'I Saw a Flash of Satan and Understood I Should Use My Power for Something Else'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: An online shopping adviser living every woman's dream and a Christian artist from Norway who says God isn't pushy and came to behold a site he features in his book

Liat Elkayam
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Reut Levinberg and Tomer Mashraki.
Reut Levinberg and Tomer Mashraki.Credit: Meged Gozani
Liat Elkayam

From left: Reut Levinberg, 38, and Tomer Mashraki, 39; live in Kfar Sava; arriving from Bucharest

Hello, can I ask where the boots are from?

Reut: You know how they say that Bucharest has only lousy chain stores? Well, by chance, on the main pedestrian mall, which is actually a pretty sad street, I found a store called Joys, which is pretty amazing. We’re in the shopping business, but I didn’t think I would buy anything, because November was a super-tough month and we came out of it like zombies – after and Singles Day. I went to get a rest. I only bought these and another pair of boots. 

What do you mean, “in the shopping business”?

Reut: I’m Reut from Reut Buy It for Me. We’re married and we've managed an online community for two years.

Tomer: Reut is a pillar of the web. She recommends products at the best prices offered online, all kinds of great deals. We have a Facebook community of 90,000 members, Telegram with 9,500 subscribers and Instagram with 6,000 followers.

How did you become a “pillar of the web”?

Reut: It all started during my maternity leave, after I’d resigned from a job in advertising as a salaried employee. In my heart and my soul I’m a salary person – but Tomer believed in me, and he said, “Let’s give it a try, we’ll see what happens.” I would never in my life have done this without him, even if I always told people that shopping was what I wanted to do for a living. They laughed at me; during the maternity leave people said I was hormonal and crazy. We said, let’s give it half a year, we’ll see if it works.

Tomer: And it worked.

Gutsy.

Reut: The fact that you’re a mother and you have a new baby upsets the apple cart. You try to go back to being yourself and also to jump into the water – to start over but also go back in time. One day research will be done on this. People will understand that this is the point at which women make a change.

How does your business work?

Reut: We recommend terrific deals and we collaborate with big companies. If you buy something through me I earn a commission, but I also earn money from giving talks and conducting workshops on smart consumerism and on building a community.

Tomer: The community is above all, and must be recognized. Facebook is now putting community at the top of its priorities. There’s a community for everything, and Facebook really promotes them.

How often do you upload a post?

Reut: It depends which day. On Black Friday, about 20 times.

And how do you make your decisions?

Tomer: It always starts with what she likes. It’s her taste, her choices.

Reut: I would never recommend anything that I wouldn’t buy myself.

What do people most like buying?

Reut: People like to buy for their children a lot more than for themselves. That sometimes upsets me. Why do you have to buy a kid 13 million sweatshirts, but won’t buy yourself a pair of sports shoes at a discount?

A well-known problem.

Reut: I try to fight against that and to celebrate motherhood, but I also suffer from the nonexistent-mother syndrome. I bought myself two pairs of boots, but this huge bag here is full of toys for our daughter. Despite everything, there was one thing she asked for and we didn’t find [abroad], so we’re going to look for it now. 

That’s nice.

Reut: Besides that, people buy a lot of vacuum cleaners, blenders, also insane numbers of multiple-use bottles for water, that’s big now. But there’s a bit of a contradiction there.

I try to deal in things with a sort of ecological awareness, because there was one time when I recommended disposable plates from AliExpress and I was slaughtered; it wasn’t pleasant. We sometimes recommend places to go to, and when we mentioned the Hai Kef Zoo in Rishon Letzion people wrote that the animals there suffer, so we removed the post. The truth is that those are the things I like about the group. I feel there is an intelligent consumer dialogue that makes me happy, even though sometimes it’s not easy for me.

Sounds like a dream. Take me, Reut!

Reut: Yes, I am living the dream, and from a dream in a drawer it became a life-business. I’m pleased with the community we’ve built, it has beauty. At least in the eyes of people who aren’t looking to be cynical and critical.

Axel Nelson.
Axel Nelson.Credit: Meged Gozani

Axel Nelson, 54, lives in Drammen, Norway; flying to Sardinia

Hello, can I ask how you spent your time in Israel?

In the past, during the era of the , there was no water in Jerusalem, and one of the kings, Hezekiah, I think, dug a tunnel so that the water could flow in. They actually started to dig the tunnel from both ends, outside the city and inside it. I was fascinated by that story, and that is the reason I came to Israel. Besides that, I love the prophet Isaiah, the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament – I’ve read it all several times.

Are you talking about the Pool of Siloam?

Yes. There is still water in it, sometimes knee-high. You can walk in the tunnel hunched over. It’s very dark, you need a flashlight.
I’ve was there on a school outing. I walked in; it was just me and the black hole. I also didn’t know how long it was, I thought it was 50 meters, but it’s half a kilometer. It took me 20 minutes that felt like two hours.

Were you stressed out?

Well, I prayed to God and promised that if I got out I would never again do anything bad. Until at one point a school group showed up, with kids who were having a blast, and that encouraged me.

Are you a religious person?

I grew up in a Christian family, but my parents were not aggressive about it. At the age of 25, I experienced very strange things and decided to devote my life to Jesus.

What sort of strange things?

I was playing a game called “War” with three dice, and at one point I felt that if I really concentrated I could get the numbers I wanted. I did concentrate and I got what I needed every time. Until the last round, when I threw the dice and got 6-6-6. 

Wow.

As soon as I saw that number, I had a physical feeling as if a knife had been plunged into my heart. I saw a flash of Satan before my eyes, in the well-known Christian image: with the tail and horns. That evening I prayed to God and said, “Listen, from now on I don’t want to see him, I only want to see you.” I think from that moment that’s been my only prayer. I understood that if I was capable of concentrating my mind to get a combination of numbers with dice, why shouldn’t I use that power for something else?

What sort of something?

Love. For me, God is the spirit and freedom, just the opposite of fanaticism. God is very gentle, that is the important thing about him, he is never pushy. 

What do you do?

I am an artist. I photograph and paint, and five years ago I decided to write every day, one page at most, and I did. Half a year ago, I completed a book, and the story of this tunnel appears in it. I am absolutely enchanted by it.

Tell me about the book.

I call it, “An Illustrated Book for Adults Who Find it Difficult to Believe.” It’s not exactly something rational, I just wrote and thought about life and whether God’s voice exists in this world. It has all kinds of things that popped into my head – poetry, illustrations and short texts about the people who dug the tunnel and different figures from that period. It’s about Isaiah, about the king’s son, and also about a character that I brought in from a different place altogether, from a marvelous painting called “Stanczyk,” by the Polish painter Jan Matejko. 

How did the painting get into the book?

It’s a painting of a court jester who is sitting alone in a room, and behind him we see the king and queen holding a great ball while the Russians conquer a city in Poland, and the jester is completely dispirited. It’s as though he is thinking to himself: What is it possible to say to these people so they will understand that what is happening now is serious? The figure of the jester is one of the people in my book who explore the tunnel. I think I started to write it because I felt angry at my Christian friends, I felt that they lacked true belief.

Are you a court jester?

Possibly. When you are over 50 and you have a house and children and everything is all right, sometimes you feel a little lonely. I think I am trying to share my belief with other people, and I feel lonely when I take life so seriously.

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