She says she was an actress first and foremost, taking odd jobs as a restaurant hostess and babysitter just to pay the bills.
At 31, I divorced my husband of five years and found myself struggling to make ends meet, even though I was acting in several plays. I needed to start my life anew, and the desire to fulfil a lifelong dream began to gnaw at me – so I volunteered at an African lion reserve. I scraped together enough money and flew to Zimbabwe.
I lived in the savannah for three weeks and felt great. I discovered that acting wasn’t my only passion and that working in nature was for me. When I returned to Israel, I still hadn’t given up on being a successful actress, but I also knew that I still wanted to work with animals.
She started working at Safari Ramat Gan and was enrolled in zoology and African history when she was offered the chance to become a tour guide and move to Zanzibar for a few months.”I was reluctant at first, but after auditioning for a role in a student production that would have paid nothing, I realised it was a chance to fulfil my African dream. I moved between Zanzibar and Tanzania and was there for almost six months. I made friends with the locals and learnt Swahili.
“Throughout my 20s, I studied Egyptian history at university and realised I could make a living from it, so I started guiding there as well. As time went on, I gradually withdrew from acting until I stopped altogether and concentrated solely on being a guide.”If you think about it, being a tour guide is a form of acting. The audience and the set change, but you’re responsible for writing the play,” she says.
During a relationship with another guide from Zanzibar, an African Muslim man, she became pregnant.
I didn’t want to get married but the idea of having a child with him appealed to me and five months ago I gave birth to our son, Moana. It’s a unisex name and I chose it because I love the Disney character of the same name. It means ocean in Hawaiian and I love the Indian Ocean,” she says. “I gave birth in Israel and took Moana to Zanzibar when he was three months old. I wanted him to have a good childhood and be close to his father.
The arrangement allowed her to continue her career as a guide, with the baby’s father playing a role in the child’s care, as well as her neighbours and even a nanny.
“I live in a nice house and have a full-time nanny. It’s all about community. In Israel, going to the supermarket means carrying Moana, but here the women in the village help with everything. If the nanny is not available, I can leave him with a neighbour who will feed him and play with him. It takes a village.
“Once a month I take a group of tourists around Egypt, and I’m away for 12 days at a time, during which time Moana is with his nanny, the village women or his father, who visits often. When I come back, I’m with him all day, taking him swimming in the pool or the ocean.
I’ve made sure he’s had all the vaccinations he needs, and I’m in direct contact with doctors in Israel when necessary. I speak Hebrew to him, but he only hears Swahili from the others. When he’s old enough, I’ll enrol him in an international kindergarten.
As for my family, they have been very accepting of my choices. My parents are divorced, but my father has remarried and I have a sister. They’ve all been to Zanzibar, they love Moana’s dad and they understand my choices.
“I don’t know how long we’ll be in Africa, but I feel I’m giving Moana the best childhood possible, where kids play outside, not glued to screens. He’s surrounded by nature and a whole village that loves him. “The bottom line is that it’s never too late to make changes. Sometimes they turn out even better than what you originally hoped for”.