Jack Havivi has at least two good reasons to celebrate the Fourth of July not only is he American, born by accident in Tel Aviv during a family trip, and raised in New York City, but July 4 is the very day he both met his wife, an Eilat resident named Lior, and then five years later, emigrated to Israel with their one-year-old twins.
Haviviâ€™s grandfather immigrated to Palestine from Russia in the 1920s, changed his name from Lubtchansky to Havivi (which means â€œmy darlingâ€), and opened a music shop in Tel Aviv. His father, Mosa Havivi, studied cello in the Berlin Conservatory and assisted the famous cellist Emanuel Feuermann, who performed all over Europe. During World War II, he was employed by the US government intelligence services as a censor while teaching cello in Panama. Back in New York after the war, NBC radio station offered him a job within the â€œlive orchestra.â€
Realizing he loved to buy instruments as much as he liked to play music, Mosa Havivi opened his music shop in the Carnegie Hall Studios building. In 1965, he decided to pay a visit to his sick mother still living in Israel. Jackâ€™s birth took place one evening during Pessah, and the family stayed in the Jewish state until the end of the Six Day War, before coming back so that Mosa could work in Manhattan.
â€œI never planned to live in the Holy Land,â€ explains the studious-looking katin hozer (returning Israeli-born child). â€œBut from the very beginning, Lior, who had been waitressing in the Big Apple during her summer vacations, made it very clear if a relationship started, it would end in her homeland.â€
During the summer of 2003, Havivi, his wife and children embarked on their new life in Israel, spending two months at his in-laws in Ramat Aviv until they found a quieter, slower and more affordable place in Ramat Hasharon. Havivi got quite used to living far away from his native New York City. â€œIâ€™ve been a carpenter in Philadelphia, a cook and salesman in California and Minnesota. But I try never to compare anything to Manhattan,â€ says Havivi, who lived walking distance from the Dakota Building.
â€œI literally grew up surrounded by violins, breathing the smells of wood and glue, as well as learning to be patient: some cellos need at least six months to be fixed up.â€
After a one-year training program, Havivi joined the family business and learned on the spot how to repair, buy and sell stringed instruments.
â€œTwenty years ago, Israel had one or two famous violin makers, who [worked] for the whole Philharmonic Orchestra. In the violin business, the audience is pretty captive. Now there are currently about 20-25 regular self-employed luthiers, without mentioning the â€˜undergroundâ€™ [violin] makers. But everybody knows somebody to go to. So Iâ€™m starting out here in a very tough market, dealing sometimes with difficult clients,â€ explains the craftsman. â€œFor example, each time I announce the average price for an entry-level violin, which is around $500, I usually hear, â€˜Oy vey!â€™â€
Havivi feels all the more frustrated that he tries to provide a top level service, and to embody a â€œHow can I help you?â€ attitude. He wishes the Israeli violin makers and buyers could get organized to create a quality label. The subject is under discussion. â€œThe profession is still young here, but the musical scene changes a lot. The Russian immigration brought phenomenal talents,â€ he explains.
â€œI have many part-time jobs: Iâ€™m the babysitter, as well as the house cleaner and the chef. I usually get up at 7 a.m., drive my children to kindergarten and my wife, a bookkeeper in Herzliya, to her workplace. My routine is basically to fight against lots of distractions. Itâ€™s hard to work from home. Sometimes I fail in disciplining myself.â€
â€œItâ€™s a lot harder for me than it was in New York,â€ declares Havivi. But most important for him is to live among his tribe, about 35 relatives. â€œI could not stand the idea that the kids would grow up far away from our respective families.â€
Haviviâ€™s workshop is located in the southeast corner of his five-room apartment, right next to his childrenâ€™s playroom. â€œWhen I receive a client, I have to check first that Jonathan and Abigailâ€™s toys have not accumulated all around.â€ The three-story building is overlooking a peaceful street circled by trees and green spaces.
â€œBeing a full-time father tires me out,â€ admits Havivi, who is staying away from the night life. The coupleâ€™s Israeli friends come, not surprisingly, from Liorâ€™s side. â€œI do start to have good relationships with my peers. They are great people. Iâ€™ve been particularly impressed by an American bow maker who lives up in Ein Hod and gained an international reputation, winning numerous contests in France.â€
â€œI still consider myself as an Anglo, who speaks fluent Hebrew, but misses small things: a tasty root beer I finally know where to find some a Cuban sandwich, a Chinese fried chicken at my house 10 minutes after I call them. I donâ€™t miss the whole country.â€
Havivi does regret one thing: not having been able to serve in the IDF. â€œI feel much worse about it than the Israelis themselves, who usually tell immigrants who are â€˜too late,â€™ â€˜stay away from [the military]!â€™â€
Haviviâ€™s older brother by two years, Sol, decided to join the IDF at the age of 20, and since then has lived in Israel. Havivi also mentions that ceremonies surrounding Remembrance Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day â€œin this country are unique, very respectful and honorableâ€¦ In the United States, Memorial Day is just a three-day vacation with a couple of beer parties, nothing really special!â€
â€œMy father never went to temple but he sent me to a small, private Jewish school in New York, where I had to wear a kippa, learn Hebrew, and was expected to show my face in temple at least four times a year. If not, I could get a grade reduction!â€ Havivi recalls. In Israel, since thereâ€™s not such a dilemma, he will let his twins choose their religion. â€œWe are not very observant, but I do think the traditions are something that keeps us together.â€
â€œAt home, we speak Ivrish!â€ Havivi could not dedicate any time to complete ulpan. He likes typical Hebrew expressions, and pronounces them much better than the average American newcomer. But he still finds it very complicated to decipher Israeli newspapers without vowels. â€œAt the age of eight years old, I happened to be much more talented for these kinds of things!â€
Havivi wishes he could stop working in his own apartment, and open a real music shop, with a sign and business hours. â€œIdeally it would be located either next to my home or in the heart of Tel Aviv, right next to the Opera House or on Allenby Street close to everybody else.â€ He also dreams of retiring to the countryside for his golden years.