'We're at the Age When We Can Live for Ourselves, the Last Stretch. So We Bought a House in Paradise'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: A retired couple living their best lives, and a family heading to a place where sports and leisure are a supreme value

Noa Epstein
Noa Epstein
Noa and Arie Marmary.
Noa and Arie Marmary.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Noa Epstein
Noa Epstein

Noa and Arie Marmary, 71 and 75; live in Binyamina and Pissouri, Cyprus; arriving from Paphos

Hello, what were you doing in Paphos?

Arie: We live in Pissouri, the most beautiful place in the world, a slice of paradise.

So now you’re visiting?

Noa: No, we also live in Binyamina.

How did you get to Cyprus?

Noa: We are retirees!

Arie: When I turned 50, Noa gave me a surprise. She told me to clear certain dates and she took me to the Meridien Limassol [hotel], which was then new. I was told not long ago that it’s being torn down and something else is being built in its place. In any event, we were in Cyprus for a week and were simply captivated by the magic of the place, there is no other word. It truly was a great love.

What happened then?

Arie: Since then I have biked the length and breadth of Cyprus twice and sometimes three times a year. And each time I collected a few more sparks of love.

When did you take the next step in your relationship with Cyprus?

Noa: Three years ago.

Arie: No, we bought three years ago. Four years ago we decided that my dream to live in Cyprus would be realized. Noa sent me to check out places. I got a recommendation about Pissouri, even though in all my dozens of bike trips I never seen it even once. But the realtor showed me a house and then another house and another one, and I didn’t see anything I liked. On the last day of the search visit, he said, “Let’s try something else.” We saw another three houses, and in the last one I caught my breath. We called it the “wow house,” and that’s how it appears in all the descriptions.

What’s so special?

Arie: Noa will tell you.

Noa: The house is at the edge of a cliff. On one side, we have a view of the sea, which we see at a distance, and on the other side the Troodos Mountains. There’s a huge balcony, so we have 360 degrees of marvelous views. In winter, we see the snow on the mountains, and in summer we look at the yachts that are anchored there.

Arie: All in all, the landscapes of Cyprus are quite similar to Israel, but with a difference of 30 to 40 years back in time. So, for us, it’s to return in time to where we loved to be.

How much of the year are you there?

Noa: As much as possible. We just spent a month there. We’re here a month or two, then a month or two there.

Arie: Now we’ve returned despite all the recommendations.

Noa: Because of me. I missed the children and the grandchildren.

What do they say about the move?

Arie: I remember that they were a bit shocked when we told them.

No more babysitting.

Arie: At last we reached the age when we can live for ourselves and for each other, the last stretch. And we want to enjoy it as much as we can. The obligations are done with, as far as I’m concerned.

What does that pleasurable situation look like? What do you do?

Noa: He’s a caretaker, a gardener; he grows a great deal of stuff, both in Binyamina and in Cyprus.

Arie: I’m crazy about that enchanting thing called plants. God sent us humans to take care of the plants, because they don’t have hands and feet. They know how to thank us with unconditional love. They are more loyal than a dog. They need so little and always give in return.

What plants do you grow?

In Israel I have four types of guavas, all kinds of citrus trees, mango, avocado, apricots, cherries, passion fruit, two pomegranate trees, feijoa, strawberries, pitango and carambola. In Cyprus I have a pepper tree, grapevines, sultana and verico, a species that climbs the arbor in monstrous clusters. It’s obvious that the spies in the Bible got to Cyprus, not here. I also have all kinds of herb bushes and flowers using hydroponics that I developed especially for the weather conditions there. And in both houses I have lemon trees, of course.

Why “of course”?

According to the Cypriots, a home is only half a home if it doesn’t have a lemon tree in the yard. As I said, paradise.

The Komblis family: Michaela, Amy, Roee, Neria and Mia.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Komblis family: Michaela, 38; Amy, 2; Roee, 42; Neria, 6; and Mia, 8; live in Moshav Amikam, flying to Vienna

Hi, where are you headed?

Michaela: They’re going to our vacation house in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic. I’ll be joining them in another week, because I have to finish up some things in the Czech Embassy, where I work.

Why the Czech Republic?

Michaela: I’m from there.

Roee: We met on a trip to the United States in 2003. After that I was in the Czech Republic for two years and then we came back here, to my moshav.

Michaela: I told my mother that I was going away for a year, and now I’ve been in Israel for 13 years. But we visit a lot.

When’s the last time you were there?

Roee: In February, for skiing.

Neria: I have an orange bike there.

What else do you like to do there?

Neria: Hiking – in the summer we do a lot of walking.

Mia: We like to be there with Grandma, and we also go out to pick mushrooms.

Michaela: In the Czech Republic, there are lots of things to do with the children and everything is very calm. There are hikes, parks, rope parks, zoos.

Roee: Everything is calmer and not crowded, the prices are normal, it’s very easy to get around there because everything is clean and cheap and patient and spacious. They have a true leisure culture.

What do you mean?

Roee: The workday ends on time and then you do some sports and visit some nature spot. On the weekend you see people with backpacks, walking sticks and sports equipment on the trains.

Do you miss that activity, Michaela?

I miss that culture, which is self-evident there. I played professional volleyball, and I do the same here. I worked in high-tech marketing, and from there I switched to training children in volleyball and mothers in netball in the Mamanet League. With children it’s harder, because you have to educate them in the most basic way, it’s not something that’s part of life here.

Explain, please.

You absolutely have to start from the beginning in terms of discipline, preparation for competition. Sports gives a child the basis for life, but that’s not understood in Israel. People think it’s not important if they or their children engage in sports, as long as they do [academic] studies properly.

How should things be?

Competitive sports is a great pleasure, there’s adrenaline and it fills up the time, instead of the screens the children are glued to. But beyond that, it’s also a good way to mature – to understand that you have obligations, that you have training, that you try to do the best you can, to cultivate personal responsibility. You don’t need to win every time, but you do have to extract the best from yourself. And from there it goes with you to school and work and life.

You learn not to give in.

It gives people a strong character. Coping with training, the desire to be as professional as possible, to endure pressure. It strengthens you.

Were you surprised by the attitude toward sports in Israel?

Very much so, yes. The disdain for it, and also the behavior. The fans who whistle and shout all kinds of things at the other team. That is not sportsmanlike. Behavior like that is unacceptable in volleyball. I was also amazed that there are hardly any [volleyball] fans, even the players’ families barely show up.

Where does that come from?

From above, of course. There is no government financial support at all in these areas. And where there is no money and no training and no infrastructure, professional sports can’t exist. Even my volleyball team, in Hadera, which is in the premier league, had nowhere to train for a long time. To get a good space with air conditioning and good conditions is all but impossible. So it sends the message that it’s not important. We are very much trying to raise the children with a love of sports – bicycles, motorcycles.

Motorcycles? For children?

Roee: Yes. Mia and Neria ride small all-terrain motorcycles.

Mia: It’s really fun, and I’m very good at it; it’s fun to ride and not have to try hard, to jump with the motorcycle.

Neria: I also know how to ride Mia’s motorcycle.

Michaela: They’re wild children of the moshav.

Do you also play at Mamanet?

No, I can still play volleyball – maybe when I’m older.

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