One might assume that the last several weeks have provided a bit of respite for Tamir Cohen. The Nahariya municipal worker, fresh off the plane from Israel, seemingly comfortably bided his time in Teaneck while chaperoning two 15-year-old swimmers from the rocket-ravaged city in northern Israel. Cohen took Kobi Berko and Morina Korektor to the JCC on the Palisades for swim practice and ushered them about town during their down time, while Kobi and Morina wait to participate in next week’s Maccabi Games this week in Stamford, Conn.
But Cohen, whose wife and two children remained in Israel during his two-week trip, faced an unprecedented challenge on a Tuesday afternoon last week: trying to find his car in the Garden State Plaza shopping center.
"The mall is really, really big. I think my wife would like it more than me," said Cohen in heavily accented English. "It’s also very complicated. You can lose yourself, and it’s not easy to find the car."
Before he came to the States, Cohen’s biggest worry was finding his car — or any car —on Nahariya’s streets. He said that the city, usually teeming, was a "ghost city" when Hezbollah rockets were falling unpredictably. After the first attacks, Cohen brought his two young children to stay with his parents in a safer location, while he and his wife remained in Nahariya to work.
Having already committed to chaperone Kobi and Morina to the Maccabi Games, Cohen left with the two youngsters, and his fair share of reservations, early on Sunday morning.
"I didn’t want to leave my family during this war, but we scheduled to come to the Games before [the war started], and I didn’t want to disappoint Kobi and Maorina," said Cohen. "I’m having a good time here, but my heart is there."
Kobi, who has been swimming for four years, was happy to be in America for the first time, and especially to be competing in Connecticut. "On the one hand, I want to be in America, because it’s safer, but, on the other hand I want to be with my family," he said in Hebrew. Kobi added that he talks with family every day.
When asked last week how things would unfold, Kobi answered — without specifying if he was referring to his hometown’s plight or his swimming — with just one word: "Nitgaber," we will overcome. Perhaps he meant that, after his next trip to the mall, he would find the car.