'I Found Myself With a Person I Barely Knew, in a Foreign Country, Locked In'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: One couple that was forced together by the Coronavirus, and another that was forced apart

Noa Epstein
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Coral Yaron.
Coral Yaron.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Noa Epstein

Coral Yaron, 23; lives in Mexico City, arriving from Toronto

What’s that book you’re holding?

Weekend banner.

It’s called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” It teaches you how not to get stuck on things. There’s no such thing as life without problems, so we have to solve them as best we can, and move on. But I’m only at the beginning.

How’s it going so far?

Not bad, I think. We’ll see how it all fits in with life in Mexico City.

What do you do there?

I fell in love with a guy who lives there. I met him in Israel, we both had lived in Ibiza, but separately. It was the first time I met someone who really resembles me. From the first moment it was clear that we understood each other.

So you moved to Mexico?

He was in Israel for a week, and the connection was immediate. At the time he was living in Moscow for a few months. A week before he left Moscow and returned to Mexico, he said, “Come to me.” I did. There was a delay in the flight and in the end we were there together for only a day and a half. It was so marvelous, I didn’t want to sleep so as not to waste time. After a month in which we spoke, he said, “Come to me in Mexico.” I went.

So how long were you actually together before you moved to Mexico to be with him?

A week all told. Now we’ve been together for seven months.

Very bold.

I didn’t mean for it to be like that, but the coronavirus upset everything. I found myself with a person I barely knew, locked in. I didn’t know him, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do either, so I had to get to know myself, too. And on top of all that, I also had to get to know the place.

What did you discover?

At first it was really hard for me, I didn’t even know the language yet. He helped me find work, but I had to find a new job when the coronavirus hit. I was used to being free, to flying and traveling, doing what I wanted. Suddenly my wings were clipped. But looking back, wonderful things came out of it.

Such as?

I got to know my partner in the most intense way possible, without a possibility for escape. And I learned how to cope with myself. And I got to know Mexico City, which is a tremendous place. I’d had no idea. It’s a bit Israeli in character – cheeky, liberated, folksy and diverse. Through my Spanish teacher, I learned about Mexican culture and history, I spent a lot of time in the markets. But they don’t know how to appreciate themselves, which is strange.

What do you mean?

Everything American or European looks good to them, and the beautiful things they make themselves look wretched to them. To me, there are such beautiful things, and all handmade, and no item looks like any other, every one has its own character and its own minor flaw. It’s ethnic, it’s original, it’s something you don’t find anywhere else. So now I have started a company and I have brought with me all kinds of ceramic items, bowls, art I loved, things for cooking in.

Have you cooked in them?

Yes, that’s something else I learned there: Mexican cooking. It seems to be very broad, but it all comes down to a few simple ingredients, of corn, beans, avocado, salsa and a few others. From those, they make no end of dishes. When I first got there, the idea of Mexican food wasn’t attractive to me, but now I’m returning and one suitcase is filled completely with raw materials to cook for my parents. I’m thinking of opening a place in Israel. There’s not a single good, genuine Mexican restaurant here.

You’re brimming with ideas.

I like learning, but I have the feeling that I’m spreading myself thin. So I came now to try to understand if and what I want to study. From a pretty early age, I have been searching for other paths, listening to all kinds of life stories. But I also want to study something that has a diploma. I’m trying to decide between anthropology, naturopathy and law.

And leaving Mexico?

Maybe I’ll do remote learning. Friends and family keep asking me, “When are you going to return to real life?” And I say, “There is something more real than my life now.”

Uri Gov.
Uri Gov.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Uri Gov, 26; lives in Tel Aviv, flying to London

Okay, there’s no way not to ask about your surname.

Gidi Gov [the singer and entertainer] is my uncle, the brother of my dad, Miki. What does Dad do? He produces arts, dance and musical performances. Mom is a painter and photographer, my sister is a graphic artist and my brother is an art curator and a filmmaker in Berlin.

And you?

I’m an actor.

Sounds like you were pre-programmed.

Yes, it embarrasses me to talk about it, because it sounds like a hackneyed script. I come to auditions, and they’re like, “You went to the arts school, right?” Right. “And after that, Thelma Yellin or Ironi Aleph high school?” Ironi Aleph. “And from there to the Kibbutzim College?” Yes. But in reality it’s was totally free choice: If anything, people tried to keep me away from it all. I wasn’t allowed to go to auditions until I was 18.

What are you searching for in London these days?

I’m going there to meet my partner, Jim, whom I haven’t seen for four-and-a-half months. It’s been rough.

He lives in London?

No, he’s Dutch. A few weeks ago, a Facebook group was opened called “Love is not tourism.” It turns out that we’re part of a new community created by couples who were separated by the coronavirus crisis. What we have in common is that we are not looking for a vacation, we are looking to be together with our male or female partners. It was very moving to discover that we are not alone.

What has it given you in practical terms?

Through the group we learned that England allows Israelis to enter, with an obligatory two-week quarantine period, of course. One of the exciting things I can say about this group is that couples who met in England recently continue to update those who haven’t been able to meet up yet – reporting about what happens at the airport, whether you need to show a coronavirus test or not. It’s heartwarming and also helpful.

Where did you meet Jim?

In Masada, my neighborhood café in Haifa. I moved there about three years ago because of a job with the Haifa Theater. He was visiting Israel with a female friend. The day after he returned to Holland, we decided he’d come to Israel two weeks later. That was a year and a half ago.

Love at first sight.

We realized quickly that this would be a long-term thing.

What’s a relationship like that like without actual meetings?

It’s a relationship with your phone. We’re constantly talking about how much technology contributes to us and how much it takes away from us. Being preoccupied with the phone is a killer.

Why?

It becomes a routine of “Good morning,” “How are you?”, “How did you sleep?”, “Have a nice day.” That’s not so bad when we’re busy and we know we’re going to meet again soon. He’s a dancer, I was in rehearsals, and one of our rules is that after a meeting, we already have a ticket for next time, so we’ll have something to look forward to. We were meeting once a month, for a week. We took turns about where. It was tough in terms of money, but it was a rule we didn’t break.

And then came the coronavirus.

Yes. We were really screwed. It caught up to us in Paris – suddenly flights were canceled, and it wasn’t clear I could get back to Israel.

And job-wise there wasn’t much to come back to.

Right, no performances or rehearsals. Everything was canceled. That’s also why I’m moving back to Tel Aviv. In Haifa I was part of a group of nine actors sent to live in the Hadar neighborhood, to do creative work in the city.

They wanted to return the bohemian folks to Haifa.

I fell in love with the city; it’s a real downer for me to go back to Tel Aviv.

What was it you fel in love with?

Haifa gave me some quiet and time at home – which I didn’t have before. But when there’s no work, life in Haifa doesn’t have much to offer.

And what does Tel Aviv offer these days?

In our profession, even chance meetings on the street give you something, it’s a reminder that you’re here.

What’s your big dream?

To work every day.

Why are you laughing?

Because that’s a big ambition these days.

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