Music of Chance

There are many reasons to choose the lobe of your life. Prowess in the dairy section is not one of them.

In one of the funniest scenes in the American television series "How I Met Your Mother," the architect Ted, who is about to fulfill his life's dream and design a skyscraper in New York, threatens to go back to Zoey. She had done everything in her power to prevent the fulfillment of his dream, because he kept dithering over which sort of lightbulb he would use when choosing the 50,000 bulbs that have to be installed in the skyscraper. You would think that an inability to choose a lightbulb is not a sufficient reason to renew a bad relationship, but sometimes fear of the unknown causes us to return to the past and to the familiar - and often it dictates our choice of partner.

It took one of my friends three children and more than 15 years to figure out that the ability to find certain items on supermarket shelves in Israel - which was the reason for choosing her partner - is not enough to keep a marriage going. That same friend, a beautiful and brilliant woman, arrived in Israel as an exchange student. Those were the days when the local dairies had not yet discovered cartons, but had already stopped selling milk in glass bottles, and fresh milk was only sold in bags back then.

laundry washing machine
Avi Ofer

My friend and her roommate in the university dorms, both of whom were familiar only with milk in cartons in their country of origin, reached the conclusion that the bags were meant only for immediate use, because otherwise there was no way of keeping them in the refrigerator after opening them without their contents spilling out; therefore they thought they had to finish the entire bag immediately after opening it.

That is how they found themselves drinking a liter of milk whenever they wanted a cup of coffee, and they would probably have continued to drink an ocean of it had my friend not met another student who revealed to her that you can buy a kind of plastic pitcher that's specifically designed for storing the bags of milk in the refrigerator. My friend was so excited by the guy's resourcefulness in the supermarket that she reached the conclusion that this was precisely the man with whom she should tie the knot: someone who knows how to manage in life, a superior Israeli male.

Of course, there were also covert reasons behind this choice. We think that we fall in love or choose a partner based on his overt traits and their compatibility with an imaginary list of traits that we are looking for in a partner. But usually we discover that this list of traits has absolutely no relevance to our own ability or inability - and that of the chosen man - to live together in relative happiness.

Sometimes we fall in love (by the way, this column is meant for both sexes ) with the plot instead of the hero, because the story is so similar to the fantasies that we consider the actual hero to be a negligible entity. Until one day reality peers out from under the imaginary world we have constructed for ourselves, and we discover that the person who looked like a man whose silence conceals a magnificent intellect is simply autistic, or that the sensitive Viking-like fisherman is simply a fisherman.

If we are lucky and not very fussy, we can turn a man who looks as though he is ready for burial in an open coffin into a love-smitten prince, and ourselves into Cinderella. Sometimes we are even able to call our sense of security and appreciation "love," and to call wealth "happiness." Once I found myself falling in love with someone who managed to repair my washing machine, and only by chance was also handsome, brilliant and quite a few years younger than I.

But the love story of Revital Hachamov and Ehud Shapiro is so fantastic that, had it been the subject of a screenplay for an American film, would have been dismissed as unconvincing kitsch.

He was a computer scientist and molecular biologist, as well as a high-tech expert who became a millionaire thanks to his inventions, divorced with three children, who all his life dreamed of singing; she was a pianist with an international career, young and single. He saw and heard her at a recital in Tel Aviv and immediately fell in love with her. Afterward he married her and built her a house with a concert hall in the village of Nataf outside Jerusalem, which proves that she also fell in love with him, because otherwise she wouldn't have survived the boredom of life in the bosom of nature. Since then she has performed in this hall with various ensembles in chamber music concerts, and between times teaches at the music academy in Jerusalem, performs with the Jerusalem Quartet in Israel and abroad, and raises their 5-year-old daughter.

The result of this romance is the "Piano in Nataf" concert series. The performances are held in the "hall of arches" in the couple's home, and attract a large audience of Jerusalemites and residents of neighboring communities which, like Nataf, are places with book clubs, cooking competitions, Pilates classes and a lot of people with green thumbs. Although they have no cafes they have quite a few plant nurseries - like that of Rama's husband, who built a nursery next to their house while his wife Rama launched her eponymous restaurant, which has acquired a reputation, nearby. It is usually open only in spring and summer, but now, in honor of "Piano in Nataf," it is also open before each of the concerts and offers a menu that is in some way connected to the concert program; indeed, the menu itself also includes the program.

I would like to believe that music featured in the series, which has included the works of Romantic composers, and Brahms in particular, would have been enough to convince me to brave an adventurous trip to that frontier on a stormy night. But the truth is that the temptation of a meal based on a menu composed especially for the event was a central factor in the decision to risk my life and that of the taxi driver Itzik on the twisted and unlit route leading to Nataf.

Even now, however, I haven't yet understood the connection between old Johannes Brahms and caramelized pineapple, and whether he ever even saw a pineapple in his life - or the connection between Clara Schumann and calf's cheek. When I'm given food, and especially in such a beautiful restaurant, I eat everything on my plate, so as not to insult the chef. And especially when it's cold and rainy and pitch black outside, and there is wood burning in the fireplace inside. That same feeling, of a transition from cold to heat and from darkness to great light, turns the well-lit and heated lobby that leads to the so-called hall of arches into a place of refuge.

"The ultimate combination of the bed & breakfast experience and light classical music enables someone who is actually looking for a B&B to enjoy the music, and for those looking for music to enjoy the experience of the B&B" - that was the clever analysis of my young friend A., a professional musicologist, who came especially from Jerusalem to join me that evening. But what difference does it make when the main thing is the romance. Especially for lovers.