'Young Haredim Come to Us to Read Fifty Shades of Grey'

This week at Ben Gurion Airport: An Israeli couple with five children - all of whom cook - fly to Paris to visit their pastry chef daughter

Liat Elkayam
Liat Elkayam
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Adi Talmon and Dafna Evron.
Adi Talmon and Dafna Evron.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Liat Elkayam
Liat Elkayam

Adi Talmon, 54, and Dafna Evron, 53, from Jerusalem; flying to Paris

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

Dafna: We’re going to visit our daughter, who is interning as a pastry chef in a restaurant. She works from sunset until all hours. That girl has been cooking from the time she was able to stand up.

Adi: And also washing the dishes.

Dafna: In contrast to our other children.

How many are there?

Dafna: Five, and they all cook. I cook only if there’s no alternative.

How did she get to intern in France?

Dafna: She went with me to France a few months ago. I went for the annual summer training session in a martial arts center in the north of the country, and she arranged to work as a temporary pastry chef through the son of acquaintances who opened a chef restaurant in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. And because she has a Hungarian passport

Adi: ...and thanks to dad...

Dafna: it was convenient for him – the acquaintances’ son – to employ her. 

Excuse me, but can we dwell for a moment on the martial arts?

Dafna: Kitaido.

Never heard of it.

Dafna: There are about 30 people in the world who do it.

Adi: It’s actually a cult.

Dafna: He’s joking. The origin of the method is in karate. My teacher also studied shiatsu and looked for new directions to move in. He then developed his karate into a martial art that refers more to the space around and less to “hits.” He’s English, and he has a farmhouse in France where he built a large, beautiful dojo. I go to train there every year, for a week to 10 days. I’ve been practicing for 16 years.

What happens if someone meets you in a dark alley?

Dafna: Nothing. I won’t hit anyone, but I’ll probably know when to make a run for it as fast as possible, because Kitaido makes you quick and sharp. In fact, kitaido gives me lots of strength and joy, and a worldview that allows me to cope with things. Like every martial art, many things enter your way of life.

Such as?

A perception that’s a bit Zen or Buddhist. I even went to a training session 10 hours after my father died.

Wow. Why?

Dafna: I felt it was the safest and most appropriate place for me to be. Coping with death was far more meaningful and ritualistic in the training session, more than in the shivah situation. I had room to be with my father in spirit and accompany him during the movement, and he was with me for the whole week, while life went on and the movement of life continued. There was no more static sitting. And it’s time for you to talk to Adi, my life anchor.

OK. Adi, what do you do?

Adi: I work in a Jerusalem bookstore called Tamir Books. Been there for 36 years.

A private store?

Adi: It was recently swallowed up by Steimatzky, but I stayed put.

Where is it?

Adi: We’re on the boundary between an ultra-Orthodox area and a secular area, and all kinds of young Haredim who are taking their first steps outside the ultra-Orthodox world visit the store. They don’t necessarily buy books, but sit and read, like in a library. Sometimes they come to us in the morning, instead of going to school.

What books do they read? 

Adi: Everything. Fantasy, novels, erotic literature. Sometimes you find “Fifty Shades [of Grey]” in the children’s section, where someone left it because he had to make a quick exit.

Do you feel there’s been a change in people’s reading habits over the past 36 years?

Adi: I think that even though people say books aren’t being read and are disappearing, and that e-books are on the rise, it’s not happening yet. Maybe it will happen, but not yet. That’s what I think, and also hope.

What do you like to read?

Adi: I’m very eclectic. Not so much suspense, but novels, nonfiction, children’s books. I love the whole of Roald Dahl and also Astrid Lindgren, not just Pippi Longstocking but also [her character] Madicken.


Adi: A new [Hebrew] translation of Sholem Aleichem’s “Menahem-Mendl” is out – an exchange of letters between a husband and his wife, who are in different cities. It’s all hopes, hopes, hopes, and everything falls apart. Marvelous stuff. “In Love,” by Alfred Hayes [Hebrew translation of a 1953 novel], a story that a man tells about his beloved who left him, and also [David] Grossman’s new children’s book, “Buba Tuti” [“Berry Baby”]. He speaks straight to children, which is delightful. There are children’s authors who write for children and others who write for parents who read to children, with lots of cleverness, but I like them less. Reading has to be fun.

Asaf Shay.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Asaf Shay, 30, from Jaffa; arriving from Istanbul

Can I ask how it is you’re landing with only a backpack?

A short trip. For a show. I’m a soundman and I was in Istanbul with [Tel Aviv band] Boom Pam and Selda [Bagcan], a very famous Turkish singer. They did a show together. These days, there are a lot of bands that travel – some Israeli ensembles are better known abroad than at home.

How was the show?

It was fun, there weren’t many people – around 300 in a large hall – but it was broadcast live on the internet to the whole world.

What’s the difference between good sound and bad sound?

The difference is in the feeling. With good sound, you feel that harmony exists. The music doesn’t threaten you. Sometimes the sound can be too strong or painful. I am the mediator between the band and the audience, I see to it that the music comes across to the audience optimally. If I’m not felt, that means I’ve done my work properly. Either people say the sound was bad or they say nothing.

Are you talking about a mental feeling or a physical one?

I’m referring to a physical feeling, but the technical side is only the accompaniment: When you’re done with the technical, you work with the feelings. Let’s say I feel like I want greater amplification. I can boost a particular instrument – a bass guitar, for example. If I want to move people, I will add an effect to the singing that’s known as reverb, which creates a feeling of space.

Space can be moving?

Think of someone who’s singing in a church, it will give you more of a wow feeling. As a soundman, you create feelings, you create situations, and you can accurately create people’s moods. But if the playing isn’t good, the sound can’t be good; it all starts and ends with the music.

How did you get into music?

I’ve been occupied with music professionally since I was 19. At first I was a rock drummer, and then I felt obliged to help other people do their thing more than I was obliged to do something new and be a front man. I studied sound engineering for two years at Kinneret Technology College, which is the highest professional level in Israel, and from there I became involved with big studios in Tel Aviv, where Berry [Sakharof], Ehud [Banai] and Eviatar [Banai], among others, recorded. So, gradually, I worked my way into my own slot. These days, I work a lot as a soundman with [Tel Aviv band] Jane Bordeaux and [singer] Riff Cohen. Eight years ago, I also founded a label, Raw Tapes, with two partners.

What do you do on the label?

I discovered I could add precision to a creative artist and help him. That’s actually what I’m doing with sound. The label is a home for artists who make good music that isn’t mainstream, and it allows people to put out music together. The label’s new collection, with 13 artists, each of whom contributed a track, will be released in another month.

A sampler of artists?

Buttering Trio, who sing in English, and Sefi Zisling, a jazz artist. The label gives the music a language, even a graphic language. Someone does the covers for all of them, creating a common world. And then you know that if you like Raw Tapes, you’ll like what we bring you.

Actually, managing a label today is a form of curating.

These days, there’s an overload of music and people are looking for something that will concentrate what’s good, so they won’t have to run around looking for it. I’m also aided by other big labels that nourish me. In recent years, the economic model has been based on live performances, and that’s a game-changer. The label isn’t a moneymaking machine, it’s a culture-making machine. The label generates money, but it’s reinvested in artists, audience and new things.

What’s happening in terms of the musical model?

There’s a constant development of genres that combine acoustic and electronic. That’s what’s happening now. But it’s hard to know where it’s going, all that beauty. Jane Bordeaux, for example, is something that’s very much happening here. It’s not new – there’s a constant balance between old and good and innovation. The same with my setup.

Which five albums are you currently listening to?

1. Jimi Hendrix – “Live at Woodstock”

2. Jamiroquai – “Emergency on Planet Earth”

3. Hiatus Kaiyote – “Choose Your Weapon”

4. Buttering Trio – “Threesome”

5. Nitai Hershkovits – “I Asked You a Question”

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