The cast: Yuval (36), Debbie (34), Shavit (5.5), Shahar (3.5).
The home: 100 square meters on a plot of a quarter of a dunam (1/16 acre), Ramot neighborhood, one floor, detached, bounded by neighbors (who have already built a second floor), opposite an architecturally challenged ("in the shape of a plane") municipal after-school center. A brick sidewalk leads from the gate to a porch that holds a range of furniture (swing, table, doghouse), after which comes a screen door, then a multi-lock door and a magnet.
Magnet: A wedding invitation - a souvenir from Debbie and Yuval's wedding in 2001. We enter straight into the living room.
The living room: On the right is a dining table with a green top, followed by two sofas, one red, the other blue, both IKEA. Next to the wall is a television stand ("from Yossi in the Old City" of Be'er Sheva) and a bookcase (from Home Center) packed with cookbooks (Kobi Bar, Nira Rousso, Israel Aharoni, Gil Hovav). The walls are in pink, purple and yellow pastels - each a different color. All the color decisions are Debbie's.
Color decisions: "I didn't want to commit to one color," she says, "and it's also practical this way: You can do a 'rotation' without having to do the whole room." On to the kitchen.
The kitchen: Challahs are baking in the oven. Yuval is in charge of the baking. He is also a pastry chef. He takes out chocolate pralines, his latest creation, from the refrigerator. On to the other rooms.
The other rooms: First on the right is a study containing a PC and a laptop. The PC is Yuval's, the laptop Debbie's, and it is decorated with gaily colored stickers, the keyboard included. Close by are two mountain bikes; the blue one is Yuval's, the red one is Debbie's. A corridor (orange), full of hamsa amulets and family pictures, leads to the bedrooms. In the master bedroom is a chain of beads that Debbie is working on; the children's room has two beds, bears on a shelf and sheep on the wall.
Real estate history: They bought the place second-hand in 2002, paying $120,000 with the family's help and also took a mortgage, which they are paying off to the tune of NIS 2,500 a month. If they continue to live in the house for the next 15 years, NIS 60,000 of the mortgage will become a "Negev grant."
Continuing: They're not sure. Although they love Be'er Sheva, Debbie says, they will be happy to live on a moshav (cooperative farming village), no matter where. Yuval does not rule out the possibility of studies and residence in the United States.
Occupations and livelihoods: Yuval teaches biology in a comprehensive high school in Be'er Sheva, working a five-day week. He is also completing a master's degree in medical sciences at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Be'er Sheva and is a facilitator of projects "to raise the percentage of high-school students eligible for a matriculation certificate," which involve school principals and grade coordinators. ("It's effectively a second job.") On top of all that, he leads cooking and baking workshops.
Cooking and baking: A few months ago he completed a course for pastry chefs at a college for chefs in Be'er Sheva. He has recently begun to work in chocolate, too, after completing a course with chocolatier Sima Amsalem from the shop "Sweet Ein Kerem" in Jerusalem. In the wake of this, he gives workshops in baking and cooking in the evenings (from Ramat Yohanan to Arad), getting around in a 1998 Suzuki Swift. He has also given workshops in day camps, and there is something else, too.
Something else: He supports Rubik Danilovich for mayor of Be'er Sheva ("According to the polls, he will beat [current mayor Yaakov] Terner"), though he does not expect a job in a Danilovich administration.
Debbie's occupations: She is a doctoral student at BGU, "researching humor in organizations," and more specifically in educational organizations. Her M.A. thesis was on "the humor of diets." She devotes her mornings to "hunkering down in the library." She also gives a course on "integrating humor into teaching" and is the research assistant of Dr. Izhar Oplatka. In addition, she runs a business called "Encounters with Humor" as part of which she leads "laughter workshops" throughout the country. During the week of our visit she was in Dimona (40 participants) and Kibbutz Hatzerim (teenagers); that night (Friday) she was scheduled to be in Givatayim at a bachelorette party, to give a "chocolate and laughter workshop."
Chocolate and laughter: "If you eat chocolate and drink Diet Coke, the calories are offset." There are also 30 reasons why chocolate is preferable to sex ("It satisfies you even when it's soft").
The children: Shavit is in kindergarten in a local school, takes ballet in the afternoon and this year will start classes at the Bat-Dor dance company. Shahar is in a nursery school run by the Conservative Judaism community (NIS 1,650 a month), which includes hot meals ("real meals"). The parents drop off and pick up the kids, with Grandma's help (Debbie's mother).
Yuval's bio: Born in a depressed neighborhood of Be'er Sheva in 1972 to a religious family ("which grows [religiously] stronger, as I grow weaker"). His parents immigrated to Israel in 1967 from Tunisia in the wake of anti-Jewish riots there. It turns out that following the Six-Day War the mob burned stores owned by Jews there. His father now works in the municipality (the hotline unit); his mother has a spice store. He remembers his childhood as happy ("I lifted a sack of cement in fifth grade"). His father, a charismatic figure, had a stall for cleaning materials in the city's market and also sold in the different neighborhoods from a vehicle ("I was the announcer in the van"). He grew up with his mom's cooking.
Bio (cont.): He attended a religious elementary school, then a comprehensive high school, where he was an outstanding student (36 matriculation units), did the pedagogical track of the officer candidate academic studies program (Kaye College of Education), obtained an undergraduate degree in biology and did his army service in the Education Corps ("I was a teacher noncom"). He completed his service at age 24, did not even think about going to India, and started to teach in a Be'er Sheva high school. He completed a master's degree (in molecular biology) and is now planning to obtain a doctoral degree ("Mom really wants that"). He met Debbie in 1994, on the day of her discharge from the army.
Debbie's bio: Born in Be'er Sheva, 1974. Her late father, from Bucharest (he died in 2005), was a political prisoner during the Ceausescu regime and wrote a book about the period. Her mother is from London. The two of them immigrated to Israel at the end of the 1960s and met in an ulpan (intensive Hebrew course). The family moved to England in 1975 and returned to Israel six years later. Her mother teaches English.
Bio (cont.): Debbie attended a comprehensive high school and sang in the chorus there. She did her army service in Eilat where, she says, she lived it up. A month after her discharge she began studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (sociology and anthropology), but met Yuval before that.
The meeting: 1994, No. 370 bus. She was on the way to the National Induction Center to get her discharge; he was heading for his base, in the north of the country. She got panicky because she thought she had the date of her discharge wrong, he told her what day it was, she calmed down; they have been together ever since. They were married six years later ("We said we would wait - first we would get an undergraduate degree, then a master's").
The wedding: 2001, the Oranim estate near Tel Sheva ("We paid for it with the checks"). The invitation was on a magnet, Yuval's drama group performed skits, the wedding dress was from White Dream in Be'er Sheva, his suit came from the Mashbir department store in Tel Aviv, the rings were from Royalty in the Negev Mall, and the two children were born in Soroka Medical Center in the city.
Soroka: "I hold two records," Debbie says. "It took me 26 minutes to give birth to Shavit and 15 minutes for Shahar."
Daily routine: Yuval gets up first ("6 A.M. at the latest"), has a cup of instant coffee (two sweeteners), checks the computer and takes Sylvie, the Labrador ("We found her on New Year's Eve"), out. He gets back 10 minutes later and at 7 wakes everyone. Debbie has a cup of coffee (same as Yuval's), prepares a bag for the university, does not put on makeup and leaves around 8. Whoever needs the car drops off the children. Arriving in the teachers room, where he is in the minority as a man, Yuval joins the others in a cup of coffee and begins his teaching day. He grabs something at the snack bar for lunch or goes home for chicken and Tivol vegetarian food. Debbie makes do with a sandwich or a salad in a university cafeteria. In any event, she will not forgo her ice coffee ("a must"). She gets home around 3:30 P.M., unless she has a workshop, in which case she will get home late.
Supper: Always a hot meal. The kids are in bed by 8 P.M., and whoever puts them to bed (on a rotation basis) also tells a story. Yuval reads them things he wrote ("But they don't always have the patience for it - there are no illustrations").
Television: They had cable TV until three years ago, when they stopped the service "because the company made the terms worse." They watch (via an antenna) "A Star Is Born" (local version of "American Idol"). Of all the chefs who host programs on the small screen, Yuval likes Haim Cohen best.
Going out: Kramim, a restaurant in Moshav Sgula.
God: Yuval believes ("within certain limits"); Debbie: "If there was anyone who had a hand in the creation, I am of no interest to him."
Household chores: A cleaning woman comes in once a month (NIS 35 an hour), and in between they share the floor washing ("when we have guests"). Cooking is done by "whoever's hungry."
Quarrels: "Grandiose" - Debbie.
Educational orientation: "We almost registered for a Jewish-Arab school," they say. Debbie was for, Yuval against, after anguishing over the idea ("I backed away"). He is actually in favor of homeschooling ("If I had time to stay home").
Dreams: Debbie - to establish a department of humor; Yuval - to open a restaurant on a moshav along the main highway.
Israel: "I don't see myself leaving for good," Debbie says; "I have the 'I have no other country' thing," Yuval says, "but you can support that from outside, too."
Happiness quotient (scale of 1-10): Yuval - 8, Debbie - 12; Shavit - 10.