in the Negev. He works a five-day week, traveling back and forth in his own Citroen ("the only one in the country"), which he preferred to the company's leasing arrangement. On Fridays he sets sail in a small boat called a Snunit, within the framework of a Jaffa-based parents' group of the Sea Scouts ("The children left and I stayed in the Scouts").

  • Muriel: Unemployed, and therefore describers her occupation as "angry." She has been looking for work for two years, to no avail. By profession she is a geneticist and is a graduate of the Hebrew University's Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot. Until 2005, she was employed by Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, outside Tel Aviv, as head of an onco-genetic laboratory, "until the money for the research fund ran out." She is ready to take any job, even in agriculture (Dan: "Even to be a Thai worker"), and is unwilling to claim unemployment insurance ("It's a matter of honor"). She was humiliated, she says, in dozens of job interviews.

  • Shani: Employed by Super-Pharm in Rehovot, authorized to sell naturopathic medicines and also "responsible for prescriptions" (meaning that she sends prescriptions the drugstore fills to the various health maintenance organizations to get the financial reimbursement). She has a six-day work week (in shifts). In October she will begin her studies at Sapir College in Sderot (in advertising). Muriel objects to Shani's living in Sderot (because of the Qassam rockets), but Henri doesn't mind ("Anything can happen in Rehovot, too").

  • Emilie: Soldier-teacher, serving in a center in Pisgat Ze'ev, in northern Jerusalem, where she helps children with their schoolwork. She lives with six female soldiers in a rented apartment in the Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood in the western part of the city, and is still going through the adjustment stage. Last year she did a year of service on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin, in the Beit She'an Valley (in a girls' hostel). She goes home every Friday: The army hasn't yet arranged for the apartment's insurance on weekends.

  • Dan: While waiting to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces, he is doing a year of service in Khirbet al-Wattan (an "unrecognized" Bedouin village), sponsored by the Israel Scouts movement and by a Bedouin organization, which seeks to promote equality between Jews and Arabs in the Negev. He lives in a rented apartment in a working-class neighborhood in Be'er Sheva with seven girls and another boy ("We're nine shinshinim" - slang for young people who are doing a voluntary year of service in the Scouts). He says he is used to living with girls since he has three sisters. He returns home every two weekends and says he feels "a commitment to a community that was neglected." His military service (in the navy) will begin in November.

  • Isabelle: A fifth-grade student in Rehovot's open democratic school, she takes part in a gymnastics group, goes horseback riding (in Na'an) and plays chess. She gets to school and back by bus.

  • Henri's bio: He was born in Tunis in 1950. His father (a textiles salesman) and his mother (a housewife) raised four sons and a daughter. The family moved to Paris in 1959, and after completing high school Henri served in the French army (in Germany), where he encountered anti-Semitism. He immigrated to Israel at age 23, and entered a preparatory course for the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa - but then the Yom Kippur War erupted and he stopped his studies to do volunteer work (on Kibbutz Hanita, on the Lebanon border). He returned to France and then came back to Israel. He worked as a technician in Telrad, a communications company, entered the high-tech world and was left unemployed when the bubble burst. He remained jobless for five years ("There are periods like that") until he found his present job. From a perspective of 34 years, he thinks he made the right decision in moving to Israel ("I fled from there").

  • Muriel: Born in Paris, 1957, to Paris-born parents whose parents came from Radom, Poland. She grew up in the 12th Arrondissement. Her father sold textiles ("schmattes"); her mother still sells leather items wholesale. After high school she immigrated to Israel on her own, studying agriculture at the Hebrew University (in Jerusalem and Rehovot), obtaining a master's degree (in agronomics) and certification as an "agricultural instructor." Afterward she worked at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and at Kaplan Hospital, also in that city, and at Sheba Medical Center (until she lost her job).

  • The meeting: 1978. Henri, a Rehovot-based technician at Telrad, occasionally made the short trip to Jerusalem - with Einstein, his dog - in order to meet friends and see what was new on campus. Muriel was then a new immigrant and a student in the preparatory course for the university's natural sciences faculty. A mutual friend introduced them, but nothing happened. Two years later, when Muriel arrived at the Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot, she suddenly ran into Einstein, whining in her class. To her amazement, the dog actually forced her to go home to Henri with it ("Like in '101 Dalmatians'"). Under the circumstances, development of a relationship was inevitable. They dated for two years and were married. And Einstein? "He was run over."

  • The wedding: April 5, 1982, in the Yohanan Ben Zakkai Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. The parents came from France for the event, and there was also a "nice story."

  • Nice story: Before the wedding, Muriel and Henri stayed at the Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem. Muriel was having trouble with the veil, and Henri suggested that she get help in the hotel's beauty parlor. Muriel went down to the beauty parlor, but she didn't have an appointment and they refused to take her. She started to cry ("I told them that I was getting married in another five minutes"). They let her in, and after they finished doing everything, she asked them to charge it to the room. This proved impossible. "We have nothing to do with that," they told her, and she started to cry again, and the makeup ran, and they said, "Go get married and we'll work it out later." When she came back the next day to pay, they told her: "It's a present."

  • Household burden: Muriel is responsible for laundry, Henri cooks and shops ("without a list"). He's in favor of switching to baskets instead of plastic bags.

  • Daily routine: Muriel gets up at 4 A.M. ("so I can be alone a little"), Henri at 6, and they both have a cup of instant coffee (hers unsweetened, his with artificial sweetener). He washes and heads for work; she stays home. In the meantime, in the Be'er Sheva apartment, Dan gets up at 6:30 and waits in line to use the washroom (with a cup of coffee), after which he prepares a lunchbox and goes down to wait for his ride. It's 7:15. Isabelle gets up at 7, drinks chocolate milk, goes to the grocery store to buy a roll, adds goats' cheese, puts the result into her bag and goes to catch her bus. Shani, who is usually in Nes Ziona, at her boyfriend's place, gets up at 7 and goes to nearby Rehovot, to work, or home. Emilie, in Jerusalem, gets up at 9 and is in no hurry. She will not leave for the learning center until 11. All of them will have lunch wherever they are: Henri at a nearby restaurant ("sometimes sushi"), Muriel and Isabelle at home, Emilie at the center ("only vegetables and carbohydrates"), Dan in the Bedouin village (from his lunchbox), and Shani - wherever.

  • Evening: They eat together when Henri gets home ("9 P.M. at the latest") - that is, Henri, Muriel, Isabelle and sometimes Shani. Emilie, in Jerusalem, pokes around in the refrigerator; Dan only gets around to making an omelet at about 8 ("after all the meetings").

  • TV: There's one in the parents' bedroom. Henri watches the Channel 2 news and rugby on a cable channel; Muriel joins him for French films. In principle, he is in favor of the Internet. Shani focuses mainly on the commercials (she notes the current outdoor advertising campaign of Yellow Pages). Emilie prefers to listen to Israeli rock, Dan likes to read (he recommends David Grossman's nonfiction works "Yellow Wind" and "Sleeping on a Wire").

  • Dreams: "A trip to New Zealand" (Henri); "to win the lottery" (Shani); "to go with Dad" (Emilie); "to study genetics and work in the Jewish-Arab field" (Dan); "a horse of my own" (Isabelle); "to find a job" (Muriel).

  • Israel: "I don't see myself staying here, I am angry" - Muriel. Henri: "Maybe we'll go, but we will always come back." Dan doesn't know ("It depends how things will go in the army"). As for Shani - "I'll go wherever life takes me." Emilie - "I will raise my children (5-6) nowhere but here."

  • Happiness quotient (scale of 1-10): Henri - 7; Muriel - 6; Shani - 8; Emilie - 7.5; Dan - 8; Isabelle - 5.