Very early in the morning of August 1st 2011, one family woke up in their house in Israel and drove to Ben Gurion international Airport. They took a flight to Athens, Greece, their first stop on a one year journey around the world that they want to change.
Oksana and Chami Zemach (42) live in a small village in the Negev Desert in Israel, right near the Israeli-Egyptian border. They moved from Tel Aviv ten years ago to this peaceful corner of the world where most of the people grow extremely tasty fruits and vegetables on brackish water. They founded a small food factory, named "Desert Magic", where they make jams, chutneys and spreads, made of fruits and vegetables that their neighbors grow.
Since they started their factory where all the products are hand-made, many people from all over the world came to see their activity and to hear their story. The ''Zemachs'' shared their story easily with thousands of tourists that came to meet them and they saw that people who meet with them develop better understanding of Israel.
Oksana is a chef and Chami was a marketing consultant. They both studied in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and then got married. Chami is an Israeli born and Oksana immigrated to Israel from Russia when she was 20. They have four daughters: Yulia (21), Gali (13), Tamar (11) and Michal (5). Yulia is a student in Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv studying Criminology. Gali is a young musician. Tamar is a great speaker and Michal … well Michal is the big manager.
Three years ago they decided they want to make greater influence about the way people see Israel. The intriguing moment was when an old French tourist told them, after meeting them and their story in their village: "Why don''t you let more people around the world hear your story. This is the story of Israel!"
Two years later. After a lot of work and dedication to "The Israeli Family Project" that they initiated, they took their family on August 1st 2011, to a long journey around the world to tell The Israeli Family Story to as many people as they can.
Oksana, Chami, Gali, Tamar and Michal, spent 7 months on a most challenging intensive journey through eleven European countries and twenty states in the USA. Yulia, their eldest, stayed for university to finish her degree.
They are very much motivated to bring a normal story about life in Israel to people around the world who want to listen to more than the regular news. They tell their family story focusing on daily life as they discuss the issues that Israeli people are most concerned about in daily life. They believe that if people will have more information about Israel they can understand Israel better. "Most of the people in the world are very much interested in Israel, but what they know about Israel comes mostly from the media, and the media covers – mostly – what we call: ''The conflict'' (the Israeli / Palestinian / Arab conflict). Of course this is an extreme conflict and it is very interesting, but Israel is much more then ''The conflict'' ", they say.
During two years of preparation they made a tremendously huge net of connections around the world and have scheduled hundreds of programs in Europe and in the USA. They actually made it all by themselves.
They are self financed (much more difficult and complicated, of course) and they decided they will meet with anyone who wants to listen. When they visited the USA they met with thousands of people from East to West driving almost ten thousand miles through twenty states as they conducted about two hundred programs in one hundred days. This was after they made about the same intensive plan in Europe.
In the US they visited public and private schools, attended a variety of churches and communities, met with old people and students, pre-school kids and youth movements.
Oksana is giving cooking sessions, usually to groups of women as she believes in a good dynamics between women who cook together. When they cook together they talk about family life and she tells her personal Israeli story and cooks food that she calls "Oksana''s Kitchen". This food she collected through the course of her life. "Israeli food was gathered from so many places in the world that today it is maybe the most variable kitchen in the world", she says: "so is my kitchen".
Chami lectures "The Israeli Family Story". He shows a short movie that the family produced about their life in Israel and then tells the family story, trying to show a new angle about life in Israel to the people who came to listen. He gives a lot of time for questions as he believes people want to know of diverse aspects of Israel. "The questions always take me to new places so even on a hundred time it is never boring for me", he says, "especially children''s questions: they are always so intriguing and new and it takes the best out of my speech".
Gali is a talented young musician. She writes her own materials since she was 8 (!!!) and she also performs with American, British and Israeli rock music. Tamar joins her from time to time when they meet with teenagers to speak about teens'' life in Israel. They both keep contact with the kids they meet through their Facebook pages (Gali Zemach / Tamar Zemach).
Michal is the youngest and she always finds her ways to make her voice count. When they visited East Lansing, MI, she decided that she would like to sing too. Since then she performed in every program that they had when Gali plays the guitar and Michal sings an Israeli song. Of course, this became the best moment of every one of their programs.
When the family visited NYC on last November they were invited to make a program at the "Y" center on the 14th st. They were asked to meet with 5-8 year kids, the youngest they met until then. After they did set the program, one day in advance, they started to ask themselves how they will connect with kids who are so young. Then a new idea crossed their minds and they ''delivered'' a new program that they kept on doing in dozens of programs on the rest of the journey. It is called: "Ten facts about Michal" where Michal and one of her parents, teach the kids about Michal, a 5 years old Israeli girl who they actually meet. The facts give information about Michal''s life: her pets, house, friends, favorite way to spend the afternoon and so on. This program became a great success in so many places around the states.
Now they are in Israel again and they have many plans for continuing the journey to Australia and New Zealand and then to China and Russia.
They also want to expend the project they initiated and they look for funds and for strategic connections to promote their activities. They want to see more families from all over the world join them in making journeys to let people have better understanding of other cultures and societies. There were rumors about some initiatives in the states to name them "Novel Prize nominees" for next year''s prize. "If this will bring the funds that we need, we are ok with this", they say.
"People to people and Families to Families activities are getting people closer easily and that is the best way to bridge the gaps between people around the world" they say now. "In the era of so much information, the place of actually meeting people in person had become more and more important. People want to see by themselves, they want to make their minds alone. They don''t want anyone to tell them what to think. They can decide by themselves and we want to use the opportunity to take part in giving them the information that they need about Israel", they conclude, as they plan their inspiring next steps.
The Zemachs run an active Facebook page named: The Israeli Family, where you can follow them daily. They post on their website: www.il-family.com and they share their story with everyone who wants to invite them for a meaningful eyes-opener activity for a group of people, a community or a working place.
The Israeli Family''s e-mail address is: [email protected]