From left, Marie Pele, 20; Amela Secretin, 20; and Thibaud Fourier, 21; live in Istanbul and arriving from there
Hello, can I ask how your flight was?
Marie: It was all right, but we waited two hours in security to get into Israel.
Thibaud: They asked to see our Facebook [accounts], and they didn’t think it was cool that I have a lot of posts about refugees and France’s colonial policy. They asked me a lot about that.
Marie: They showed me his Facebook page and asked me if I agree with the posts.
Thibaud: I wasn’t afraid, but I thought it was odd.
Are you old friends?
Thibaud: No. We came to Istanbul from three different schools in France through Erasmus, a student exchange program of the European Union.
Amela: But all three of us grew up in the Brittany region, and we’re political science students.
Thibaud: I hope to get into theater or music.
Then why politics now?
Thibaud: To make my parents happy.
And are they happy?
Thibaud: They’re pretty happy at the moment, but life is full of adventures and I hope to make myself happy, too. In the meantime, I’m studying in northern France, in a place called Amiens.
Why the sour face?
Thibaud: It sucks. It’s cold and ugly there.
Amela: It’s a lot prettier and warmer in Brittany.
Thibaud: It’s known all over the world; we have a lot of pride in the local culture.
What does the local culture include?
All three: Drinking.
How do you get along in Istanbul?
Thibaud: So far it’s terrific, I feel very comfortable there, and we definitely don’t feel hated.
Marie: I feel that we are very welcome. Sometimes people might give us strange looks because we look different, but that doesn’t happen much.
Amela: Everything is calm, relatively, in Istanbul, and studies are a lot less stressful than in France.
Marie: Part of that is because the classes are in French. If we were studying in Turkish, it might be harder.
Studies in French at the university?
Thibaud: There was partnership between France and the Ottomans hundreds of years ago, and there are still universities and schools teaching in French in Istanbul. It’s usual for the rich to send their kids to a Francophone high school.
Amela: I feel safer in Istanbul than I do in France. In Istanbul, if I come home at night alone, I’m not scared, not like in Paris.
Thibaud: There are a lot of weird people in Paris – thieves, pickpockets. It’s a lot more dangerous.
Marie: Every place can be dangerous.
Thibaud: In Paris, people are really dangerous.
Marie: But there’s a certain feel of the patriarchal [in Istanbul].
How is that expressed?
Marie: Lively nightlife, cafés where you can drink and play backgammon, even hair salons, but after 9 o’clock there are no women on the streets. Certainly not older ones, maybe sometimes someone young.
How long will you be in Istanbul?
Marie: Until June. I think I’ll leave when school ends.
Amela: We’re allowed to work in Istanbul, but it isn’t really relevant.
Thibaud: It’s really hard there if you don’t know Turkish.
Marie: But I’ll definitely go back as a tourist.
Why did you decide to come to Israel?
Marie: There were tickets for 100 euros, so we said why not. I mean, I suggested it and they agreed.
Do you know what you’ll be doing here?
Marie: We’re planning to visit Jerusalem, Ein Gedi and maybe Masada.
Thibaud: Could you write in Hebrew for us on these cardboard signs?
Are you serious? Those are hitchhiking signs – no one hitchhikes in Israel.
Marie: It doesn’t matter, write “Jerusalem” and “Stalactite Cave,” because we want to visit there, too.
Okay. Do you at least know where you’ll be sleeping?
Marie: It’ll be fine, we’ve already done this. We’re friends and we’re together.
From left, Yoram Snir, 51, lives in Tel Mond; Boaz Elgar, 51, lives in Beit Hanania; Guy Greenberg, 51, lives in Hod Hasharon; flying to Cape Verde
Hello, can I ask what you’ll be doing in Cape Verde?
Boaz: There are great conditions there for big-wave surfing, windsurfing and standup paddleboarding. Both wind and waves.
Guy: We were supposed to go to Cape Town, but the weather was bad, so we decided on the spot to go to Cape Verde.
Boaz: When you get up in the morning and you’re surfing while someone else is stuck in traffic, you know you’re in the right place. Even if it’s January and there’s hail, it’s still fun.
Both cold and wet – where’s the fun?
Boaz: Surfing forces you to be present in the moment – extreme sports in general does that. It’s like meditation, you can’t think about work or troubles.
Yoram: The combination of adrenaline with being in nature – there aren’t many things like that.
Boaz: We surf every year, 15 years now. Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa, Peru and Mexico.
Where do you know each other from?
Yoram: High school, from the age of 13-14.
Boaz: We were in the sciences and mathematics track.
Yoram: Since then we’ve met for supper once a month … or two.
How do you keep up a friendship for so long?
Yoram: We send topics for conversation.
Boaz: We learn to accept each other and not be judgmental.
Guy: We give in to one another.
Boaz: Especially when it comes to ego.
Yoram: We find shared hobbies, even though we have very similar interests as it is.
What’s the role of each member of the group?
Yoram: Tell me if you agree, but I’m the one who sets the boundaries, I’m the focused one.
Guy: I’m here to amuse, create the atmosphere, and Boaz is the intellectual.
Boaz: I talk about the meaning of life, about slowing things down big-time.
Guy: Boaz is our mentor.
What does Boaz actually say?
Boaz: At the philosophical level, there are two relevant laws. The First Law of Thermodynamics says that no energy and no matter have been formed since the Big Bang, and the second says that nothing stops, energy only shifts from one state of entropy to another.
Guy: Energy is conserved.
Boaz: We live for a short period on this planet.
So, is there an operative recommendation?
Boaz: While we are here on Earth, we should enjoy ourselves and contribute.
Yoram: At some point you understand that there is no second round.
Boaz: Life is not a dress rehearsal.
Guy: Until this age, we’ve been focused on career and family, maybe now is the time for personal fulfillment. You can’t live in a race all the time.
What does your cage in the race look like?
Yoram: We tend to say that, in the future, if you don’t work in high-tech, you’ll work for someone who does.
How are things in high-tech?
Boaz: No complaints. We started years ago and were in the right place at the right time – it was just starting. We caught the wave.
Yoram: There’s no posturing or pompousness in the industry, it’s accommodating and levels things out. The social mobility is absolute. It doesn’t matter where you were born, what you did, what you studied – from that moment on you’re in the 90th percentile and up. There’s nothing like it.
A techno-utopian. Sounds ideal.
Boaz: If we’re talking about the ideal, I want to thank our wives in all of our names for letting us take this trip. We appreciate it, it’s not trivial.
Yoram: We appreciate it, and we thank them.
Boaz: We better not slip up here.
Yoram: Could the thanks appear at the top?