I met Avi, Dikla, and Tamar Starr last year at the MSUD Symposium in Raleigh, NC. Tamar, classic MSUD, was 2 ½ at the time, and they invited me to come to Israel and stay with them for a year. I laughed it off, thinking they were just joking, but I gave them my number so we could keep in touch. Avi messaged me on WhatsApp a few times, sending me pictures and telling me how they were doing. One day in early June, he called (at a time when the time difference wasn’t so bad) and asked me when I was coming to Israel to stay with them. I was surprised, I hadn’t expected him to really mean it, but he said I should come for 2, 2 ½ months and that I could stay at their house with them. I gave the phone to my mother because I didn’t know what to do, I had never considered the possibility that I could agree to a vacation like this without seriously planning it in advance and figuring out logistics like what I would do if I got sick, or how I would get my formula there. My mother got off the phone with him and it was immediately decided that I would go to Israel for 6 weeks. I was blown over. It was quite a whirlwind, I have to say, to be able to agree to something like that so quickly.
I had to go soon since my school started August
28th. So within the next two weeks we got a ticket
for me to fly to Israel on July 6 arriving the next
day, and coming home on August 15th. My doctor
Melissa Wasserstein, MD was supportive of my trip.
She called the metabolic doctor that Tamar uses,
Dr. Stanley Korman in Jerusalem, to let him know
I was coming in case something happened, and
between her and my parents, I figured out how to
get enough formula in advance so I could leave the
country with close to two months’ supply.
Unfortunately I ended up getting sick on the fourth
of July, and my levels were too high to travel so I
had to push my flight to Israel back a few days. My
levels came down quickly, and I was cleared to go
by my doctor.
I was all kinds of nervous on my way to the airport.
It wasn’t flying by myself that scared me, I’d done
that plenty of times before. What if they didn’t like
me?What if I couldn’t communicate with them? I
only knew a few words in Hebrew, and they had 3
kids other than Tamar, who by now was 3 1/2, none
of whom knew English. What if I got there, and was
there for a week or two, and they realized they
made a mistake and didn’t want me there? But
everyone was all smiles when I got there and I soon
found out how to communicate (more than I first
could) with their older kids, Noa and Maor, who
don’t have MSUD, and Tamar, for the most part. I
was able to talk to Noa (9 years old) with the help of
Google Translate, and Tamar using the few Hebrew
words I knew. Most of the time I could figure out
what they were saying and some of the time I had
to ask Avi or Dikla. Their youngest, Roi, was easiest
because he was only 2 months old. I learned a few
words every day (or almost every day) while I was
The part that sent me panicking, for a bit, was the
food. Avi and Dikla count protein for Tamar, while
I count leucine. They don’t have a book that tells
them what is what, they just go by the food labels
on wrappers. While I sort of do that, too, the food
was a bit different in Israel and I got very confused,
very fast, with how I was supposed to eat. With time
I became more comfortable.
Their house was very nice in Ashdod, just a couple
blocks away from the beach on the Mediterranean
Sea. Ashdod is a big city, and I’m sure I never even
saw half of it. It was also very, very hot.
The first weekend I was there, we went to Jerusalem
where we saw Sarah and Yossi Dworcan from
Florida, who were in Jerusalem with their son, Eli
(2, Classic) Other Israeli MSUD families came, too.
It was us (me, Tamar, Noa, Maor, Roi, Avi, and Dikla
Starr), Eli, Sarah, and Yossi, Shiri and Miki Widezki
and their daughter (Noy, 14, Classic) and two sons,
an Indian couple named Hetal and Jet Gheravada
with their son (Krish, 4 months, Classic), and Faigy
Paretzky and her son (Yona, 7, Classic). It was a lot
of fun and wonderful as always to meet up with
The Starrs also drove me into the Negev (desert) an
hour away to Kibbutz Dvirah where Naftali and Eden
Zer, and their daughter Rotem (16 months, Classic
MSUD) live. I loved being able to visit them, and soon
I went back by train so I could spend a few days with
them. I also took the train to Haifa to spend a day with
my visiting cousins, and from Haifa I went to Tzfat to
stay with Yuval (22, Classic) and her older brother and
mother at their house. Avi had told everybody I was
in Israel from the minute I landed, and gave me her
mom’s number so I could get in touch with her and
figure out travel arrangements.
My mom wanted to take me to Israel but wasn’t able
to because of work. Instead, she came on August
4th, about two weeks before I was going to leave.
We stayed in Ashdod for a couple days and had a
wonderful Shabbat dinner with the Starr family. Then
we went down to the Kibbutz because Eden wanted
to meet and talk to my mother. We have cousins who
live in Metulla, up north on the border of Lebanon,
whom we haven’t seen in a while and we traveled
there to visit them. Our cousin Yael told us all about
how the family moved to Metulla in the late 1800s
and cultivated the land to grow the beautiful olive
trees, peach tress, fig trees, and apple trees that are
there. We went to Haifa and did the Bahai’i Gardens
tour (forgetting to bring water bottles!), and I showed
Mom a restaurant there I had been to and liked (the
hummus was awesome!).
Next we went to Jerusalem. A family friend lives there,
and he was really wonderful to us, driving us places,
and letting us use his apartment so I could make my
formula using the blender Avi and Dikla had let me take
on the road with us. He also picked up the Gheravada
family and brought them to his apartment for tea. It
was wonderful getting to talk to them and know them
better and understand more of what was going on with
them. Noa Peleg (17, Classic) and her family traveled
to Jerusalem to see us and treated us to a wonderful
dinner in a restaurant overlooking the Old City. In Tel
Aviv, where we stayed next, Miki Widezki arranged for
us to stay in a hotel, and the entire family came to spend
an afternoon with us there. And then, sadly, my trip
came to an end.
It was wonderful to see how well connected these
families were, to spend time with them, and talk about
how we were all doing. I can’t wait to go back!
My Trip To Israel