'Intimate Conversations Happen Only on the Way to Food'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: An Israeli flying to El Salvador who would marry his best friend – if he was a girl, and a New Jerseyite who founded a startup to make a living

Avishai Vaisman, 26, from Hadera: 'It’s the best relationship I’ve had. Nitzan – if you were a girl I’d marry you!'
Tomer Appelbaum

Avishai Vaisman, 26, from Hadera; flying to El Salvador

Hello, would you like to tell us where you’re headed?

To El Salvador.

For a vacation?

I finished my first year in computer studies at [Ben-Gurion University in] Be’er Sheva, and I like to travel. I’m going to meet friends from other parts of the world.

Who will you meet there?

I’ll meet Leoni from Germany, a snowboard instructor whom I met in Panama. Last year I was in Sri Lanka and met a woman from Prague and an American guy, and I stay in contact with them and meet them in different places. Even though I’m bad at staying in touch. Even during my army service I always made short trips; after the army I traveled with some good friends. What I most wanted was to fly alone, with no money, on a “minus” budget, just to meet people like me who also travel without money.

So you also like to contend with the scary scene of splitting off from friends and traveling alone?

On my trips with Nitzan, a friend with whom I served as a communications officer, there was a stage when we went our separate ways on a trip. At first it was scary, but it was also a way to work on our relationship. (Laughs)

So let’s talk a little about the relationship between two men.

It’s the best relationship I’ve had. Nitzan – if you were a girl I’d marry you!

I like that.

Yes, it’s the same depth of relationship as with a female partner. We get along really well. Friends were a bit leery of traveling with us, because we’re both like gasoline in a bonfire. Like, we’re on some trip and I push him to travel a whole day just to see some bridge, and he drags me to go down some impossible trail where I fall on my ass.

What about fights?

There are quarrels, and someone has to give in a little. I remember an argument while we were stuck in Chile, in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing for six hours in any direction. A quarrel about nothing, curses, “son of a bitch.”

What was the fight about?

I don’t even remember. There was an outburst. In the end we touched pinky to pinky, because that’s our thing, and made up. “Walla, I didn’t realize it was so important, I get it. Let’s set things straight and move on.” It was on the way to getting a hamburger. Intimate conversations happen only on the way to food, because that’s how it is when someone is hungry.

First of all, correct. Second, you don’t even remember what you fought about, and even your making up was two sentences and a pinky. Of course you say that you wish it were like that with women. It’s a dream!

In that context, I just participated in an experiment that focused on emotions, at the university. There’s something I understood. My father really doesn’t show emotions. And in the end, I took upon myself the mission of being a thousand times better than my parents – and my parents are amazing. Just think, I was 21 the first time I said, “I love you” to my father. Friends had just picked me up, and I suddenly said, “Stop the car.” I ran home and told my father, “I love you.”

Wow. I can only imagine what men must cope with emotionally.

It’s like I started doing yoga because I needed flexibility – emotionally, too. I know how to look at myself and understand that I’m in a total mess and know I shouldn’t make a big deal of it and bring in the whole world, despite my temper. A woman would say, “That’s how I feel” in order to explain what hurt her; she can talk around the subject.

And you, socially, have no choice but to say it directly.

Yes, I’ll start with, “‘Bro, I think that....”

Golan Raz, 43, from Tenafly, New Jersey: 'I had to make a living here, so I founded a startup.'
Tomer Appelbaum

Golan Raz, 43, from Tenafly, New Jersey; arriving from New York

Hello, can I ask where you’re coming from?

From New Jersey. I live there.

What brings you back to the homeland?

I work for an Israeli company called Adama. They have a unit in New York dealing with biotechnology related to the healthful properties of plants. I manage the unit.

How did you start out?

I was an entrepreneur. I had a company in the north that extracted active substances from plants to benefit human health. If most medicines begin with plants, and are then synthesized, then a medication is actually a molecule that resembles a natural molecule. We just continue with the natural molecule.

To be a boss, what must you learn?

That people possess maximum potential, and patience is needed to draw out the beauty that resides in them.

Take us back to the beginning.

I grew up in Tel Aviv and fell in love with a girl from Omer [a Be’er Sheva suburb]. We married young, lived in Australia for three years, and were occupied mainly with spiritual matters. When my father became ill, we came back to Israel to be with him. I had to make a living here, so I founded the startup. I was 25, the father of two girls, one a month old and the other 2. There was no other choice.

Creating a startup isn’t a typical option for someone who needs to earn a living, and fast.

Well, I was a vegetarian, so a hamburger joint wasn’t an option.

So how did you get into business?

I met a businessman from Australia and I brought representatives of his to Israel, and so I got into the field. I was always a small entrepreneur who loves humanity – always more interested in people than in money.

So you’re plying the popular Tel Aviv-New York route.

Tel Aviv is delightful. Until 10 days ago I was with my family, and now I have a few days of being at the home office. Then I’ll go back to New Jersey.

Where do you live there?

In Tenafly. Although lately there’s a move afoot to change the name to Tenaviv.

I’m in favor. But why?

Because the people of Israel wants very much to come to Tenafly. 

What’s happening there?

It’s a beautiful town – in North Jersey, near the George Washington Bridge. There are excellent schools and many Israelis. Rona’s cakes, Ronen’s barbershop, Kfir’s grocery store, Arik’s hummus, and also Giora’s hummus – if I mention the name of only one hummus place, there’ll be a fight. Shimon builds houses, and Orna is the real estate agent. 

Wow, sounds like Mini Israel, but everything is probably bigger there.

We live in a locale with a high quality of life, a bit of a bubble, and above all, expensive.

So to sum up, what will we be eating in the future?

Look, there’s the “Gog and Magog” prophecy. On the other hand, everything is written, but there is freedom of choice. We will choose the freedom of choice. We will work day by day, hour by hour, and there will be food. After all, the problem isn’t that the world is too crowded to be able to feed everyone. There’s a problem of people’s consciousness. People will calm down and see that there is food. There’s a situation of someone who is sick, but the person who has the medication doesn’t give it to him because he has no money. 

Sounds horrible when you put it like that.  

If people would start to see who they are and what they are, that would be the beginning of the solution. I am committed to understanding who I am and what I am, and that’s part of the reason that I stopped to talk to you here today.