Departures / Arrivals: An Intercontinental Couple Driven Away by Israeli Bureaucracy

A Frenchwoman and an Israeli man who met in India look for a new home.

Uriel Kramer, 31, and Jayanti Tamby, 33, stand at the airport embracing each other.
Tomer Appelbaum

Uriel Kramer, 31, and Jayanti Tamby, 33, live in Moshav Aviel, south of Haifa; Jayanti is flying to Paris

Hello, can I ask where you’re going?

Jayanti: I’m going; I left home today.

Uriel: I’ll join her in two weeks.

Jayanti: And we’ll go to the place where we met.

Okay, let’s take it from the top. Where did you meet?

Uriel: In India. I went there in 2014. We met in a village called Vattakanal. After we parted, we stayed in touch via Facebook. Then, a year ago we met again, in Goa. I went there specifically  to meet her, after she confessed to me how much she loves me.

Jayanti: I confessed? Fine, change the facts a bit!

Uriel: Okay, you tell them.

Jayanti: I was born and raised in France, but my grandparents came from the city of Pondicherry, India. When India became independent, in 1947, residents of Pondicherry were allowed to choose whether to be Indian or French. My parents worked in the administration of other colonies, such as Congo and Vietnam. They were moved around a lot; I lived in Senegal and then we moved to France. I went to school there and then spent two years both in Ireland, two years and in Asia, a few months in Europe, and a year in Tel Aviv six years ago.

What did you do here?

Jayanti: I’d studied social work in France for three years, and in Israel I volunteered for an NGO that ran a shelter in south Tel Aviv for Eritrean and Sudanese refugee women and children. 

Wait, let’s go back to the beginning. What happened during your second meeting in India?

Jayanti: We fell in love and were together for a few months ...

Uriel: I’m going to cry. (Laughs)

Jayanti: Then he went back to Israel and I went to France. I visited him every month, and then we decided to try something here, and I came to live with him. I wanted to have an “anchor” in Israel. We found a home here and I brought all my things, but was told to leave.

You were refused a visa?

Jayanti: There’s a work visa for couples who are not married.

Uriel: I submitted a request for that visa for her. I even sent them a fax! Then, but when she returned to Israel after visiting France and they saw that we were requesting the visa, they only gave her a month’s stay and refused to extend the visa. Now she has to leave.

What will you do?

Uriel: If we want to restart the process we have to submit everything again, but without her being here. So we both have to leave our home.

Jayanti: We had a lovely mobile home in the middle of nature.

Uriel: The truth is we don’t really want to tangle with the authorities over a country in which we don’t necessarily want to live. It’s only Israel.  So we’ll go to India and live in Auroville [a “universal town” near Pondicherry].

Sounds like you had a rough time here.

Jayanti: I did a lot here, but felt I was blocked. I went to a good therapist in Zichron Yaakov who helped me; maybe it’s the end of the circle. It was hard but it’s for the best. We developed a great deal as a couple. At first the relationship was difficult – we discovered we both have issues – but we decided to work on ourselves.

Uriel: Don’t give away any secrets today, ah?

Jayanti: I have no secrets.

Uriel: I think things will be easier now. It’s not because of Israel, it’s because of us. We learned things.

What did you learn?

Uriel: That a relationship is a reflection of the self, and instead of focusing outwardly we focused inwardly. You make accusations and the “other” seems to be a problem – until you look at yourself. You can’t change anything until you understand what drives you, what makes you respond, what’s hard for you. Focusing on yourself makes everything move forward. 

Can you give an example of a practical way to apply that theory?

Uriel: There are many techniques, but in principle, instead of accusing someone, it’s preferable to be indirect and say “I feel as if” There is no external source for any accusation, it’s all internal.

Jayanti: There is something special between us, it’s there when we look at each other.

Uriel: It’s called being in love!

Jayanti: I keep a diary, and on the day I met him, I wrote that I felt as if I’d known him for a long time.

Uriel: And we don’t even do drugs!

What did you think when you met?

Uriel: I was turned on by her, but I didn’t have the courage to say anything. But I came all the way from Guatemala to India to meet her. It was a long trip and I even had a sprained ankle.

Hadas Asscher, a 30-year-old woman wearing jeans, a yellow sweater and brown boots, stands at the airport.
Tomer Appelbaum

Hadas Asscher, 30, lives in Tel Aviv; arriving from Budapest

Hello, can I ask where you’re arriving from?

Yes – I’m coming  from Budapest. It was my first time there. I visited a friend from Mevasseret [Zion, outside Jerusalem] who’s doing a master’s degree in psychology there. Now I’m thinking about my next trip – in 10 days’ time – to visit my parents in Japan.

What are they doing there?

My parents are 65. My mother retired about a year ago and enrolled in East Asian studies. She persuaded my father, who’s a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that he absolutely had to take a sabbatical in Japan, because she really wanted to live there. They’ve been living in Tokyo for a few months, in a tiny apartment, like a young couple, and I’m going to visit them. I have time to travel, because I quit my job not long ago and now I’m looking for interesting work.

Your job wasn’t interesting?

My background is in industry and management. I worked for a company that does Internet marketing, and before that for big international high-tech corporations. I feel like making a change in my life. I’m looking for something that I can “connect” to more. That’s why I started studying environmental studies, at Tel Aviv University – I have one more semester to go.

Is that interesting?

I chose a subject that interests me and I wasn’t let down; it has continued to interest me.

What do you actually work on in the field of environmental studies?

Ecology, concepts of preserving nature, sustainability, social changes that are needed in order to protect the environment. I feel like making a change in that direction.

Practically speaking, what will you do after you complete your studies?

I can’t say today what I will be doing. I can combine several disciplines and look for something that’s both practical and meaningful. I hope to work in a startup that develops technologies for renewable energies, something dynamic. I think change is possible through technology.

What’s the actual difference between what you did in the past and this? After all, high-tech is high-tech.

I want to be in a place that creates something, that gets people to change their line of thought, that instills new ideas. That’s very different from what I did until now. When you don’t believe completely in what you are doing, and you do it for so many hours a day, you look for something that’s worth becoming enslaved to.

How many hours did you work?

At least 10 hours a day, which is a lot. Sometimes it was more than that, of course. And the surroundings are very all-consuming; it’s a big company, there are lots of nice people and lots of meetings and you get a good salary and also job stability. But it’s very hard work. It’s the modern version of slavery, and I think it’s not particularly efficient. There’s this occupational norm in which you’re expected to work a great many hours, that’s the standard. Sometimes you start at 7:30 in the morning and go until 7:30 at night, and then you go home and maybe meet up with friends and go to sleep. Not that there wasn’t flexibility: I went to school one day a week and they didn’t deduct the hours. But there’s an unspoken expectation – that you will just stay at work. People work all year in order to go on vacation once a year. It’s ridiculous.

So what drove you out of the gilded cage?

I felt that I needed to find a fusion between the world of content and this world, and I think it happened because I was able to convince myself not to be afraid. To make the change is to leave your comfort zone. Maybe it also has to do with family and children. You’re more cautious when you need economic stability, but when you’re free, you need not be afraid, to believe in what you are doing and to feel that it’s meaningful.

Sounds like you have no regrets.

None, and I can always go back to the old job. I’ve maintained good relations with people there. You never know.