'When It’s Boring, There’s a Feeling of Freedom. And There's Always TikTok'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: An unaccompanied minor ponders the hardships of being the youngest sibling, and a programmer travels to Israel from Europe to bid farewell to grandma

Shir Reuven
Shir Reuven
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Agam Ben Jacob
Agam Ben JacobCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Shir Reuven
Shir Reuven

Agam Ben Jacob, 10; lives in Modi’in, flying to Miami

Hi Agam, where are you off to?

To an uncle’s wedding in Miami. I’m flying with my sister.

Without your mom?

Yes. Mom works for El Al and she doesn’t get time off.

Have you flown alone before?

This is my first time.

Are you excited?

Yes.... I don’t know.

What did you do over summer vacation?

Played on the computer, did TikTok, got bored. Girls aren’t always able to play, because sometimes they have to go to their grandparents, and then it can be more boring.

Boys don’t go to their grandparents?

They do but it’s not like I play with them, anyway.

What is boredom, actually?

It’s when I have nothing to do. I try to invent something that will interest me. Sometimes it’s fun to be bored.

Why?

Because it’s to be in your room and be in bed and maybe go to sleep. When it’s boring, there’s a sort of feeling of freedom.

What’s the best thing about boredom?

When suddenly I think “how about let’s draw this or Google how to do paper folds.”

Which folded animal did you make?

A duck, but it came out crooked.

You said you were on TikTok – do you have an account?

There was a time when I played a game involving adopting animals, and I put it on TikTok, and I started to have followers until I got to 30-something thousand.

Wow! You were famous.

No, they didn’t see my face, only the games. But I stopped, there were less likes and comments, and I decided I would open a new page. Now I would rather get two likes on the new page. I can’t explain why.

How long will you and your sister be in the United States?

Between a week and two weeks – once we’re there, we’ll decide when to come back.

Are you friends?

No.

What’s the age difference between you?

Seven years.

Were you ever close?

Once.

Do you think it’s because she’s already big?

Yes, she doesn’t have patience for me.

Is it just the two of you?

No, we have another sister, but she’s in the army.

How is it being the littlest?

Annoying. Because one sister talks on the phone, and the other one is also doing something, and they don’t have patience for me.

Would you rather not be the youngest?

Yes.

And if you had a little sister, what would you say to her?

“Come to me, I will be your friend.”

What would you do as friends?

I would show her my games, we would think of things to draw together, and I would go places with her. I wouldn’t let her get bored.

I see you’re taking a book on the flight.

I don’t like books, but this one looks interesting. It’s called “A Little Bit Brave.” I saw a forest and I saw rabbits [on the cover], and it looked cool.

What do you imagine it’s about?

About someone who’s a coward and gets over it.

You don’t like books in general?

It can be boring if I don’t know what the story is about. Books of a hundred pages – who has the strength to read that? I borrow books but don’t read them. The last time I really read was earlier during the corona, a book about experiments you can do at home.

And did you do experiments?

Yes, I did an experiment about how to play [music] on a glass and how to make a lava lamp from a glass.

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a pilot or a scientist.

Why a scientist?

It’s interesting to do clones, if that’s what you call it.

And why a pilot?

Because it’s cool to fly in the air and to get a lot of money. A lot. I’m always asking Mom how much money I’ll get if I become a pilot.

Why do you want a lot of money?

I don’t want a lot, I want enough. So I’ll have enough to eat and a house and… the truth is, that’s it.

Yana Romalis.Credit: Hadas Parush

Yana Romalis, 35; lives in Prague, arriving from Vienna

Hi Yana, is that all of your luggage?

I have clothes here, too, at my mother’s place, but it’s not like I’m going sightseeing or something.

Then why did you come?

I’ve come here under very sad circumstances. My grandmother is about to die and I have come to part from her. My mother is coming to take me to the hospital – I’m waiting for her.

Oh, no. I’m sorry.

Yes. I knew she was sick, but I didn’t think it would be so sudden. But her condition went downhill during the past week. We knew she probably wouldn’t get better, but she felt relatively well. My family hasn’t told me everything, because I live in Prague and they didn’t want to worry me. They didn’t tell me how much time she had left to live.

How did you understand that you had to come?

I was on vacation in Croatia and I wrote to my grandmother and asked, “How are you?” I write her every day or two, and she always replies, “All is well.” This time she replied that she was a bit weak, so I called immediately and heard from her voice that the situation wasn’t good. Two days later I spoke to her again, and her voice was already really bad, and then I spoke with my uncle, and he told me to come.

Is there any chance that her condition will improve?

I think this is a farewell visit.

How do you part from a grandmother?

She is no longer conscious. She didn’t manage to say goodbye to anyone. I think she believed until the end that she would be able to overcome it, and we also didn’t want to raise the subject. I always more or less knew what Grandma wants from me. She wants me to work, not to quarrel with the family and to have a good life. I am also not really saying goodbye. She is always with me – here, I even have her picture in my phone.

A beautiful woman.

Very beautiful. Big green eyes, very beautiful.

Tell me a little about her.

I am very close to her. My grandmother is a very, very, very special person. She’s only 81 years old. She immigrated to Israel at age 50-something and learned fluent Hebrew. She had lots of Israeli friends at work, most of whom were my age. In Russia she worked as an economist, here she worked for a company that places female caregivers who look after elderly people. She worked from the moment she came to Israel until the disease was diagnosed, a little more than a year ago. Some people are truly old, they have played out their life, but she was at her peak. Until not long ago she was full of life, in full control of things. She was super-active, she played bridge, traveled all over the world – she was in Iceland a few months before the disease was discovered – she went to plays, to the beach, she loved her friends and loved her family.

Are the two of you alike?

Very much so, in many ways. She was like a mother to me. Whenever I fought with my mother I would go to my grandmother’s and she would defend me. When I was in primary school, my mother moved from Ramat Gan to Lod, and there wasn’t a good school there, so I lived with my grandmother in Ramat Gan for a whole year, and only then moved in with my mother.

What was it like living with her?

I didn’t have a room of my own, so I slept in her and Grandpa’s room. They didn’t have a sofa so I slept on armchairs that they pushed together. It was a really terrific experience. I finished school fine.

What do you in Prague?

I’m a programmer.

Was your grandmother upset when you left the country?

Yes. I’m somewhat the black sheep in my family.

How is a programmer who lives in Europe the black sheep of the family?

My family are people who work in the same job as long as they can, taking on as much as they can. They’re not people who suddenly don’t like what they’re doing, so they switch to something better. I’m a bit spoiled; I don’t stay in a place where things aren’t good for me, but for them that seemed strange. They thought I had gone crazy. I am a person who likes to explore new places very much, which is also something I inherited from Grandma. And it’s good there [in Prague], comfortable, the weather is nicer. I like seasons.

How long will you be here?

Three days. I’ll sleep at my mother’s place for two days and then one day in a hotel.

Have you made other plans?

No. I will take my leave from Grandma, and I also have a telephone bill that I have to deal with.

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