David and Eran Gal Or

Aviva Lori
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Aviva Lori

Both David and Eran were born in Jerusalem, in 1959 and 1984, respectively.

David lives in a terraced home in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood; Eran lives alternately in the Jerusalem apartment and in Tel Aviv.

David and Eran Gal OrCredit: Ilya Melnikov

Extended family:
David’s parents, Yehiel, 79, and Hava, 76, are pensioners. He has two brothers: Yitzhak, 48, an employee of the Electric Corporation; and Haggai, 43, a teacher who also prepares prospective converts to Judaism. His wife, Rachel, is a teacher. They also have two daughters: Adi, 23, a business administration student; and Ophir, 18, who will soon begin army service.

Orthodox Europeans:
David’s family is of Hungarian, German and Italian descent. His paternal grandfather and his maternal grandmother were born in the same Hungarian town. His paternal grandmother was born in a northern Italian city that is now part of Croatia. His father immigrated to Israel from Italy in 1951; his mother arrived in Palestine with her family from Hungary in 1938. “They were an Orthodox religious family in the European style. In Israel they were identified with the religious Zionist movement,” David says. He himself was born in a Haredi area in Jerusalem’s Sanhedria neighborhood and attended a religious primary school bordering on the ultra-Orthodox.

Unconventional boy:
David started to rebel against the strict religious discipline in the seventh grade and switched to a state-religious school. Everyone thought he made the move because of problems of concentration, but the real reason apparently lay elsewhere. He himself grasped it in the yeshiva run by Rabbi Haim Druckman, a leading figure in the national-religious movement. “I was not a conventional child,” David says. “I didn’t get along in class, I was very mischievous. But the reason was that I didn’t get along with religion, and the discipline was too rigid for me. I switched to a regular high school and somehow managed to obtain a matriculation certificate.”

David served in the Nahal infantry brigade, a paramilitary unit, and was in a “core group” that helped establish Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, north of Ashkelon. Eran did his service in naval intelligence.

David and Eran, 1987Credit: Ilya Melnikov

Alone on the streets:
David gradually began to part with religion in his high-school years. “I did not always observe the Sabbath and I stopped praying. The skullcap was in my pocket,” he says. “It was a long process. I understand now what happened. Ours was a family of Holocaust survivors that tried to integrate in Israel. I was the eldest and my parents had less time for me, so I found myself getting along on the streets alone. I earned money and got a taste of things that were more suited to my personality and needs at the time.”

Wild adolescence:
With a craving for life pounding in his temples, he went off the deep end. “I smoked a few packs of cigarettes a day, went out with girls, had a good time at night,” David relates. “I lost my religion and lived a totally wild life, until I met my wife at the age of 21 and we were married. Then I calmed down and became more moderate.” So much so, that he enrolled in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, taking economics and acquiring an MBA. He then worked in a variety of jobs, including management of the Keter chain of stores, before landing in Osem, a food company, where he spent 15 years in marketing and sales. His last position there was vice president for marketing.

Eran’s birth:
David remembers Eran’s blond curl, which was visible on his head three hours before Eran agreed to leave the womb completely and enter the world. “I think we were very confused,” he says. “We didn’t know what hit us. We were terribly young and very happy.”

Eran in school:
A geek. A good kid. Outstanding by any criterion, his father says. He attended a primary school with reinforced Judaism studies and then the Masorti high school in Jerusalem (affiliated with the Conservative stream of Judaism). “It wasn’t connected to religion,” Eran says, “only fleetingly. Mostly it was about values of love of the land and knowing its geography.” After high school, he spent a year in a pre-army academy in the Judean Desert. “The idea is to raise a generation of young leaders,” he explains. “In practice, you go around the country a lot and get to know Israeli society.”

Rebel with a cause:
Eran’s rebellion started and ended at the age of 5, his father says. “That’s when I flew off the handle, shouted at my parents and hit them for trying to pry me away from my Lego,” Eran recalls. “In adolescence, when everyone felt uptight and frustrated, Eran was already mature,” David says.

Freedom walk:
Five years ago, when Eran got his army discharge and David discharged himself from Osem, they decided to celebrate their newfound freedom together. Eran had no plans to look for himself in India or South America, but he did want to travel in Israel. “It’s something I was raised on and it was reinforced in the pre-army year,” he says. David had reached a saturation point at work and was in urgent need of a break. “Three years earlier I was diagnosed with melanoma,” he says. “I felt that the clock was ticking and I decided I didn’t want to work so hard.” In September 2006, they packed two big knapsacks, traveled to Mount Hermon and returned home eight months later. Eran wanted to trek from Mount Hermon to Eilat not on the Israel Trail but on new trails he would find. His father was happy at the chance to recharge his batteries. “We hiked four or five days a week and came home on weekends,” he says. “There was no problem about money, because I continued to get a salary from Osem for another year.”

With eyes shut:
Dan and Eran were always on good terms, spoke openly about everything and got along quite well, but the shared hiking was like a new dimension that deepened the bond. “It was an extraordinary experience to hike with someone you trust with your eyes shut,” David says. “It’s incredible fun. To this day Eran is a content strategist and I am a business strategist. He was also in charge of the food and equipment, and of deciding where we would sleep.” As they walked, they felt a growing need to document the trip. “I had a small notebook,” Eran says. “From the first evening, after we got back to the tent, I wrote everything down. After a few weeks, on the banks of the Gaaton River, we had a talk and decided to go for it.”

Hobby into business:
The joint walk engendered an enterprise: a father-and-son publishing house. “Our feeling was that there was a dearth of guidebooks for walking Israel’s paths and trails, new and special trails no one had ever walked. We hoped that more people would have the experiences we had in our walk.” To date, they have published a book about springs and other water sources in Israel, a guide to 100 short hikes for families with children, another that covers 120 hiking routes from Mount Hermon to Eilat, two coffee-table books and a guide to 60 routes “in the land of the Bible.” David had thought he would stop working and enjoy himself, but finds he has reverted to his workaholic ways. “At least it’s a hobby that became a profession,” he says. During this period, Eran was also involved in establishing a pre-army academy in Tel Aviv, where he works when he is not out looking for new trails. And there too, his focus is on his love of the land.

Eran has learned how to reduce nerves to a low level, but sometimes, beneath the general calm, shreds of his father’s argumentativeness burst out and that irritates him. David is very angry that Eran did not go to university. “It drives me crazy,” he says, “and leaves me open-mouthed with astonishment, because Eran is a genius.” And something else that bugs him, too: “I am not ‘Polish,’ but I want grandchildren.”

Reflections in the mirror:
David and Eran resemble each other outwardly, but also inwardly. They are cast from the same deep emotional and intellectual elements, as they themselves attest: perfectionists who scrutinize every last detail and don’t forgive themselves if they miss something.

I will never be like my father:
Outspoken, slashing, sharp, causing hurt feelings. Eran: “I am always telling him to be a little nicer to people, for example to all kinds of poor clerks on the phone, and I also try very hard not to enslave myself to technology like him, to the computer and telephones.”

Again, David cannot forgive himself for the fact that Eran did not go to university. “It’s his **** up, period. I should not have gone hiking with him. He should have started university studies while he was still in high school, but we weren’t firm enough. We didn’t believe it could go haywire.”

When Eran was little, he thought his fantasy would be easy to fulfill. After many years of playing tennis, he believed he had earned the right to be Pete Sampras.
“All those years, from primary school to the end of high school, every day after school, that’s what I did play tennis,” he says.

David’s fantasies were initially like two parallel lines that don’t meet. Ever since he can remember, he wanted to be independent and control his situation in time and place. Afterward he concocted his hiking fantasies, and then, amazingly, he managed to connect the two and turn the hobby into a living.
“Hiking is liberation, a different world,” he says. “It gives you transcendent feelings and then you seem to take off.”