Israel Story

Round Trip

Many of us would normally be on the move around this time of year. But 2020 has been everything but normal. So today, we bring you two less-than-normal travel stories about people going back home—but doing so having gained a new understanding of the place from which they come.

December 29, 2020

We often need to go far away in order to fully appreciate what we have in our own backyard. That was definitely the case for the Israelis we will meet in today’s episode—whether they were returning from mushroom picking in Bulgaria, living it up in Southern California, or pretending to live on the next planet over.


In the prologue, “Flights,” host Mishy Harman and new producer Marie Röder visit an empty arrivals hall at Ben-Gurion Airport, where they shadow the duo behind one of Israel’s most popular newspaper columns.

Act I: “See Ya.” In July 2018, Chaya Gilboa—a social activist and Talmud teacher—packed her bags and left her beloved native city of Jerusalem. Along with her family—her husband, Marik, and their two young sons, Michael and Avshalom—she relocated to San Diego, where Marik was offered a postdoc position and Chaya landed a great job at an amazing foundation. They quickly settled into the SoCal lifestyle, and the boys loved their new kindergarten friends. Everything seemed good. Then COVID-19 arrived, and with it a heightened sense of foreignness and longing. A written version of this story was first published in Hebrew in MitzpeThe Hannaton Educational Center’s Journal, Issue No. 3. For Chaya’s previous essay on Israel Story, check out Ep. 3, “People of the Book” (Act II: “The Most Beautiful Book Ever Written”).

Act II: “Permission to Land.” Make-believe isn’t, of course, just for kids. In an ambitious “extraplanetary” project, managing producer Zev Levi followed six Israelis who entered a small container in the middle of the Negev Desert and pretended they were on Mars. For 11 action-packed days, they kept this elaborate analog fantasy alive. But when it was time to return back to Earth? Well ... everything, ironically, felt alien.

Zev Levi and Yochai Maital scored and sound-designed the episode. Sela Waisblum created the mix. Thanks to Abby Neuschatz, Scarlett De Jean, Anna Correa, Niva Ashkenazi, Judah Kauffman, Dr. Hillel Rubenstein, Jackie Faye, Hadas Nevenzal, and Alon Shikar. The full songs played in the episode are “Yotze El Ha’Or/Ha’Shvil Ha’Zeh (Going Out to the Light/This Path) by Ehud Banai, and “Nag’aa Ba’Shamaim” (Touched the Heavens) by Mashina.


Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.

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