Yael Levy, 27, Kiryat Ono

They live in different places in Israel, pursue different occupations, come from different family backgrounds and are at different stages of their lives. Yotam Feldman?s portrait of eight women − all named Yael Levy.

Yotam Feldman
Yotam Feldman
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Yotam Feldman
Yotam Feldman

Scene I: Staring

Every day, Yael sits in the currency-exchange booth at Ben-Gurion Airport and stares for 10 hours at the passing parade in the passengers' hall. Her work doesn't usually require her to think, but she is forbidden to leave the booth or read a book on her shift. "When you stare for so many hours every day you can get to crazy places," she says. "I start to analyze the people who go by and imagine where they are going, and if someone approaches I try to guess which currency he will want to exchange."

Staring takes practice, Yael explains. "When you stare you can be cut off from everything and start to think." Thus, on her most recent shift she started to think about the final paper in business administration that she has to complete, about strategies for upgrading the value of the Bonzo company. "From there I move to thinking about my dog, whom I will have to take out when I get home, and if I want to sleep or first go to the gym, and what I want for supper, which brings me to the sushi I ate this week in Tel Aviv, after which I threw up all night."

Scene II: Entertainer

After work, Yael drives home in her car, a red Mazda. She has installed flickering heart-shaped red lights on the mirrors. She returns to her parents' place in Kiryat Ono. "I never rebelled against my parents, because I was in the scouts. Rebellion comes from all kinds of thoughts children have, but I never had thoughts like that - about what to wear and how to pull back my hair. I was busy with other things. It's not unusual: where I grew up, none of my girlfriends rebelled. We were geeks, we were inside ourselves. The craziest things we did were evenings in the scouts."

At family events she likes to sing, together with her father. Their repertoire includes Yehoram Gaon, Zohar Argov and Shabbat songs. "My dad really likes singing," Yael says. "We are people who need attention; we want the neighbors to hear us, too. Sometimes we overdo it and they complain."

Scene III: Summer camp

After completing her army service, Yael worked as a counselor in a summer camp run by the Reform movement at Crane Lake, Massachusetts. "I tell them that in the army I was a tour guide," Yael explains, "so it's not just wars, and that Tel Aviv is a mini-New York. There's a desert in Israel and also snow and also the lowest place in the world. Mostly, I tell stories about the army, because that's easiest, they buy into that the most."

Campers aged 12-13 go through "combat fitness" activities, running through tires or crawling under ropes, smearing camouflage paint on their faces, standing in threes and receiving the counselor at attention. "Everything is done militarily - camouflage, ambushes, weapons - and that excites children. There, they can't go to the army. Being a soldier is something incomprehensible for them."

The children, she says, ask a great many questions. "What it's like to shoot a gun, what it's like to be in an Arab village. Some counselors like to tell about that. And they always ask if you ever killed anyone. The counselors never answer that question."

Scene IV: Single

Levy had her first date and her first kiss five years ago, when she was 22. A young man her age started to chat her up on the beach, where she was hanging out with a girlfriend, and the next day she went out with him. "He was terribly excited about me, and that changed something in me. In the years since then I have experienced what my girlfriends did when they were 17. It's not that there were no guys in the area before that, but it didn't interest me. I had the scouts and festivals to produce and outings. I didn't think about it."

She's still single and says that not a day goes by without her thinking about it. "What's sad for me is that now is supposedly the most beautiful period of my life, and I want to experience it with someone. To experience the things that happen to me and the grades I get, the crappy job and my car. It's irreversible, because I will never be able to experience these things again."



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