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Diana and Rob Sealtiel

Diana and Rob Sealtiel

Diana and Rob Sealtiel

Diana is originally from Long Island but immigrated to Israel at the age of 23. She is a retired Genealogist and English teacher. Rob is originally Dutch, a holocaust survivor and a retired businessman, who also lived on and off in Israel, until he finally relocated about 25 years ago. I met Diana and Rob at the Uptown diner Tweet to share a brunch and talk about life.

What is happiness for you?

Diana: For me, happiness is love, family, security, enough money to be secure. And to know that I’m helping other people, that’s also very important. Whatever I’m working in, I like to know that I’m helping other people.

Why do you want to help other people?

Diana: I am not here alone, I don’t live in a vacuum. If other people are happy, or if they have a meaningful life. To be really happy you need to have a meaningful life. If I help other people have a meaningful life, if they feel good, then my life is more meaningful.

Happiness is less important than having a meaningful life. Sometimes they go together, other times not.

What advice would you give a young person beginning his or her life right now? Something you learned from your experience that you wish to pass on.

Rob: They have to do something in life they enjoy.

Enjoy? You mean to have fun?

Rob: No, I mean doing something meaningful in life, that fits you. We, as parents, we start to program our children from the moment they are born. That is the first thing they need to push out of the way. I also did it, it’s a mistake. I’m also telling young people who are going to be parents not to do that… I also told that to my daughter, who thought her newborn was autistic. I told her not to panic, because also Einstein was autistic. I told her to let the children be. To express themselves, to do the things they like to do, if they jump from one thing to another, then let them.

Why do you think many people are unhappy?

Diana: One of the first lessons I learned, is that money does not buy happiness. When I was 12 I had a good friend from a very wealthy family, and she was miserable.

Rob: People have unrealistic expectations.

Diana: I agree, it could be from themselves, it could be from others.

Rob: There are really poor people who are happy, it depends on what you expect. If you expect your son to be a doctor, and he chooses to be a mailman.

Diana: He may be happy doing what he’s doing, but the parents are not happy.

Rob: He walks outside in the sun, meets people, he’s free to do other things he likes. But his parents who wanted him to be a doctor are very disappointed in him. People are making other people unhappy, because they behave in a way that doesn’t fit their expectations.

Let’s go to something a little bit more metaphysical. Do you believe in God, a higher principle or power?

Diana: The answer is yes. I look around me, I look at nature and people, they are so complex, I don’t think they are random. I don’t believe in randomness or coincidence. There has to be some order. I also don’t believe in some guy on the clouds. But there is some higher being, whatever that is.

So why do you think there are so many bad things happening?

There are many things we don’t understand. There’s a much bigger picture than we can’t see as individuals. For example, when I think about the holocaust, maybe it had to happen for Israel to be created or for Jews to rethink their lives. Maybe the world needed a big big tragedy, we needed to sacrifice ourselves for the world to see it cannot be like this. Unfortunately, it did not work, because people have short memories.

Can you share an experience that has made you better as a human being?

Diana: Coming to Israel. Because when I came to live in Israel, I understood better. I was always proud to be Jewish, but when I came to Israel, I understood what it means to be part of something bigger. And it is important for me, and I think for many people as well, because you’re not only living for yourself, you’re living also for your people, for your country, and you feel really a sense of belonging. It gave my life more meaning.

Rob: There were several moments in my life where I was put with my nose in the facts. I was confronted with reality. It started from the very first moment I started living. As a 2 years old I was taken away from my parents, and brought somewhere. I was never a toddler. I was holding with two hands anything that offered me security.

But I became a better person after the Yom Kippur War, because I was always a very angry young man. And when I saw my fellow soldiers laying in their own blood, in the middle of nowhere without their parents, without family, and we left them there because we had to move on. Then I thought of my own family during the war. And there I had a nervous breakdown, and I thought I was fighting the Nazis, not the Syrians.

After 2 years of therapy I understood that you don’t want all this s*** from my first moments in life, and I had to be more real. To be a real person. Not to hide yourself, say what you are, what you feel. But you can hurt somebody without them understanding what you mean.

So the next step was to be able to also hold this in, and this happened when I met Diana. When I met her I realized I had to change.

You have to ask yourself Who Am I? Why am I so angry? The moment you give that a place, that is the moment you are able to change. Slowly you teach yourself to understand that the butterfly can create a hurricane. If you don’t fly you don’t create a hurricane, but you die. You have to find the middle way.

People from 10,000 years ago had the same instincts we have, we live in our cave, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s still a cave. This is my food, these are my things, not yours. Later, in life, you see somebody homeless, somebody poor, somebody sick, you feel compassion, not because you have the illusion that you can help them really, but you want to do something that will give them a momentary relief. Usually when you are young you don’t care about that.

Why is that?

Because you understand it could be me. I could be there. You realize that as you get older.

Diana: The way you start and the way you end up, there’s no connection between the two necessarily.

Rob: I don’t know how it is today but the American life used to be all about running after money, and people jumped out of buildings in the financial crisis of the 1920’s. Why? Is life not livable anymore if you don’t have money?

Diana: The question is, what gives value to people’s lives?

We feel that we are very rich, and it doesn’t have anything to do with money. People don’t understand what being rich means. Being rich is about having family, someone who loves you.

Rob: It’s about not having unrealistic expectations. And to enjoy the moment.

Diana: to wake up every morning and be grateful for what you have and not to be unhappy for what you don’t have. And you can say it out loud: I am so grateful for what I have.

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