A 'super-Jew' Explains Why Israel Sometimes Feels Like Exile - and How It Can Be Fixed

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: Why Israelis have to think twice before every move, according to a U.S. expat ■ An Israeli lays out his vision of life in vegan paradise – 'like the rest of the animals'

Miriam Lorincz.
Tomer Appelbaum

Miriam Lorincz, 19, from Ramat Shlomo in Jerusalem; flying to New York

Hello, can I ask you about that ring?

This ring gets me through every difficulty. Today, for example, I had a crazy day. I missed the bus to the airport and took a taxi so I wouldn’t be late. Because the driver was an Arab, they pulled him over and questioned him. I begged them to let us go so I could make my flight. In the end, I paid a fortune for the taxi, arrived late and discovered that the flight was delayed by 12 hours. It looks like I’ll be here all day, but God sent me two nice people to talk to me. I always say: “This too shall pass.”

Where are you from? What are you doing in Israel?

I’m originally from upstate New York, but I live here. I was in school, then I worked and now I’m teaching in Ramat Shlomo [an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem], affiliated with the Or Yisrael network. They don’t dictate a path, but help each girl find her own way: They “punch” a certain viewpoint at us – like how to deal with people. In “Pirkei Avot [“Ethics of the Fathers”], they talk about virtues, but in a way that suits our life. It’s nice, because there are very different girls there and the principal is like a mother to us.

Where did you work before that?

In a real estate agency in Beit Shemesh. It was fun, because I speak three languages: English, Yiddish and Hebrew.

Are you the only one of the family in Israel?

I have three older sisters and three younger brothers – and I am the only one who’s here. I was always drawn to the warmth of Israel, and to the language. Everyone says “‘bro” to everyone else; everyone looks after everyone.

So you felt like you were in exile in America?

What? Ah, galus [Yiddish for “exile”]. I felt it there, but I feel I’m a bit in exile here too, where there are many Jews, but also many who don’t behave in a Jewish way. Like they mock Haredim and dosim [derogatory slang for observant Jews]. That’s a big desecration. In America, Haredim are admired. My dad is very religious and when he goes places, non-Jews are moved and impressed by him. But still, there’s a greater connection to Hashem [God] here.

How do you feel the “exile” here?

I was walking on the street and talking to my dad on the phone in Yiddish, and suddenly someone shouted “shiksa” [offensive term for a gentile woman] at me and asked if I wasn’t ashamed. Or, for example, some people are amazed that I speak Yiddish, because I don’t look Hasidic. I’m always being asked, “What are you?” People try to clarify my religiosity; everything is divided into categories. Ashkenazi? National-religious? Hardali [Haredi national-religious]? I say: “I’m a super-Jew.”

What other problems have you had?

Because I’m an American, I get screwed when it comes to paying for things... I understand that people try to get money out of foreigners, because Israel is a poor country. I understand that it doesn’t come from evil, but because poverty blinds the way people behave and their moral priorities. Otherwise they wouldn’t behave like that.

That’s how it is with people.

In the broader sense, it’s important to understand that Israel is a country that the whole world is watching. Because of that, we have to show outwardly to the world who we really are. We have to wake up every morning thinking about what will be said about us, and we have to think twice before every move, for the same reason. So people won’t say disapprovingly, “Look how the Jews are behaving.” We must undertake to project unity and caution, both for ourselves and also to make a good impression. There needs to be mutual responsibility. For example, not to judge – this one is a dos and this one is secular – because we are all brothers and sisters from one father.

Oh, what just happened?

I’m just looking around me here, because I lost the food voucher I was given. Alright, it’s not terrible, this too shall pass.

Aviyah Treves.
Tomer Appelbaum

Aviyah Treves, 26, from Tel Aviv; arriving from London

What’s that rolled-up carton?

It’s actually a mattress. I slept on it in the airport. I got weird looks.

You look exhausted.

I was in London for five days, at my mother’s, and before that in Ecuador. When I left Ecuador, I took a flight from Colombia, because it was a lot cheaper. So, over two weeks I crossed almost the whole of Ecuador and half of Colombia. I did 95 percent of Ecuador by hitching rides – usually in trucks. At the Ecuador-Colombia border I fell off an amusement-park ride that was 2.5 meters high, and was two weeks before I could take a step. At the airport I asked for a wheelchair.

Your father here looks worried.

I hadn’t intended to tell him about it.

What did you do in Ecuador?

I lived there for four months with a vegan community I found on the internet.

Why?

That’s my dream: to live in a natural community, as much as possible, in a tropical country.

Why tropical?

Because it’s pleasant to sleep outside all year long, you don’t have to light fires and there’s enough rain for irrigation.

Where did the dream come from?

Three-and-a-half years ago, I switched to a natural diet – just vegetables and fruit. I was already vegan, and read about 80/10/10 [raw vegans] on Facebook. I started to take an interest in it; I did a lot of research. I’m a scientist by nature. As a kid I wanted to be a scientist. I tried the new diet and saw that I reacted well to it, in addition to its being healthy and good for nature. I believe in a natural life, and this is the most natural there is. When we eat rice, it’s tasty only after cooking and adding spices and sauce. Fruit and vegetables are tasty as they are. As long as it’s tasty and I enjoy it, I don’t feel as if I am forgoing anything. But it was only after I went on a hike with a guide where we gleaned and recovered fruit and produce that I realized that this is the way I want to live, in a natural community, like the rest of the animals.

What did you do in the community in Ecuador?

We mainly planted and cultivated fruit trees. There are almost 70 types of fruit there – bananas, papaya, jackfruit, mango. Many of them can’t be grown in Israel. There were people from the United States, England, Sweden, France. We spoke English between us, and also Spanish. You need to be vegan to join; you can’t bring in animal-based products. There are no fixed hours for volunteering – it’s open, free and allowing. One guy bought drums for the community and we had a jam session. But I want to buy land there, because it’s cheap and relatively easy to get residency status. It seems more secure to me, and I’ll also be able to go ahead with my vision there, which will become even more precise.

What is your vision?

The big dream is to spread the knowledge and create harmony with people and with nature. The implementation depends on belief and focus. Like in the movie “The Secret,” the more you think about something and believe it’s possible, the way will be revealed by itself. It just happens. I have a Facebook group – “Establishing a gleaners group in a tropical country.” The goal is to create a family way of life, a community, to be together.

Were the Europeans in Ecuador cold – not like in your vision?

They were somewhat close to it. Some of them devote less time to the social aspect of community life. They came mainly to experience the harmony with nature, but my emphasis is more on community and on feeling less alone.

Are your parents in favor of all this?

They’re against it. They want me to go to university.

Aviya’s dad, sorry for stealing your boy after you haven’t seen him for five months.

Father: It’s alright, this way I could hear how it was for him.