'Jewish People Are Stars - in the Movies, in Politics, in Everything'

'It's easier to sell to Americans than to Israelis,' a young manager on his way home from the U.S. says; an aspiring doctor explains why many Israeli Bedouin go abroad to study medicine.

Reut Nachshon, Raz Yadai Gantz and Anat Charash.
Tomer Appelbaum

From left, Reut Nachshon, 36, Raz Yadai Gantz, 24, and Anat Charash, 23, from Kfar Sava; Raz is arriving from New York

Reut: The Eagle has landed.

Raz: Oy, darlings. I’m in shock.

Reut: It’s all with love. You want something to drink?

Raz: Maybe you’ll buy me a coffee, please? Hold on, wait – look what a responsible kid I am, what a man.

Why a man?

Raz: Two years ago, I put 200 shekels [about $50] in my wallet, and here’s the money now. Who’s this responsible guy? It’s me!

Where were you for two years?

Raz: I lived in the United States; I went with my former partner. The idea was to work and make money along with having a relationship experience.

How did it end?

Raz: We were promoted to managing a business, but she didn’t stick it out, unfortunately. I stayed, and she’s not my partner anymore, but still, may she enjoy a long life. I look young, but I’ve been managing since I was 14 – I started off managing a snack bar in a movie theater.

Aren’t you tired of working already?

Raz: Selling is impulsive and aggressive work, and managing is interesting, because it means taking people to the most extreme place and centering them. You don’t manage the goods, you cope with the people, and not everyone can be a salesman. But it’s easier to sell to Americans than to Israelis, that’s for sure, and it’s easier to work in sales when you’re an Israeli.

Because of the chutzpah?

Raz: For years, I didn’t believe in the Jewish gene, but now I believe in what it does, including the ability to stand out and be a success. When you’re abroad, you look for the roots everywhere, and you discover that the Jewish people are stars, whether in movies, in politics, in everything. Still, you can also find the other side of the fence.

Which is?

Raz: The ugly Israeli is everywhere, but so is the beautiful one, too. It’s just that over there we look for the ugly, just so we can say, “I’m not like that.”

Can I ask why you came back?

Raz: That’s a tough question. After a long time, the distance from home gets harder, and I still have love here in Israel, and I needed a change. But I’ll go back and forth. I’m still a kid.

Reut: The kid killed us. We missed the kid. His mother will say so.

Raz: Reut is my cousin, we’re very close. In fact, so is the whole family.

Reut: You can write that we’re “Yemenites” in parentheses. He only told us yesterday that he was coming back, so we didn’t have time to organize signs and balloons. We barely got the day off.

Raz: But I told you yesterday morning!

Reut: Around 6 A.M. No one knows he’s here. We’ll see if he has the patience to go around and say hi.

Raz: What patience? I’m going to sleep.

Why not see Mom?

Raz: “All the drops opened” for Mom.

Reut: “Drops of water hollow out stone not by force but by persistence.” (They laugh)

Family joke?

Reut: His mother has sayings like on “Master Chef,” and he hasn’t heard them for two years. 

Raz: We have all kinds of signs in the house, Mom’s sayings, and afterward I found that I would say them to employees in crisis times. The recurring motif is that you can do everything.

Reut: Right.

Anat: Absolutely. “There’s no such thing as can’t, only don’t want to.”

Raz: There, she believes it, too. She’s our albino Yemenite, the adopted sister.

Reut: Some things come from home. I was always told, “Do whatever you want, you’ll always be supported.”

Anat: All our friends are, like, on the same vibe, use the same sayings.

Clichés that actually work?

Raz: Look, from my work and after a trip of two and a half years around the world, being in a relationship and alone, I learned mostly about myself. There were confrontations with extreme situations, but I had to cope and not bail. It was like a second round of army service, but I discovered that mom was right and I can do everything.

Reut: Dear one, you really can do everything. Not only can you do everything, you can do everything perfectly.

Raz: That’s already going overboard.

Mohamed al Romele.
Tomer Appelbaum

Mohamed al Romele, 21, from Rahat; flying to Yerevan, Armenia

Hello, can I ask what you’ll be doing in Armenia?

Studying. I’m a third-year med student.

Why Armenia?

Conditions here are hard, you need a grade of 750 on the psychometric exam and a matriculation average of 100 or more. There are people who can do that and people who can’t. I had good grades, but not good enough. And also because we’re Arabs, plus in the end people who did army service are preferred, so it’s impossible. Also, you can’t study here before the age of 21, so a few years are lost. I’m 21 – in Israel I could only start now, but I’m already in my third year.

How long are the studies?

Six years and then an exam, and then, if I pass, a year of internship. Some people said there are problems with going to medical school in Armenia.

What kind of problems?

Until four years ago, the university in Armenia wasn’t authorized to grant a degree. There was also a case a year ago when there were said to be forgeries, and the students’ files were opened and checked one by one. But today, whoever has true, precise documents has no problem.

Are there a lot of students from Israel there?

There are 25 students from Rahat, about my age. But they are also at other universities in Yerevan. There are many students there from all over the world – from Israel, from Russia, from Arab states.

Twenty-five students from Rahat in Armenia – sounds to me like a community.

There are many doctors in Rahat, and more graduate every year. There are maybe 2,000 doctors in Rahat, for a population of 70,000. But we don’t have a big hospital, so many of them work in Soroka [Medical Center in Be’er Sheva]. People from Rahat give their studies all they’ve got, in engineering, medicine ... I live alone. I study six or seven hours every day, so it’s much better like that, things are quiet. When you’re abroad, you don’t want problems with friends. I’m already used to it. I left home seven years ago.

Where did you go?

I did 11th and 12th grades in the north, in Umm al-Fahm. It was a long way from home, but a better school.

Do you think you’ll ever go back to Rahat?

Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. There’s my parents, and you can’t match that. In the end you have to go back to them, because in the end you always go back to your heart.

Are you from a large family?

We’re four sons and four daughters. I’m one of the youngest. I have a younger brother who’s studying nursing in Jordan. They’re my life.

Sounds like your family is fond of medicine.

When I was 6 or 7, I had a lot of eye operations, and I liked being hospitalized, really. I liked it in the ward and I liked all the doctors there. They talked to me and to the other children in the ward as though we were their children. It wasn’t Arab, Jew and Christian. I liked the fact that they were helping many people. I also like to help people. Social power is important to me.

Social power in general?

I’ve worked a lot with youth all over the country, with all kinds of youth movements – Jews, Arabs and Christians. I and six others were the ones who brought Krembo Wings [“the only inclusive youth movement in Israel for children and youth with and without disabilities,” according to its English-language website] to Rahat. Now it’s really important there.

What do you want to specialize in?

I want to be a surgeon, God willing. I most enjoy learning about how the heart works, how operations are done, how the medicines are suited to the heart. But in Israel not everyone gets placed in the specialization they want.

What’s the most in demand?

Many people want to get into heart, or eyes or nerves, but they’re not allowed. To get into the heart isn’t easy.