'Influx of Refugees Shows That Swedes Aren't Necessarily Very Humane or Tolerant'

Arrivals / Departures: A Tel Avivi family returning from a European vacation notes that 'Sweden doesn't have Israel's problems, but it has others'; an 11-year-old Israeli says that the best part of visiting Universal Studios was torturing mom.

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Dan Haimovich, Jackie Goren and Guy Haimovich.
Dan Haimovich, Jackie Goren and Guy Haimovich.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Liat Elkayam
Liat Elkayam

From left, Dan Haimovich, 58; Jackie Goren, 50; and Guy Haimovich, 16; live in Tel Aviv, arriving from Copenhagen

Hey, how are you? Third time’s a charm. Remember?

Jackie: Of course. You interviewed us for your column three years ago.

You were on the way to a conference on social issues, and you, Dan, are a photographer?

Dan: Indeed.

Where are you coming from now?

Jackie: I was in Berlin with my brother and my mother, because they both had a birthday, and I also just turned 50. Then we three met in Sweden at my friend Pnina’s place. Her mother was a nun in Israel.

Dan: We rented a car in Denmark and drove to an island in Sweden where Pnina’s aunt lives.

Jackie: It’s an island with vacation homes and no cars; you get around on foot.

Dan: Then we went camping in Norway, 2,000 kilometers away.

What a trip. Were there adventures along the way?

Guy: One time, Dad and I got stuck on a deserted island. We wanted to go fishing and had a motorboat but the engine was weak. We went a long way; there was a cold wind and we didn’t have shoes.

Dan: Summer in Sweden is like winter in Israel.

Guy: The waves swept the boat to an island, which was empty. We called out to other boats but they didn’t respond.

Sounds stressful.

Dan: I knew we’d get out of there, but it makes you think about survival. I knew there would be a search, and that we’d be found, but it’s still a stressful thing. I have to say, to Guy’s credit, that he behaved amazingly. From my point of view, he’s the biggest discovery of this trip, this youngster here: He has an inner quiet and he’s curious; he wants to see and experience and learn; he has self-confidence and knows how to get along anywhere. The amazing fact is that at his age he’s capable of traveling with his parents for a month in intense conditions – we slept in a tent –24/7, getting in the other’s way.

Guy, what was it like traveling with Mom and Dad?

Guy: It was hard, especially toward the end, being with just two people. But most of the time it was fun. Mom is good at cooking, and Dad is good at putting up a tent and getting by in the field. And I bridge between them. I also really enjoyed the waterfalls and the river and the fishing.

Did you catch any fish?

Dan: In the first fjord we came to, after about 10 minutes, we caught a 2.5-kilo fish, but we didn’t know what kind it was. Guy reeled and reeled, the fish came out, and he said, “Okay, what do we do now?” I dealt with that.

Guy: Dad filleted it. It was hard to watch, but it was the tastiest fish I ever ate.

Dan: We also caught a sea trout; the water in the fjords isn’t saline. Fishing is super-developed in Norway. We have kiosks for nuts and seeds, they have fish stands.

Jackie: For me the whole trip was like being on a different planet. There’s this tranquility there. But there are also big differences between Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Nature in Norway is wild, it’s a very rich country with very few people, who live a simple, even spartan life. They make do with little. Denmark is all designed, high-tech, modern; people are style-conscious. There are no traffic jams in Copenhagen, only bicycle jams, and there’s a feeling that you can breathe.

Here in Israel it really is hard to breathe in August.

Jackie: They don’t have our problems, but they have others. Everyone is preoccupied with the refugees and what to do with them. It’s amazing that in Sweden there are 8 million people, about like in Israel, and they have to take in 150,000 refugees. It’s a big issue, even though that’s not a lot for a country where everything is terrific. The right wing is getting stronger everywhere, and there, too, to be left-wing is already a dirty word. It gives you a sense of proportion, you understand that the same problems are shared in a lot of places, and even the Swedes aren’t necessarily more humane or tolerant. And it also makes you understand that you are simply a part of all humanity.

Daniella Eli Sol and Gaya Atzmon.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Daniella Eli Sol, 45, and Gaya Atzmon, 11; live in Ganei Tikva, Gaya is flying to Paris

Gaya, where are you going?

Gaya: On a bat mitzvah trip. Dad will meet me in Paris.

Why Paris?

Gaya: It’s been my dream since I was 5.

Daniella: To see the Eiffel Tower.

Gaya: I always wanted to go to Paris, to eat a croissant and a baguette. I want to check out if the coffee is good, but mom doesn’t let me drink coffee. I feel like seeing if the people there eat a lot of dough. I want to see if the people in Paris are fat.

What do you mean, “fat”?

Gaya: Fat is like if you see people taking up five chairs at McDonald’s.

Daniella: It’s simply that we’ve been living in the United States and have just returned to Israel.

What did you do in the United States?

Daniella: We went because of my husband’s job. But I knew from the moment we arrived that I didn’t want to get stuck there. I saw Israelis who said they would return and ended up sending their kid to college there.

Where did you live?

Gaya: In Connecticut, where the people are pretty thin. And we did another bat-mitzvah trip to Universal Studios and Disney World. If you’re my age, don’t go to Disney World – only if you’re a 5-year-old baby. It’s really slow there. At Universal, the roller coasters are really fast, so go there, it’s a lot more fun.

Daniella: For her it was a bat-mitzvah trip, but for me it was more like basic training, horrible heat in Orlando.

Gaya: We got lost there. Mom got mixed up and we wanted to kill her. But the Harry Potter ride at Universal was fantastic, really scary. Mom almost threw up.

Daniella: I didn’t throw up, because I hadn’t eaten dinner, because I waited in line for three hours.

Gaya: That was the ride that was the most fun, to torture mom.

Daniella: Thanks very much.

What’s it like being in Israel?

Gaya: Great. I wanted to come back. I’m more free here. There, you can’t go out, because you get stuck in the snow.

Daniella: There was too much mom-time in America.

Gaya: And it’s going to be the same here! (Laughs)

Daniella: In the United States the girls couldn’t be independent, for fear of being kidnapped.

Who are “the girls”?

Gaya: I have an older sister, Ella; she’s exactly one minute older than me and very different from me. We’re not in the least alike. She’s my twin and she thinks she’s better than me. Everyone thinks we’re the same thing – we do have the same voice, but I’m taller.

Daniella: But you recall one another slightly.

Gaya: Maybe for now.

Ella isn’t going to Paris?

Gaya: She was with Dad at camp for a month.

And you didn’t want to go?

Gaya: No, I wanted to be with Mommy.

Daniella: She organized a Mom camp.

Gaya: Mom, can you come to Paris with me?

Daniella: I wish I could, but I’m waiting for the shipping container.

Gaya: I hate the container.

Looks like you get along fantastically.

Gaya: Mom is nice, beautiful, sweet, stunning and very talented. She’s the best mom in the world.

Do you fight sometimes?

Gaya: We had a fight yesterday, over the suitcase, over what I’m taking.

Daniella: I wanted her to pack a nice dress to wear in the evening.

Gaya: But I’ll be cold!

Daniella: What’s most important is communication, to talk about everything, about the good and the bad

Gaya: And don’t try to be cool. Ugh!

Daniella: Be authentic, from the heart, because they feel it.

Gaya: And don’t tell secrets. If your children tell you secrets, say thank you, because most kids don’t tell their parents. And if they say they don’t want to eat, that means they’re not hungry. And all kids don’t like to clean up, so don’t make us clean up. Now is our time to be free, because we’re going to have to clean up after our children. And buy them a new phone. Mom doesn’t want to buy me a new phone.

Daniella: Because you have to listen, too, and there have to be limits.

Gaya: She doesn’t listen to me.

Daniella: I do, too. You said you want a phone and I said no.

Gaya: Mom, what is it, are you crying?

Daniella: I’ll cry when you get on the plane.

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