Departures / Arrivals: Sara Leaves a Caribbean Island to Make Aliyah

Maor and Raz are hoping for a Bayern Munich victory – and some Wi-Fi.

Liat Elkayam
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Liat Elkayam

Sara Page Podolsky, 29, from St. Kitts; arriving from New York

Hello. Are all these people with flags here in your honor?

“Partly in my honor. They are greeting olim hadashim [new immigrants], and I am an olah hadasha.”

Congratulations! What made you decide to immigrate to Israel?

“I always felt that Israel was like home, so why not move here?”

Where are you from originally?

“From Washington. But I spent the past year in St. Kitts − an island in the Caribbean.”

You left a Caribbean island for Israel?

“Being on a Caribbean island is as wonderful as it sounds, but not as wonderful as being in Israel.”

 When did you decide to immigrate?

“I think it started when I was a girl, but I made the actual decision last year. When I talked it over with my sister, she told me, ‘Listen, we all know you will make aliyah − you’re the only one who doesn’t know yet.’ So I said, ‘Yallah, maybe I should do it and be done with it.’”

And after you decided?

I came through Nefesh B’Nefesh, which is an organization that helps you with the process. They make sure you get all the rights coming to you as a new immigrant. I have already received my ID card, and they are now taking us in taxis to the places we have chosen to live in.”

Where did you choose to live?

“I chose Carmiel.”

Have you ever been there?

“Of course. I was in Israel four times. I came with Taglit-Birthright Israel and then with the Sar-El program, through which I did service on the Misgav military base, which is not far from Carmiel. After I decided to immigrate, I came on a trip here that I called my ‘pilot journey,’ with the aim of deciding where I wanted to live. The people in Carmiel were the nicest.”

Where else did you consider?

“Acre, Tiberias and Nahariya. But the mountains are best for me. On my pilot journey I went to an art gallery in Tiberias, and as I was looking at the works the gallery owner started talking to me. After just a few minutes of conversation, she called over a friend to meet me and recommend places to live. Afterward, she invited me to spend the night at her place. In the United States, people just don’t do that. They don’t invite you to dinner if they haven’t known you well for a long time.”

Do you already have a place?

“Yes! It’s unbelievable, but I found an apartment online and I will move in already today with my suitcases.”

What are your plans?

“I am an electrical engineer. That was my profession in St. Kitts, and I want to do the same here. I was told that the profession is in demand in Israel. But we’ll see. First of all, I will go to an ulpan [intensive Hebrew-language course].”

Do you know some Hebrew?

“Yes, but only a very little. I think I could get by in a grocery store, for example, but that’s about it. Recently I put small notes all over the house, like one with the word mekarer on the refrigerator, so I would know how to say refrigerator in Hebrew. But I don’t know how much that helped.”

What do your parents think about your move?

“My parents understand that it’s something I need to do. And besides, they know that I will do what I want anyway. My father is very thrilled; my mother is worried. I find that natural.”

She’s a “Jewish mother”?

“Exactly! And anyway, immigrating to Israel is not something like skydiving, which I did and hid from her. Both my parents are Jewish.”

Do they attend synagogue?

“We celebrated certain holidays. Passover, for example. My grandfather’s favorite song is ‘Dayenu’ [from the Passover Haggadah]. We always added more verses that we made up, because we loved the song so much, and every year we sang ‘Dayenu’ to my granddad on his birthday, even though it was in August. By the way, many of my relatives in the United States told me that if they were young like me, they would move to Israel. But my cousins in Israel don’t understand me − they are trying to move to New York. They are looking for economic opportunities, but I don’t think that money and success are a guarantee of happiness.”

Do you consider yourself a Zionist?

“I don’t know. I think people have to go to a place that is appropriate for them, whether it’s Israel or any other place. I did not immigrate for ideological reasons. It was a very personal choice.”

Maor Zabari, 31, fitness instructor, and Raz Hatuka, 15, from Ofakim; flying to Munich

Hello, can I ask where you’re flying to?

Maor: “We are going to see a game in the Champions League: Bayern Munich against Arsenal.”

Who do you like?

“Bayern. But he’s not a fan. I’m just dragging him along with me so I won’t be bored.”

Raz: “Pahahah.”

Is it an organized trip?

Maor: “No. We organized alone, in no time. There was an offer for a group deal that returns at 6 P.M., but we don’t travel on Shabbat so we bought tickets and organized everything ourselves.”

Is this the first time you’re flying to a game?

“The third time, I think. A few years ago I flew to an Arsenal-Liverpool match. Arsenal won 1-0 and it was a very boring game. In August 2011, I saw Barcelona beat Naples 5-0. That was already a better game. I was also in London with a friend − we didn’t go especially for a game − but when we found out there was a game he said, ‘Let’s drop everything and go.’” Raz: “I was already in Burgas.”

Who are your favorite teams in Israel?

Maor: “I like Beitar Jerusalem.”

Raz: “I like Haifa.”

Maccabi or Hapoel?

“Does Hapoel even exist?”

Maor: “Of course it does.”

Photographer: Maccabi Haifa didn’t have a brilliant season, either.

Raz: “Don’t say that. They made a switch.”

What will you do when you arrive in Munich?

Maor: There’s a game with Barcelona [vs. AC Milan] that I want to watch in a pub, but I don’t know if they’ll let him in, because he’s a minor. After that we’ll go sightseeing. There’s a big square and a BMW museum. Two days and we’re on the plane back.”

Raz, what do you want to do in Munich?

Maor (hitting Raz, who is busy with his mobile phone, lightly on the head): “Stop, you addict. He’s counting on having Wi-Fi in Munich.”

How do you know each other?

Maor: “I am his brother-in-law − to my great regret.”

Raz: “He is married to my sister.”

Is he a good brother-in-law?

“Ahhhh.”

Maor: “Hey, your other brother-in-law never even took you to Be’er Sheva.” (They laugh.)

Did your wife send Raz to keep an eye on you?

“What kind of... If anything, it’s the other way around. They wouldn’t send him with anyone else. He’s a troublemaker.”

What do you do in Ofakim?

Maor: “I am a fitness instructor, at the only gym in Ofakim.”

What’s it like to be a teenager in Ofakim, Raz?

Raz: “It’s awful. No, just kidding − it’s a terrific town.”

Maor: “We have about one-third ultra-Orthodox and one-third new immigrants, and both of those groups are busy with themselves. There are another 10,000 people, all of whom were born or grew up in the town and they all know one another. Like a neighborhood.”

How does it divide in the gym?

“It’s mixed. I have one religious guy who trains [using] the Kabbala Channel. A year and a half ago, a group of Haredim arrived and asked if they could work out after regular hours. They are an economic force in the town, but they did not force anything on anyone. They asked nicely and got what they wanted: an hour and a half, three times a week. They come at 9 P.M., after the gym closes, with their own instructor. It’s good for us and good for them. Status quo.”

So things are good for you in Ofakim?

“Look, when I was six-seven, Ofakim was the cultural center of the region. There were movie theaters, restaurants. People came from Netivot, Sderot, from all the moshavim [cooperative villages]. Now I actually see a lot of people from Ofakim going to Netivot. They have four clubs, right, Raz? I’ve noticed that Sderot is also developing. Let’s hope that something will happen in the coming [municipal] election and we’ll get on the high road.”

Would you raise your child in Ofakim?

“I am raising my child in Ofakim.”

Raz, do you want to stay in the town?

Raz: “I haven’t made a decision yet.”

Maor: “I believe he will stay. He’ll be like his brother, who is a successful deejay.”

Raz: “I don’t know. But I’m cute.”

Maor: “He’s learning the ropes.”

Raz: “I’m mainly in lighting, and I organize and program computers.”

Do you think you’ll go to the final?

Maor: “I don’t think so. Because of my wife. We have a boy of two and a half. It’s different when the children are older, but now you have to invest. [To Raz] Don’t laugh. Your day will come, too.”

The day to have children?

“Yes. He has ten years, tops. He has a girlfriend who keeps him on a short leash. She’ll decide when he will get married, when he will call from Munich and also what he will write on Facebook.”

Raz: “Enough already!”

Maor: “Isn’t that how it is?”

Raz: “Don’t exaggerate.”

Maor: “Okay, I’ll take your picture with some German salesgirl and we’ll put it on Facebook and see what happens.”

Raz: “Photographer!”

Sara Page Podolsky.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Maor Zabari and Raz Hatuka.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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