'I Was Sarah Jessica Parker's Double. I Traveled the World in Her Place'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: An Israeli couple reveals the secret to a great relationship, and a medical student from New Jersey adjust to life in Israel

Yael Benaya
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Michael Frumkin and Tamar Olivia.
Michael Frumkin and Tamar Olivia.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yael Benaya

Michael Frumkin, 63, and Tamar Olivia, 49; live in Haifa, flying to Crete

Hi, what do you plan to do in Greece?

Weekend banner.

Michael: We’re going to a beach hotel.

How long have you waited for this vacation?

Tamar: A deal came up and I didn’t think twice. Boom – and I grabbed it.

What do you do when you’re not on vacation?

Michael: I’m a tour guide. I’ve done guiding in Jaffa, in Zichron Yaakov, in Caesarea. And besides that, I have three amazing daughters.

Tamar: I’m an artist, a painter, a sculptor and a photographer. And I also engage in psychotherapy and art therapy, and run a children’s theater called A Little Friend in the Heart.

What’s special about it?

Tamar: The idea of the theater is to tap into the emotional intelligence of children from an early age, especially boys, because I came to the conclusion that they lack the ability to talk about themselves.

What led you to that conclusion?

Tamar: Mostly my relationships. Suddenly I saw that men have a sort of emotional autism.

Michael: Including me.

Tamar: My experiment was with my son. From the time he was a baby, I would speak to him and reflect his emotions back at him. Everyone told me that I was a little loopy, but he started to chatter when he was 2, and at 3 he began composing poetry.

How did you two meet?

Michael: We met a year and a half ago at a place called Khan Yotam. It’s a site where volunteers help people with all sorts of issues, and on Thursdays they have dance parties. I had just separated, and Tamar didn’t have a partner. One day I went there to learn salsa dancing. I saw her and she saw me, and we’ve been in a relationship ever since.

Tamar: I would tell it differently. That day, I was volunteering there with autistic children, and for a long time I’d wanted to meet someone. An hour earlier, one of the mothers had told me, “Listen, you’re doing something holy here, and it’s here that you will get your reward.”

Michael: I didn’t know that!

What’s it like to start a Chapter 2 relationship?

Michael: It’s complicated; everyone is already a fully formed individual in himself. We were in quite an intense relationship at first, but we lived 15 kilometers apart. And then there was a vacant apartment in the building where I live. Since then, Tamar has lived there and I live on the floor above.

Tamar: It’s perfect to live like that in Chapter 2. To meet and to be in your space and again to meet up, it’s a marvelous basis for a relationship. We’re together a great deal and we can also be alone.

How is it different from love at the age of 20?

Tamar: We feel like we’re 16. But, there’s a feeling that we are occupied with a future that’s too remote, and also, that the past is past. There’s something to living the moment, which is a gift at this age, something far more calming. We want to live in other places, I want to study, to conduct workshops. I traveled all over the world for many years.

Michael: She was in Indonesia for a year and a half.

What were you doing there?

Tamar: I studied the subject of rituals in the Third World for several years. In Indonesia there’s a ceremony when the boy comes of age. The body is painted in earth colors and they dance around a fire, they lay huge banana leaves on the ground and they sleep on the beach for a few days. Indonesia is divided into tribes; each one engages in different art. I traveled with an anthropologist there, and we went from tribe to tribe.

Michael: She was also a look-alike.

What do you mean?

Tamar: I was a double of Sarah Jessica Parker from “Sex and the City.” For a few years I traveled the world in her place; there are photographs of her in ads that are actually me.

How did that happen?

Tamar: I lived in London for a time, and a photographer who was looking for doubles nabbed me. I was 32, when she was starring in the series. Even before he photographed me, people would stop me in the street and say that I really looked like her. At first I laughed, because I thought it was ridiculous, but since then I’ve traveled all over Europe for shoots, film launches, I was in ceremonies with the Queen’s double, I was invited to have my picture taken at Gucci and The Gap, I modeled hats, bags and shoes. Afterward it started to exhaust me; you feel an emptiness, because it’s not you.

Did you ever meet Sarah Jessica Parker?

No, but I wrote her an email.

Sabrina Divekar.
Sabrina Divekar.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Sabrina Divekar, 29; moving to Tel Aviv, arriving from New York

Hi, where are you coming to us from?

I lived in New York for the past 11 years, and now I’m moving here. I’m going to study medicine at Tel Aviv University.

Why in Israel?

I was in Israel a year and a half ago during spring vacation to visit a friend who had moved here. I had a two-week break, and he said that if I were to visit he would show me all of Israel. So I bought a ticket at the last minute and came. I missed my return flight, so I extended the visit for a few days. It was amazing for me here, and I always wanted to live somewhere else for a time. My parents are Indian and I find a great deal of resemblance between Israeli culture and Indian culture. Everyone is very hospitable and warm toward me, and I’m wild about the food. I’ve been vegan for 10 years. And besides that, the medical school here has a good reputation in New York, and I want to do my residency in New York.

Do you know anyone who’s coming to study with you?

I spoke to some of them on WhatsApp. There are 65 Americans and Canadians in the program. I don’t actually know anyone, but there’s a woman of 34 here, so I won’t be the oldest. There are students who didn’t come to Israel, because they understood that the studies would be online. But I spoke to friends who studied medicine, and they recommended that I go. Med school is difficult, and it’s not worth moving in the middle of the school year. So I decided to move and acclimatize before we start. It’s strange timing to start school in a new country.

Do you already know what you’ll want to specialize in?

I want to be involved in preventive medicine. I’m really interested in diseases that stem from a way of life, chronic illnesses that could have been prevented with proper nutrition and physical activity. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity – all the problems that America has. Many of them can be prevented or inhibited by small changes in a person’s lifestyle, and not with pills. So that’s my long-term plan.

Is veganism related to preventive medicine?

The truth is that it’s not. I became a vegetarian when I was 8. My whole family eats meat, everyone in northern India eats chicken and lamb. One day, when I was in the third grade, I got home and asked my parents, “Why didn’t you tell me that meat comes from animals?” And then I stopped eating it. My mother and my grandmother became vegetarians a year or two later, thanks to me.

Where does your family live?

I’m from New Jersey. I’ve always lived in New York or New Jersey, and this is the first time I’m moving to a place that’s not an hour or an hour and a half tops from the family.

What do they think about your move to Israel?

I told them over a period of a year and a half that I was thinking about it, but I didn’t really know I would do it. I told myself that if I were accepted, I’d see what to do. I applied right at the end, and I found out I’d been accepted the day before my birthday. They were really excited for me – there aren’t any doctors in the family. All the women are teachers and all the men are engineers, so they’re happy.

When did your parents arrive in the United States?

My mother came from Delhi at the age of 7 and my father came from Mumbai when he was in his mid-20s, to study. I’ve been in India a few times,and now that I am a little closer, I can go there, but I hardly have any close relatives there anymore. I wouldn’t live in India – I think it’s too crowded and polluted. I love the culture and the tradition, but I don’t really like the people there.

What did you do in New York?

In May I completed premed courses at Columbia, and when the pandemic began, the studies were moved online. Many of my friends left the city; I decided to stay. I lived in a small studio apartment. After six weeks I was going pretty crazy, so I decided to go home for a few weeks. I had two girlfriends who caught the coronavirus, and it took one of them two months to get well.

Unpleasant.

Absolutely. I warned my grandfather to stay inside his home, because he needs a reminder to stay careful. The older people are going absolutely crazy and feel alone, and my grandfather lives alone. My mother and I went to visit him and to see him from outside after not having seen him for three months. He told me he was going to the post office, because he had to send something urgently. I told him, “Grandpa, there’s nothing urgent now that you have to do.”

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