'Berlin Is Like Tel Aviv, but Bigger and Happier'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport ■ A nature-loving Israeli lawyer talks about his big-city jaunt: 'Instead of spending a weekend in Tel Aviv, you can do one in Berlin for the same price, and the sausages are better.'

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Shay Notkin.
Shay Notkin.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Shay Notkin, 41, from Moshav Kfar Yehoshua; arriving from Berlin

Hello, can I ask what you’re reading?

Hans Fallada’s “Nightmare in Berlin.”

Did you like “Alone in Berlin”?

I didn’t read it. I started with the second one, which was on sale at the duty-free shop, but I’ll read “Alone in Berlin,” too.

What did you do alone in Berlin?

I rested, ate, wandered around by myself. I went on Thursday and came back on Sunday.

Was it your first time?

Second or third. I see more trips on the horizon. I definitely haven’t done the whole city, and the flights are so cheap these days. I bought a low-cost ticket a few months ago for just $120. When I was a teenager, people didn’t fly like this, it seemed unimaginable. People would save up, make plans and fly once every two-three years for two weeks. The possibility of doing these quick visits today really makes me happy.

What makes you happy in Berlin?

Berlin is like Tel Aviv, but European style – bigger, happier. And I also enjoyed the cold, minus 1 or 2 degrees [Celsius]. Whenever you get cold, you stop for a beer or a sausage and warm up. Instead of doing a weekend in Tel Aviv, you can do one in Berlin for the same price, and the sausages are better. Even though that works less well for people who keep kosher.

What do you do?

I’m a lawyer in the commercial field – contracts, corporations. The firm I work for also has kibbutzim and cooperative associations as clients. It’s very different from being a commercial lawyer in Tel Aviv high-tech.

What’s the difference?

The nature of the work is very different; there’s lots of visits to kibbutzim and meetings with people. I travel around and don’t sit 10 hours a day at a computer. I look people in the eye.

Are there still kibbutzim? Weren’t they all privatized?

A great many were privatized; very few still have communal dining rooms and laundries. But now their property is being privatized, this is the second stage, which is more advanced.

What happens in this stage?

The kibbutzim will become owners of real estate, which is a far more complex process legally, and also conceptually harder for the kibbutzim.

What’s so hard about privatization?

It’s harder for the veterans to see this process, to see the kibbutz becoming more of a regular community than a kibbutz. It’s painful. And also, they’re all suddenly confronted with a new world of mortgages, administrative registrations, land registry, capital gains tax, property tax – bureaucracy. From that point of view, they were living in a kind of bubble.

Are you a kibbutznik?

I’m originally from Nahalal, so I’m a moshavnik, which is more or less the same.

What do people in a moshav do for fun?

I’ve asked myself that a lot over the years. I don’t focus on any one thing – I hike, read, meet friends.

Did you ever think of living in the city?

During my studies, I lived in the center of the country, and met my wife there. But it wasn’t for me. I have three children, and I don’t understand how it’s possible to raise them in a city. It was hard for me, it didn’t work.

What was missing?

Nature and freedom, those are the main things. Coming home from kindergarten as a boy, all I had to do was walk across the grove. But I had to take my eldest daughter in the car, look for parking and all that. I really enjoy seeing my children growing up now in the moshav. I know it has its shortcomings, but I mainly see the advantages

How did you get the okay to go abroad with three children?

I’m divorced but I have good relations with my ex. And everything was coordinated: On Thursday morning I took the kids to school, and on Sunday I’m back; by 4:30 P.M. I’m at the kindergarten. There’s no doubt that these trips are basically egotistical, but after years of studying and working, with the kids being small – you really want to disconnect and not take anyone into consideration, do only what you want. It becomes a need, and when you fulfill it, it gives you great happiness and energy to continue. I come back a different person, and that also benefits the people around me.

From left, Tomer Alter, Mor Chitiat Vinter, Liron Mar Mar, Inbal Nachshony, Shahar Zach, Nitzan Amitay and Liat Shama.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

From left, Tomer Alter, 27, from Tel Aviv; Mor Chitiat Vinter, 28, from Nahariya; Liron Mar Mar, 29, from Ramat Gan; Inbal Nachshony, 37, from Tel Aviv; Shahar Zach, 23, from Ramat Gan; Nitzan Amitay, 24, from Haifa; and Liat Shama, 25, from Tel Aviv; flying to Amsterdam

Hello, we came over because you guys stand out. Can I ask what’s going on?

Liron: I’m a fashion designer, and we’re on the way to Amsterdam to do a catalog shoot – it’s the first time my catalog will be photographed overseas, an insane project and really costly. We packed about 200 kilos of clothes.

Wow. Good luck.

Liron: It started with a girlfriend who said, “Let’s fly to Amsterdam,” and it ended up with 28 people going. I just said to people, “Want to come to Amsterdam? Yallah.”

Who are the models?

Liron: All the models in the catalog are friends. I’m a real stickler when it comes to choosing them, and they’re really beautiful. A hair designer from Haifa and a model from Kiryat Shmona are also going with us.

What’s the deal with the colored hair?

Liron: We work with a salon in Tel Aviv called Cuts You Up. There’s also a reason each of us in the group has a hat or hair coloring, because if I’m going to be with this bunch of kids in Amsterdam, I have to be able to recognize them.

What’s the label called?

Liron: Mar Mar Design. I sell via the internet, mostly on a Facebook page. I design clothing mainly for women, but also for men, covering a whole range of sizes, from petite to 56 [U.S. 46].

Plus size is hot now.

Liron: Because we’re all plus size! It used to start at 46, but today 42 is already plus size. We need to make the subject of plus size clothing more accessible. Big stores like Urbanica and H&M don’t have clothes that fit me. Why should a girl who’s a size 40 have more apparel options than I have? The fact is that I need more options than she does, because I have “more to hide.”

What are your prices?

Liron: Blouses range from 70 to 220 shekels [$20-$64] and dresses start at 100 [$29], even though there are also some for 500 [$145], depending on the fabric.

What’s your biggest seller?

Liron: A dress made of color-changing fabric. It comes in six shades in the collection, and it’s popular because of its silver hologram look: It obscures what’s needed, and clings where needed and creates cool effects in the folds of the body.

Where are the clothes made?

Liron: I work with a seamstress and a cutter, but most of the industrial sewing is mine. I sew fast and enjoy it. I put “Gilmore Girls” on the TV and get through 200 episodes. I was still sewing this morning, until the flight.

How did you get into this profession?

Liron: I always had a passion to be creative, and was even sketching dresses in preschool. I also teach the trade.

Mor: Liron is a very special, talented girl. She will realize her dream, and everyone here connects with her and loves her.

What’s the dream?

Liron: The Israeli market is very small, so I also aim for overseas. Even though just now, I’m dreaming of getting through the check-in safely and I hope they don’t confiscate everything!

You’re still not making such a great living?

Liron: Clothing design is a profession, but I also work nights taking calls in a security firm, where they get alarms and reports. I really like that job, it gives me a few pleasant hours when I do something quiet, monotonous and calm.

What reactions do you get [to your designs]?

Liron: I don’t hear the surroundings anymore, I have an incredible filter. The only thing that interests me is what my parents and siblings and aunt think, and that’s it. I feel a harmony with myself, and that’s where the collection comes from.