'I Cried When I Got Off the Plane. I Need to Figure Out How Life Goes On. But First, Quarantine'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: A globetrotter with an incredible story and a family facing a major life change

Noa Epstein
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Hadar Rosenbach.
Hadar Rosenbach.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Noa Epstein

Hadar Rosenbach, 31; doesn’t yet know where she will live; arriving from Toronto

So you’re arriving from Chicago?

Weekend banner.

Yes, originally I went to South America for a month, but from there I got to Chicago. I was gone for about 15 months.

How did that happen?

I’m a water engineer. I studied at the Technion and worked four years in a planning office in Yokne’am. I deal with drainage systems, rehabilitating agricultural water reservoirs, etc. But all my life I’ve also been a painter, a yoga practitioner and fitness instructor, and I also work with my mother, who has a small Pilates studio. I decided I need to take some time off. I was also in a relationship where it was either a wedding or splitting up. So I enrolled in an intense, one-month course for yoga teachers in Guatemala, and decided to tour for a few more days. But when my boss asked me when I was coming back, and took down the date, I felt that I was lying: The intention was to return, but my heart knew differently.

What did it know?

After traveling some, I realized that I had to keep going. I texted a friend of my brother’s who lives in Peru and decided I’d go there. It was amazing. I did treks, met people from all over the world. My knees hurt, so I returned to Lima for medical tests. I said, if not treks, then maybe something like Brazil or Mexico suits me, to do yoga on the beach.

I have the feeling that you never got to Brazil or Mexico.

While I was waiting for the test results I went to a local museum. I saw they had a huge exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci, but I was told you needed to sign up in advance to see it. Meanwhile I wandered around the permanent and rotating exhibitions. I saw works that I couldn’t tear myself away from. Then it hit me: This is how I want to paint; vivid colors, a figurative style, emotions. I saw that they were by an Italian-Peruvian named Gino Ceccarelli, who grew up in the Peruvian jungle. The next day I went back to the museum to have another look. I asked a staffer if she knew where the artist could be found. She just lifted her hand and pointed to him – he was standing there, signing posters!

What did you do?

My heart started pounding and I waited in line to speak to him. When I got to him I said in my fragmented Spanish, “I would like you to be my teacher.” He wasn’t eager, but I showed him my paintings, on the phone. He asked, ‘How much time do you have for study?’ And because that morning I had informed my employers that it wasn’t clear if and when I was going to return, I said: ‘As long as you have the ganas – the desire to teach.’ He told me to come to the studio the next day.

Wow.

I painted in his studio six days a week. I would arrive, we would eat in one of the local workers restaurants, and then I would paint for hours under his guidance. Sometimes he left me in the studio alone, and I’d go on painting and doing yoga. I lived like an artist. Because he didn’t know English, I had to speak Spanish – so I learned art and Spanish, two of my greatest dreams, and in the most wonderful way possible. I studied there for three months.

But you didn’t go home.

No. I went on a trekking vacation and also met the person who became a love story. I followed him to Chicago.

What’s Chicago like?

It’s marvelous, but it was hard for me. In South America I walked around smiling and thinking that personal charm always opens doors; there was a great deal of warmth. In Chicago no one sees you, you’re invisible. And that was even before the winter started. I lived there as an artist without a teacher. It was both difficult and wonderful. I thought that if the love story would be short, I would even manage to visit a girlfriend in Canada. But it only grew stronger.

Why did you come back?

My visa expired yesterday. Now I’m here. I cried when I got off the plane. Now I need to figure out how life continues, and especially where. But first of all, quarantine.

Valerie and Mishel Fingerout.
Valerie and Mishel Fingerout.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Valerie Fingerout, 46, and Mishel Fingerout, 14; live in Petah Tikva, flying to Toronto

Hi, why are you flying to Canada?

Valerie: We’re going to Edmonton, the capital of Alberta province. My wife has been working there for the past eight months and we are joining her.

So you’re actually emigrating.

Valerie: Yes, we have an older daughter who’s been living there for nine years now – my wife’s daughter from her first marriage. Now we are joining her. My wife was a kindergarten teacher and managed to get a job there as a cook.

Isn’t it scary?

It’s stressful, but we’ve already done it once. Twenty-one years ago, we immigrated to Israel from Russia. At that time the parents made the decision and we all made aliyah from Khabarovsk. We didn’t know where we were coming to. Now we’re trying – either it will work or it won’t.

Just like that?

It’s easier after you’ve already done it once. When we flew here, we had no idea what we were heading into. We had $1,000 to our name, and we’d already put down $750 of it for rental of an apartment and the real estate agent’s fee. Of all our family, which is a large one, we were the first to come to Israel. On this flight our pockets aren’t empty anymore, and we also know the place we’re going to a little. We’ve already been there on a visit.

Mishel, what’s this like for you?

Mishel: It’s all right. There’s good and bad sides. It’s hard for me to leave the place I grew up in, but on the other hand, it’s good to start over.

What’s the hardest part?

Saying goodbye to friends. But what’s really hardest is saying goodbye to family: Grandpa and Grandma, two older sisters. I’ve been there already, so it’s not completely foreign to me. Even so, it’s going to be completely different.

Why do you want to change your life?

Valerie: It’s mostly my wife’s initiative, and we had an opportunity to get a visa and travel.

What was hardest for you to leave?

Since making aliyah, I have worked for Yes [satellite television provider]. First as a technician, and for the past six years in the business department. The hardest part for me is leaving that job, after everything fell into place and I created my niche. But I’m hoping for the best. Besides that, I am basically a musician – a singer and drummer.

Do you perform?

For the past 20 years, I worked in a Russian restaurant in Ashdod called Concord. We closed down on March 1, just before the coronavirus crisis. People go out less to restaurants these days. The young people go to pubs and clubs, the older people are tired of it. But the microphones, as you see, are accompanying me to Canada, too. I sang in the restaurant two evenings a week and on weekends.

What kind of restaurant is it?

People show up around 8 or 8:30, dressed well. They pay a set amount and get what they want and as much they want, with no limits. There’s usually a table with dozens of dishes waiting for them, except for the alcohol, which they bring from home. They eat as much as they want, and the evening is accompanied by a band on the stage, with dancers and everything.

The band is you?

Yes, I’m the singer. We sing in Russian, Hebrew, English, Italian, everything. People come, eat, sing, dance, usually for something like five hours. They come to be happy, and we sing them familiar songs they can dance to. There’s lots of pop – Philipp Kirkorov, Nikolay Baskov, even Netta Barzilai, Eyal Golan, Moshe Peretz.

Who are the clients?

When I started out they were young, around 30 to 35, but they aged together with me. On the weekends there were always more older people. As of now, they are all already 50-plus. And on Saturday you can see 90-year-olds, too.

Did you ever see Dad perform?

Mishel: I’m there every weekend, it’s nicer than just staying home. Lately, I also worked there, helping the waiters. I grew up on Dad’s singing and I love it. I sing, too, I was in a music track [at school].

Aren’t there clubs like that in Canada?

Valerie: Yes, but I haven’t found any in Edmonton yet.

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