The encounter: I came to Ofer’s store to buy a new lens filter. His is one of the few remaining stores in Tel Aviv that still sells camera equipment. It is located in the old city center, now a somewhat seedy neighborhood. Ofer joked that his store neighbored a brothel. We got to talk, and when I explained my project, he agreed to an interview.
What are you doing here right now?
This is my store. My father passed it on to me. He opened it in 1976. We now run it together.
How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I’m God-less! I’m just joking. I appreciate tradition, but I’m against the religious establishment. I see it as a way for people to line their own pockets.
Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I have two younger brothers. One works in the diamond industry, the other works in sports. I now live with my girlfriend in Tel Aviv. But until recently, I lived at home to help my parents because my father is in a wheelchair.
Where is your family from?
My father immigrated from Persia, in 1950, when he was 10 years old. He is from Darab, a town not very far from the Pakistani border. Those first years in Israel were very difficult. My grandparents had a large family and no money and food. When my father was twelve, he was placed in a kibbutz. That’s why he is very different from his brothers: they are all traditional [masorti], but he became secular.
My mom converted to Judaism and immigrated to Israel in 1979. She came from a very Christian Dutch family. She and her sisters were all sent to Israel to learn Hebrew. She met my father in the kibbutz. Her father had been a resistance hero during the war. He was Frisian. They were from a village in Friesland [in the north-eastern Netherlands], where my grandfather was the mayor. We used to visit a lot when I was a child.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I hope the level of education here will improve, because this society is becoming increasingly stupid. It’s sad. You can feel it in people’s attitudes. People are more narrow-minded; less accepting of others. People who themselves are of Iraqi origin will say things like “death to the Arabs!” without realizing that they themselves are Arabs of Jewish origin!
Bibi [Netanyahu] is a charlatan- a very smart one - and he runs the whole country for his own profit. I’ll vote for whoever who can rid the parliament of corruption. It’s the corruption that is causing war and widening the wealth gap. The rich are getting rich and the rest is getting poorer. Just like in the US.
But I don’t align myself with either the right or the left. The only thing I know to be constant is death. Except for that, everything is changeable and subjective. I don’t agree with foreign media opinions of Israel. When I read the New York Times, it’s as if people look at you through some filter of their own biases. You can also see it in the UN resolutions. They have denounced Israel, but not North Korea, China, Turkey, Iran, or Iraq... How is that possible? Are we the only bad guys?
All in all, it’s good to live here. I can’t imagine living in anywhere else. I like visiting Holland and the US, but I’d go crazy living there. But I have applied for a Dutch passport. Just in case.... There are two things I’m afraid of: I find it difficult to let go of the idea of Israel as a Jewish country. Maybe it’s because I’ve been indoctrinated with all this talk about the Holocaust and how the Muslims don’t like us. Maybe I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t want there to be a Muslim majority here. It scares me.
My second fear is that this country becomes a fundamentalist Jewish society. It’s basically the same fear. I’m afraid of all religious fundamentalism, either Jewish or Muslim, because people who think in absolutes don’t look you in the eye: you can’t reason with them. They have some ultimate truth in their mind that cuts them off from humanity.