Gadi and Inbal Ben-Ezer Raab

Will Inbal, now 27, be prime minister? All her options are open. What’s certain is that Gadi, who’s 59, missed his chance to become a physician.

Aviva Lori
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Aviva Lori

Gadi was born in 1953, in Petah Tikva; Inbal in 1985, in Jerusalem.

They both live in Tel Aviv: Gadi in a house in the old part of Ramat Aviv, a neighborhood in the city’s north, Inbal in an apartment.

Gadi and Inbal Ben-Ezer Raab.Credit: Ilya Melnikov

Extended family:
Gadi has two older sisters: Nitza,an English teacher, and Miriam, a former basketball player for Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Israeli national team. His wife, Irit, is a psychologist; in addition to Inbal they have 17-year-old twins, Tom and Yael.

Because of the Turks:
Gadi’s family on his father’s side came from Hungary in the middle of the 19th century and settled in Jerusalem. They were ultra-Orthodox and emerged from the Old Yishuv as the Jewish community in pre-1948 Palestine was called in order to found a new settlement. They had already decided in Hungary that the new community would be called Petah Tikva. At a certain stage the Turks forced them to become citizens of the Ottoman Empire and change their name from Raab (the writer Ehud Ben-Ezer is Gadi’s cousin, the late Esther Raab considered Israel’s first native-born female poet was his aunt) to something more Turkish. “The Turks called my grandfather Mussa Ibn Ezer meaning ‘the son of Ezer and so it stayed,” Gadi says. His mother, Mina, arrived from Poland at the age of 17, before the war.

Gadi and Inbal, 1988.

This sporting life:
Gadi did most of his high-school homework in the schoolyard assisting the gym teacher on the basketball court. “I have some kind of attention deficit disorder and wasn’t able to sit through a whole class,” he explains. “After half an hour I would start to bounce a ball and the teachers would say, ‘Gadi, that’s enough for you,’ and I would go outside. I was on the Maccabi Petah Tikva basketball team and the national youth team. In my senior school I wasn’t in school at all. My mother persuaded me to do the matriculation exams, come what may. I actually got reasonable marks relative to what I had learned.”

After being wounded in a training accident in the infantry, Gadi needed multiple operations. He was transferred to the intelligence unit of the Signal Corps and concluded his service in the air force. His Mizrahi-sounding surname gained him many benefits in the army. “Everyone thought I was of Mizrahi origin,” he says, referring to Jews of Middle Eastern or North African origin, “and took pity on me.” Inbal was a research noncom in navy intelligence. “In retrospect, I can tell I had a hard time,” she says, “because I didn’t know exactly what it was I was doing and what consequences it might have. I think a lot of soldiers don’t know what they are doing, certainly those who sit at a computer screen and create a mental barrier between themselves and reality.”

Basketball matriculation:
Gadi’s dream was to study medicine but he didn’t believe he would be accepted with the matriculation results of a basketball player. Instead of medicine, he took behavioral sciences at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. “I had quite a mediocre self-image,” he says. “I was afraid that with ADD, I wouldn’t be able to cope with the material in med school, owing to memory problems. Even though people called me a genius, I wasn’t persuaded. It was only afterward that I realized I have a phenomenal memory.” He obtained a master’s in clinical psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. from Oxford.

Anyone but a psychologist:
Gadi met Irit, who would become his wife, at the Hebrew University just as he made two significant decisions: that it would be a one-night stand and that he would not marry a psychologist. “I had always had long-term relationships and I decided to break that cycle and told her that I was now into one-night stands only,” he relates. “But she decided, at exactly the same time, that a flirtation was not what she wanted, and we were married in 1984.”

Change of plans:
In 1982, Gadi was in a direct doctoral track, but the arrival of the first immigrants from Ethiopia changed his plans. He devised a model for understanding personality with the aid of psycho-bibliography (creating a profile of a leader) and wanted to pursue the research and apply the method in practical intercultural work. Working as a psychologist in units for counseling immigrant youth, he developed a special bond with the new arrivals from Ethiopia. In 1990, an anonymous donation enabled Gadi and his family to spend half a year at Oxford; they stayed four years. Gadi was accepted as an associate in an institute that does research on refugees. He collected stories of the journey of Ethiopia’s Jews to Israel in a book, “The Ethiopian Jewish Exodus,” which was his doctoral dissertation. He now teaches psychology and anthropology at the College of Management, focusing on journeys, migration, refugees and backpacking. He named his dog Henry in memory of the good old days at Oxford, he says.

Inbal’s birth:
“Incredible,” Gadi says. She was born at Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus at 2 A.M. on Simhat Torah. “Beforehand we walked around outside for hours until there was a cervical opening, and then it suddenly started and her head was already out, so we rushed in and saw the sunrise through the window. After she was placed on my wife’s stomach she immediately lifted her head she was athletic. We called her as Nadia Comaneci [an Olympic gymnast].”

Culture shock:
Inbal went to school in Oxford and continued at the school of arts in Tel Aviv. The difference was continental in scale. “I found it hard to move from British to Israeli culture,” she says. “A lot of things bothered me: the exaggerated, uncomfortable physical closeness and contact, the kids’ openness and their swearing, too. It was terribly difficult. My most vivid memory from the first day of school here is of a bunch of kids around me. I was very shy, and that naturally closed me off even more. At that stage painting was a very good refuge for me.” Indeed Inbal believed painting would be her main occupation in the future.

Inbal in school:
“I was a major geek,” Inbal says. “The combination of being shy and being a good student is not recommended socially.” “She was too good a student,” her father says. “We sometimes encouraged her to cut class, but that hardly ever happened.”

Rebel with a cause:
“There were periods in my adolescence when I was very angry at him for all kinds of things, and I was harshly critical of him, but beyond that I don’t really remember that there was a rebellion.”

Jenin, Jenin:
Inbal suffered a severe personal trauma near the end of her military service when her boyfriend, who was in a combat unit, was killed in Jenin. “I was in the ‘pit’ at the Kirya” defense establishment headquarters, in Tel Aviv “when the announcement came in that my boyfriend had been killed by friendly fire. It was a first love, and at the time I wasn’t aware how much the event would affect my life. Because of that I didn’t go backpacking after the army. I enrolled in the Amirim multidisciplinary studies program at the Hebrew University, which was fascinating. I did the last semester at NYU, as part of a program for Israeli and Palestinian students, and I became more politically conscious. When I came back I decided that I wanted to stay in that field, and I got a job with the Peres Peace Center.” Inbal works at the center with Israeli and Palestinian youth and adults in sports-related projects, as a tool to establish dialogue. She has been accepted to the master's program in conflict resolution at Brandeis for 2012-2013, and still hopes to be accepted to the Education for Peace program of the United Nations’ University for Peace in Costa Rica.

Sure loss:
“One of the saddest things for my father is that I don’t paint,” Inbal says. “I painted all through my army service and also did portraits.” Gadi thinks the world has lost out. “Her paintings are so moving; they give people a lump in the throat. I don’t wish for her a career as a painter, because I see the difficulties artists have, but it pains me very much that she doesn’t paint.”

Gadi likes to take his time about things, which drives Inbal crazy. “He always arrives at the last minute,” she says. “When we lived in Oxford we flew a lot, and when the last boarding call was announced he was still always blithely wandering around the airport. Once they called us by name that was the height of embarrassment. It makes me really uptight.” Nothing irritates Gadi, other than the fact that Inbal doesn’t paint and that she devotes too much time to others and doesn’t leave time for herself.

Reflections in the mirror:
When Gadi and Inbal look in the mirror they see two lanky, thin figures that look quite alike. Apart from the exterior resemblance, they are both curious, they say, both bear a basic love for human beings and are sensitive to those who are different and to the stranger.

I will never be like my father:
“Dad is very associative and sometimes absent-minded, whereas I am more organized. He gets very uptight, for example, when he has to clean the house and shakes when someone moves something of his by a millimeter and that freaks us out, because it’s impossible to live like that. I wouldn’t want to see that in my house.”

Inbal has regrets about an aunt. “My father always asked me to come with him to visit an elderly aunt, and I didn’t want to, and then she died,” she says. “So maybe I could have gone there more.” Gadi has general regrets about all the things that have gone wrong in Israel. “For not having left the country better off socially and politically. Despite my tremendous efforts I took part in a great many social actions and demonstrations aimed at improving things I am very uneasy.”

Inbal wanted to get involved in plastic arts or acting, to bask in the spotlight on the stage or hold exhibitions. “When I got a little older, around the high-school years,” she says, “my fantasy was to go into politics and be prime minister, of course.” Gadi was more modest: All he wanted was to win the national lottery. But the problem arose after the imaginary win. “How much would I win and whom would I share it with; the money would never be enough, and there were people to whom I hadn’t given anything. I had very specific plans and in the end there was no money left even for me.”