Myriam’s life journey from Israel to Paris and back again

THERE are two camps when it comes to Israel’s ongoing political mess.

The ‘I’m not voting again because there’s no point’ camp, and the ‘It’s more important now than ever before to vote’ camp.

But, whichever camp you fall in, Myriam Shermer (nee Kalfon) was quick to tell me that, as Israel prepares for a third election in 12 months, everyone is sick of it.

The Israel-born, Paris-raised 35-year-old said, from her car somewhere on the roads of Israel: “I meet a lot of people who tell me they won’t even vote and don’t want to hear about it or waste their time.

“But I also hear people from both sides who are hoping for one side of the debate to quit so that we can move on.

“There really is, this time, a feeling of there not being a fourth time, so I think everyone will go and vote.

“What do I think the outcome will be? Ah, I don’t know.

“I supported Gideon Saar in the Likud primary because I don’t think Benjamin Netanyahu can manage to get the right Knesset numbers.

“There is a feeling on the ground that people will give their best, and Netanyahu is known for surprising people — so who knows.”

The mother-of-two — married to Erez — has been politically engaged her entire life.

Born in the German Colony in Jerusalem, her family moved to Nahariya for her scientist father Avraham’s job.

But when her father landed a job with Michelin, the family moved to Paris, when she was four, which is where she stayed until she was 25.

The move to Paris, she said, was “a real shock”.

“Nahariya was a kind of village back then,” she recalled. “In our first week in Paris, we stayed in a hotel on the Champs-Élysées — I remember watching the floods of cars going round, and it was really different.

“My dad had lived in France as a student, and my mum Yaelle had been an au pair in Paris.

“They had always wanted to go back there, and they both spoke French.

“I didn’t, and they just threw me into kindergarten where I had to learn.

“My parents were also hipsters and wanted to have me go to a Waldorf school.”

Waldorf education, or more commonly known as Steiner education, is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy.

Its teaching methods strive to develop pupils’ intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner.

She said: “Nowadays it’s really trendy, but back then it wasn’t. I was the only Israeli and Jewish kid there — it was very, very different.”

Myriam describes her Jewish upbringing as secular, although she does do the major festivals.

Her mother was brought up on a secular kibbutz, while her father comes from an ancient Moroccan family who made aliya in the 19th century and has religious roots — but she was brought up secular.

“I was more of an Israeli kid than a Jewish kid,” she recalled.

Myriam’s next education move was to take an MA in film, cinema and video studies at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III).

Although she was interested in theatre in high school, she had no idea whether she wanted to have a career on camera, or behind it.

So, rather than finding out, she took a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology at the Université Denis Diderot (Paris VII)

She explained: “I was more interested in the stories, rather than producing images. I was very focused on people — that was my thing.

“The move to psychology was a logical one, and one that came as I matured.”

Upon completing the course, Myriam left Paris — and headed back to Israel.

The decision to move back to her birth country is a “complicated one”.

Myriam had assimilated into the non-Jewish Parisian scene, which also involved having a few non-Jewish boyfriends.

After a certain period of time, she began to feel that living that lifestyle and “making certain choices” would lead her to having a life that was “further and further from Israel, my family and my Jewish identity”.

She said: “I needed to move back to Israel in order to understand all of that.

“I didn’t know how to read or write Hebrew, although I could speak it, and I had no real Jewish education, at all.

“I could easily live within the French/Parisian crowd, but whenever I tried to have a meaningful relationship it was hard — French boys are really nice, but they are really, really different.”

She was so disengaged from Israel at the time that she did not even know about Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Her first 12 months in Israel saw her working as a waitress in a restaurant, which involved 60-hour weeks.

This helped her to pick up the Hebrew skills she needed, and to settle back into life there.

She recalled: “It was the best decision I made.

“I got to work with a load of young Israelis and I just had to learn how to write and read.

“It was exhausting, but I was ecstatic and I was going out in Tel Aviv all the time!”

While Myriam was living life to the full in Tel Aviv, she was also writing a French blog, which she sent to the Jerusalem Post — who swiftly hired her.

Thus beginning a journey into the political and media world she still finds herself in today.

Myriam had a role as acting editor-in-chief for the newspaper’s French edition, news editor for Israpresse — Israeli news in French — as well as roles at i24 News, the Times of Israel and as a French spokesman for an arm of the Likud Party that helped French-speaking new immigrants in Israel inside the party.

“I love politics,” she said, “but I don’t like the tangle that it is so I then went to work for MASA to direct its French-speaking programme.

“I worked for two years with French students who came to Israel. Once my second son was born, I wanted to set up my own business, which is trying to evolve political discourse.

“We have coaching and therapy and other sessions for almost every facet in life, but the minute you switch to politics, people start screaming at each other and it becomes very basic.

“It’s a conversation that hasn’t evolved and I feel that it’s important to connect people to their values, inner experience and their history.

“I want people to be able to make the conversation more understandable.

“I’ve started doing conferences for MASA participants on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but I don’t do hasbara.

“I explain how what I heard at home and how my values changed over time and why I think what I think about the conflict.

“I want to make that link between the inside world, and the outside world.”

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