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Secrets of a Thursday night Stepford wife

Cracking Israel's subculture of transatlantic couples

The transatlantic commuting population in Israel has soared in recent years into an impressive subculture within Israeli society. Many immigrants, mainly from the United States, choose to keep their jobs in the States and travel back and forth, some every week, leaving for the States late Sunday night and returning to Israel on Thursday evening.

Imagining the difficulties and complexities involved in living with a transatlantic commuting husband, I decided to investigate the extent of the toll it takes on a wife living with such an arrangement. I had an opportunity to discuss what it is like to live with a commuting husband with a woman who recently immigrated to Israel with her three children, as well as to observe her over a period of time in an investigative capacity. For reasons you will soon find obvious, fictitious names were used to protect the identities of the people involved in this exposé. The following is my eyewitness account.

The night is slowly approaching and Sara has done all she can to make things right. The pressures are great when your husband is constantly commuting the 6,000-mile route to a job in the States. It seems commuting husbands imagine that life is set to “pause” while they are away and fancy an ambiance of perfection upon their return. For tactical reasons, Sara allows her husband to indulge in this fantasy.

Her homemaking prowess intensifies each Thursday morning in anticipation of Avraham’s impending return. The heck with the rest of the week; she’s refined her procrastination skills to the level of an art form. It’s not a character flaw, it’s a lifestyle alternative: she simply works much better under duress. And so, in the space of the last few hours prior to her husband’s return, the house is scrubbed, the laundry done, dinner prepared; everything is readied for Shabbat, the gas tank is filled, and she finally waters his plants, which inexplicably revive despite a week of torturous neglect. Yes, she’s a regular Stepford wife. Or, at the very least, she’s quite the actress.

“You see,” confesses Sara, “I am hardly the proverbial homemaker.” She explains that when Avraham is away, she dawdles, she dallies, she mucks about, she basks in clutter, and she’s scientific — and utterly literal — about sweeping everything under the carpet. Sara has also discovered that the dryer makes a great last-minute catchall. Her closets are in a perpetual state of open-at-your-own-risk -– way too many skeletons. I spy a reminder post-it note — “REINFORCE HINGES!” — next to one closet door that bulges ominously at the seams. Visitors are encouraged to sign a waiver. But, by hook or by crook, come Thursday evening Sara manages to pull off the flawless-home façade -– a masterful deception!

(Tip: Forget the music… the aroma of freshly fried onions on the stovetop, combined with a flowing scent of Chanel and a violent action movie in the DVD player, soothes the savage beast.)

All you lovers of wet, slimy things, fret not, for during his furloughs to his home in Israel, Avraham has been occupying his down-time building a fishpond in the front yard. “Those fish in the pond have indeed been fed,” Sara boasts, maintaining the spirit of her charade. No thanks to her, of course, but rather to the expert care provided by one of the neighborhood boys, whom she has just today cleverly employed as her “pond boy” due to the wave of warm weather that has swept over central Israel these past few days. Sara explains, “Once the cold winter weather sets in, the fish are not fed since they hibernate.” Now that’s a gripping detail you don’t come across everyday, I say to myself. As Avraham’s wife, Sara is steadily enchanted with oodles of fishpond trivia. And “yes,” she says, “I feign fascination while mentally retreating into another world. Did you even have to ask?”

Regrettably, I discover that until the hired pond-boy sloshed onto the scene, the pond suffered a few casualties under Sara’s tutelage. “No matter,” she says with a dismissive wave of the hand, “Avraham will be coming through the door any moment now; the props are in place and the curtain will be going up. No need to even mix a Martini –- he prefers Scotch on the rocks. I take it straight up,” she admits, “a requisite for success. My performance, as always, will be impeccable!”

“So, what’s for dinner?” I ask.

Fried fish, of course. Sara never skips a beat.

About the Author
Author of THE GILBOA IRIS (Gefen Publishing House) and SETTLING FOR MORE: FROM JERSEY TO JUDEA (Urim Publications).