'People Who Grow Up in Tel Aviv Have a Built-in Understanding of Reality'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: Three young Tel Avivians come to terms with their privilege ■ A filmmaker puts his ambition aside to expand his horizons in Vietnam

Ran Kaplan, Tomer Mildworth and Omri Shahar.
Tomer Appelbaum

From left, Ran Kaplan, Tomer Mildworth and Omri Shahar, all 22 and from Tel Aviv; arriving from Thessaloniki, Greece

Hi guys, where are you coming back from?

Omri: We were nine friends who rented a villa for five days.

Ran: We overdid it.

Tomer: We’ve already done the post-army trips, we just all decided to get together on our vacation, including friends from abroad.

Omri: Our officer friend told us he was taking a vacation on certain dates, but until we landed I didn’t know where we were going. But we all showed up. We had a vehicle for all nine of us to travel in.

How was it in Greece?

Ran: The weather wasn’t great, but we were really going to be with one another.

Tomer: I’m going to Sinai today.

Ran: We’re an insatiable generation.

Tomer: We just understand that this vacation won’t go on much longer.

Were there girls in the group, too?

Ran: There were two girls.

Where did you all meet?

Tomer: We’re all friends from high school.

Omri: Wow, and for 10 years, from Tichon Ironi Aleph in Tel Aviv.

Let me just note that this is a well-known high school, which has produced many performing artists, and it carries a kind of Tel Aviv stigma.

Ran: Yes, I think we’re pretty much part of the stigma, although we did all do army service, for example.

Omri: I commanded a squad commanders course in the air force.

Ran: I served in Nahal [infantry brigade]. One of our problems in Tel Aviv is that we do the army, we get discharged, and then what? There’s nowhere else to get to. It’s the same circle of life we’ve already been in.

So you’re all young and post-army – do you already know what you’ll do when you grow up?

Tomer: I’m starting a course that will prepare me for taking the psychometric exam: I want to get into brain sciences at university.

Ran: I’m going to study acting at the Yoram Loewenstein School.

Tomer: Unlike acting and filmmaking, which are part of my “narrative,” I think it makes sense for me to study something less humanistic and more scientific – but not necessarily something like accounting.

Would you say you were almost channeled into creative life?

Ran: For sure. I think we were privileged in Tel Aviv. Everyone in Israel has the army track and has to decide what to do, with us the confusion is less basic. By the age of 18 you’ve already experienced the whole machine that’s called a city, which generates careers. It won’t be long before all my friends know what they want to do. I have relative freedom, since my father invested his life in a career as a physician so we’d have that.

Tomer: My dad is in high-tech. Just before I left with a girlfriend to travel in the East, he said he totally envied me for the trip.

Would you say that you also have different dreams from young people who weren’t born in a place that Israelis aspire to get to?

Ran: People who grow up in Tel Aviv have a built-in awareness and understanding of reality. We know things will be hard. My dreams and my friends’ dreams aren’t “I will be the most successful” – on the contrary. The dream used to be to have a lot of money, today it’s a happy life.

Tell me, as guys who grew up in a liberal place, what do you think about the #MeToo movement? Has that affected you?

Omri: We grew up with values like that from the start. It trickled down into us from the very beginning. It really gets into you.

What do you mean?

Ran: A month ago in a club there was a guy who was bothering a girl. Both the crowd and the bouncer didn’t ignore it. The bouncer laid into him, violently, gave him a bad beating.

Maybe that whole incident says something.

Omri: It’s an attempt to show that you’re definitely not like that, so people will see how much you’re not part of it.

Yaniv Segalovich.
Tomer Appelbaum

Yaniv Segalovich, 39, from Tel Aviv; flying to Vietnam

Hello, where are you headed?

I’m flying to Vietnam, alone. I’m actually doing the post-army trip I never did. (Laughs)

Why didn’t you?

Growing up, I was so goal-oriented that I knew what I wanted to do. I never wasted time. After the army it was straight to studies. I studied filmmaking, and along the way I missed experiences that – how to put it – open your horizons.

So instead of seeing places, you saw movies? Which is like traveling, only alone in a dark room.

I came from Tiberias, and when I left, not only did I not travel, but my world was narrow. The cinema world for me started with “Abba Ganuv” [“The Skipper,” a 1987 Israeli comedy] and ended with “Rambo 2.”

You liked cinema but didn’t know which movies were the ones to see?

I knew, but had to make an effort. They weren’t accessible. I also got into all that relatively late. I’d thought I had a good cultural background, until I began my studies at 21 or 22, and saw the cultural education of Ramat Hasharon and Tel Aviv.

What drove you to study early?

My ambition was sky-high. In my perception, as a boy of 6, I was born to foment revolutions, at least that’s how I saw it. Nothing interested me but the goal, which was to bring out what was inside me. It’s something I’m still trying to grasp, but it’s burning inside me to get out. It was important for me to learn how to read and write even before first grade.

Why?

Because I wanted to write stories. I’d peek at my siblings’ notebooks; my sister taught me how to read and write. There’s no special artistic bent in our family, but I have an uncle who lives in Sweden now. He brought the whole family to Israel from Tunisia, spent three months here and then fled because it was too hot here. He’s a writer, painter and playwright – my inspiration as a child.

How did that influence you?

Every time he visited I saw the books he wrote in French, and it thrilled me that he could create that – that from this person, from his uniqueness and character, a book emerged that now stood on a bureau. I would leaf through it, not understanding the language. Of course, I was familiar with books but the thought that they emerged from a person I knew, my uncle, enchanted me.

That’s very moving. How terrific you had an uncle like that. So how do you feel ahead of your trip now? How long are you going for?

For a month, and the truth is that until an advanced age, I was actually afraid of being alone, not to mention flying to a place I don’t know. I also have spatial dyslexia. I use Google Maps in Tel Aviv. I flew like this for the first time five years ago, to Thailand, which relative to Vietnam resembles a Western country. It’s going to be as different as possible from what I know, and I’m going to cope again.

What happened that made you take a break from all the ambitions you talked about?

I worked hard with my associate, Dani Rosenberg, on a film about [former entertainer-turned-Haredi] Uri Zohar, titled “Zohar: The Return.” We started shooting almost a decade ago, and in the past half a year, which was very intense, I felt that I needed a restart in the farthest place from the editing room, where I was shut in and didn’t see sunlight, as dramatic as that sounds.

What’s editing a screenplay like? Is it like directing for a second time?

There’s a part in the film in which Uri Zohar is in the editing room, and he describes that moment. He says he feels like he’s putting makeup on a mummy. The material is dead and won’t change, and all that’s left is to abridge it and add music. It’s a manipulation of static material, so that someone will be able to shed a tear. From my point of view, the editing room is simply a place in which to control the viewer’s brain, to channel him into laughing, crying. You have to know what to tell and what not to tell.