Departures/Arrivals: 'Even the Kids Have Their Own Cars in America'

Arrival Malcha Almo compares American and Israeli teenagers, while departing Harry-Met-Sally couple compares Swedish and Israeli weddings.


Can I ask what week you’re in?

Malvenda: I am in the 20th week.

Is it a boy or a girl?

I don’t know yet. When we get back to Stockholm I will do an ultrasound and then we will find out. We don’t do ultrasound until week No. 20. In Israel it’s done long before, I know. But I think it’s a girl.


Because I had a little more nausea this time and my stomach also looks different − but there’s no way to know. We hope it’s a girl, because we already have a boy.

What’s his name?

Noah. It’s funny, because in Sweden it’s pronounced “Noa” [as distinguished from the Hebrew “Noach”], which is a girl’s name in Israel.

Noah is a very Jewish name.

Actually, my husband is Jewish. We were visiting his family here. He was born in Sweden. His father is from Sweden, his mother is from Poland and the fathers on both sides were in the Holocaust. Here he is ... he will tell you himself.

Nussdorf: I have an aunt in Israel, cousins and sisters of my grandmother. My parents even keep kosher. As a boy I went to Hebrew school once a week and I was also one of those in charge of security at the Stockholm synagogue.

Meaning what?

There is a team that checks whether there are threats or dangers. We still do it. It’s especially important when there is a ceremony or a big event, and we know a lot of people will be there.

Have you encountered dangers to Jews?

There are approximately 16,000 Jews in all of Sweden, and the biggest community is in Stockholm. In general, it’s a very safe place to be a Jew; I personally have never had any problems. But there are cities with a Muslim population where there is more tension. There have been attacks on Jews mainly in south of the country.

Do you still attend synagogue?

I do not go regularly, but if there is a major holiday I go: Yom Kippur, or the bar mitzvah of a boy from the community.

How was the visit to Israel?

My niece was married in Petah Tikva in a big wedding − 600 people. We don’t have weddings of that size. There aren’t so many people. In a wedding in Sweden there is more focus on the food. You sit and eat, and people make speeches about the couple. Sometimes there are musicians, or the guests sing. But it’s all done sitting down, for hours on end, with maybe a little disco at the end.

Malvenda: We were here for three and a half weeks. It’s my third time here and we will certainly be back again soon, after the baby is born.

What did you do in your previous visits?

Malvenda: The first time we went diving in Eilat, which was the greatest. On the second visit we spent a lot of time in Tel Aviv. We went to pubs; the city’s nightlife is good. This time diving and drinking were not an option, but we were in Neveh Tzedek, which looks to me like a very nice neighborhood to live in. Everything is calm and friendly. Then we went to Eilat, and I don’t believe I am saying this but it was a little too hot there. Especially now that I am pregnant and I feel terribly hot anyway. At least I did a little snorkeling. We also traveled a little in the north with the family, to the Banias, Safed and Tiberias.

Nussdorf: I have been here many times. When I was 19, I even attended an ulpan [intensive Hebrew course] on Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuhad and spent a few months on Kibbutz Gat. I didn’t want to go back home.

So what happened?

I was accepted to an advanced technical school in Sweden. I didn’t really want to go, but my parents forced me, and it was a bit of a downer to return to that crappy weather. Luckily, I took karate lessons to cheer up and that’s where I met Elena.

You’ve been together since the age of 20?

Malvenda: We were good friends all that time.

Like Harry and Sally, only Swedish?

Nussdorf: It really is somewhat similar. Four years ago, we decided to give it a serious chance.

Malvenda: But we didn’t get married; we are only living together.

And raising children.

I took time off to be with Noah. We get a year [of maternity leave] which is paid by the state and you can divide the year with your husband. Daniel couldn’t take time off, unfortunately, because he manages the company he works for.

Wow. I am consumed by envy.

Yes, it’s hard to find a country as generous as Sweden in this context. In fact, Sweden is a very good place for anyone who wants to be a parent. It’s so secure that it’s sometimes boring. The truth is that only the weather is not exactly perfect. There is a lot of rain, and it’s cold and dark all the time. In a good summer it reaches 25 degrees Centigrade.

Ouch, that hurts!


Hi. Why are you wearing two different socks?

It’s a funny story. I was in a delegation to the United States and one of the girls in the group bought a sock for each girl as a souvenir, so we all have a pair of non-matching socks. They have cute whales on them.

What’s the story?

It’s personal.

Okay, so at least tell me about the delegation.

It’s called Young Partners and is part of the Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2000 project.

How many kids took part?

Six high-school students from Kfar Sava. We went to Columbus, Ohio, our twin city. We stayed with local families and took part in all kinds of activities. Last year, six Americans stayed with us.

What kind of activities does a delegation like this do?

We worked a little with the local community and we also flew to Houston, to the Maccabi Games. Almost every day we were with the other kids in the delegation and part of the time with the host kids. There was one American group leader and an Israeli one. We did volunteer work in a soup kitchen and went on study tours and other trips. We went rafting and also to an absolutely huge amusement park, we went kayaking in a river seven meters wide and did series of photos of ourselves, which we cut out to create a collage of our personality. And there was also a synagogue experience.

What sort of experience?

We went to different synagogues and spoke about all kinds of life problems with three rabbis: Orthodox, Reform and Conservative. They wanted us to be exposed to the differences between the streams in Judaism and learn to appreciate them. I really enjoyed it.

What about the differences between American and Israeli kids?

Everyone there has his own car − and I don’t mean the adults, I mean the kids! Even so, they don’t hang out with their friends as much as we do. Their connections are mainly through Facebook and Skype. No one ever wanders around the neighborhood at night. It’s completely empty. They don’t even hang out at the mall. I was in five different malls and there weren’t many people in them. Or maybe it just looks that way because everything is so big. Not just the mall. Even the bags in which they pack food.

Was it hard for you to adapt?

We watched a lot of TV at home, which wasn’t hard. They were very nice to me. I keep kosher and they don’t, so they bought me food in a special grocery store, even though I didn’t want them to. I’d planned to eat more dairy.

Would you go back to America?

I will go right after my army service.

You’ve already decided? You haven’t yet finished high school.

I know what I want and I want to go back there. First of all, because I had a great time with the host family, which really was like a family. I miss them and already saw from Facebook statuses that they miss me too. And also because of something that thrilled me. After the army, instead of going on a holiday with friends I want to be a counselor in a summer camp for handicapped children that we visited.

How do you get accepted to this kind of delegation?

Everyone in high school can do it. You don’t need to be an outstanding student or be someone special. I was the representative of the Ethiopian community. I do volunteer work in the community at home because of my father. He is very active in the Ethiopian community and was even the community’s treasurer in Kfar Sava. It’s a small, strong community.

When did your father immigrate to Israel?

He came in 1990. He was a Prisoner of Zion. He was in detention for eight months after he was caught helping Jews immigrate to Israel. And then he immigrated to Israel and settled in Kfar Sava. I have four brothers and sisters.