Chantal Schaar, 32, from Berlin and arriving from there
Hello, Lady in Red!
Yes, I am very colorful.
How do you show that in other ways?
I work in a Jewish kindergarten in Berlin.
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Why Jewish – are you Jewish?
I’m not Jewish, but my ex-boyfriend is. His mother worked in a preschool like that and got me the job. She’s from Israel, from Haifa.
Give me some numbers, so we can envy your educational system.
It’s a preschool for 3-year-olds, and there are 15 children.
What brings you to Israel?
I’m here to meet my good friend, Ta’ir. She’s here and I’m going to surprise her. Her father is going to take me to her from the train. She worked in the preschool with me for two years and then went to a kibbutz.
Do you know Hebrew?
Ta’ir spoke only Hebrew with the children, and I picked up a bit: “lishtof yadayim! [Wash your hands!]”
Good, that makes me want to wash my hands immediately. Are there a lot of Jewish preschools in Berlin?
Yes. They serve children of former Israelis, and also Jews who’ve come from Russia.
What are the differences between them?
When they pick up their kids, the Russian parents ask if the child ate, and the Israeli parents want to see what creative work the child did that day. Or, for example, the Russians immediately want to know who hit their child, and the Israelis dress their children in sweat suits from January to August.
Well, that’s understandable – children ruin their clothes.
Yes. Still, for us it’s strange that the child isn’t dressed “well.”
What else do you do?
I also do sports. I run and train, combining MMA [mixed martial arts], outside in a park. My Israeli ex got me into that, too. He’s a police officer in Germany. We’re still in touch.
Preschool and MMA – that’s amazing. What it’s like going out with a police officer?
Perfectly fine. I myself wanted to be a policewoman.
My grandfather, my mother’s boyfriend and my boyfriend all serve in the police. I like to work with people. It’s more fun with children, but originally I wanted to be in the police.
Isn’t it dangerous work?
Work in the police force in Germany is actually safe. There are 10-15 people with you in the van, and police officers are respected there. To be a nursery school teacher and work with kids is even more dangerous sometimes.
Why weren’t you accepted into the police?
Because I had breast augmentation. Turns out that it’s not legal to join the force if you’ve done that.
But that’s totally misogynist.
Yes. From the moment they didn’t accept me because of that, I embarked on a six-year battle in the courts and the media. I fought, and because of me the rules were changed for the German police force. Hurray for all the women with tits!
Hurray! What was the public response during your fight?
I have become a marked person because of the struggle, mainly because it got into the press and the social networks. The Germans are very they are not open the way you are here. I think sometimes that I am an Israeli in terms of energy and temperament, and loudness.
Were there people who sided with you?
Yes. For example, firefighters, men and women alike, who said that I motivated them. On the other hand, there was one woman who tagged me with a picture of a knife and wrote, “Sometimes I want to kill people.”
For me it went in one ear and out the other. I think she was trying to say that a pretty girl can’t be a fighter. Something like that. But I always fight.
Jerome Timmet, 55, from Cape Town, South Africa, and flying there
Hello, what are those pictures sticking out of your bag?
They’re from Nazareth, Jerusalem and Jericho. I’ll frame them and give them to my family as presents.
Did you come here to see those sites?
I was here for the Giro d’Italia and then stayed on in Jerusalem and visited the holy places. My wife is going to come here next year. I didn’t even reserve a hotel room. I just saw in February that the Giro would be here, and I suddenly decided to come. (Laughing)
Did you take part in the race?
No, but I like cycling. I’ve been to the Tour de France. It was like any race: You come and watch as they pass by. That’s the sport.
Did you have a good spot?
Yes. But it doesn’t matter. But I also saw your beautiful country, everything I read about in the Bible. I got confirmation about places I’d read about for years, that they really exist.
What do you do for a living?
I have my own plumbing business. I’m married, with two daughters and a granddaughter.
What’s it like being a grandpa?
It’s the most beautiful thing there is. You have a second opportunity to raise a child, and fortunately my daughter and granddaughter live with us.
Why a second opportunity?
Because I didn’t really raise my girls. When you raise children, you’re still working, building a home, making money to send them to school, so you don’t have fun with them. All so they will have a future. Now there’s a bit of money, I’m settled and have more time. I feel I am also a dad now.
How’s life in Cape Town?
Good. Different from Israel. We don’t have the dynamics that you have. For me, it was scary to see girls of 18 in uniform, with semiautomatic rifles. I look at my life and think I wouldn’t want to expose my daughters to a situation like this. But obviously they have no choice [here]. I came to enjoy the country, but that’s something I didn’t anticipate.
How did you come to be interested in cycling?
Twenty years ago, a friend took part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, which is held every year in March. I thought I was tougher than him, that I could ride, too. I participated in the tour many times and was better than him. I still cycle now, for my health.
What do you think about while you’re riding?
I don’t want to tell (laughs).
How did you manage here without a hotel reservation? Where did you sleep?
In a Jerusalem hostel.
What was it like?
I met an older man there, of 70. He lived in Greece for most of his life, and now lives in Berlin. He told me his life story, and mostly he told me – and this stuck in my head – that he’s lonely, has no one to talk to. He’s not in touch with his family, and I thought to myself: What a sad life. In the evening a young guy came in and threw up all night in the washroom. I felt bad for him and asked if I could pray for him. He said yes, I prayed, and it stopped. Just like that.
What happened with the older man?
The last day, when I was leaving, he complained all night that his body hurt. Before I left, when I said farewell to him, he started to cry, and I thought to myself: Wow, we just met yesterday. I waited for him to have breakfast. Then we went to the central bus station and he stood in a corner and cried. I said: My friend, I’m going. And then I prayed for him. And I left Jerusalem. It was special.
It sounds really special.
That’s what Jesus did his whole life, and that’s the reason I came to Jerusalem, because if I weren’t a believer I wouldn’t have come.
So the bike race was really an excuse.
Yes, to tell the truth. Anyway, I only watched it for half an hour. It really was an excuse. I wanted to find myself, and I did, spiritually.