The young man in the light purple shirt and the small knitted kippa looked awfully familiar. He was sitting in the row in front of us at the chuppa of the daughter of close friends. My wife Jody went up to him. “I recognize you, but I can’t place from where,” she said.
He held out a hand. “Ori Lachmi.” Jody continued her quizzical look. “Maybe from ‘Srugim,’” he offered. “Of course!” she blushed, shook his hand and sat down. I did the same, adding “I recognized you immediately,” although I hadn’t.
Lachmi played the character of Ro’i, doctor Nati’s religious gay brother, on the popular Israeli TV series, Srugim. He had one of the only good roles in the show’s rather dreary second season, creating a believable persona and raising some issues that are usually swept under the unpolitically correct carpet in the God-fearing world.
As the real-life wedding proceeded towards the meal and into the dancing, I kept my eye out for Lachmi. Despite the fact I grew up in California, I’ve never seen – or cared much – about movie stars. The last time I was in the presence of a celebrity, it was David Schwimmer who played Ross on Friends, at a sushi bar and frankly it was no big deal. The tempura didn’t taste any different. But this was Ro’i – from my all-time favorite Israeli show.
“You’re a bit smitten, aren’t you?” Jody commented. “Go up and talk to him.” “What would I say?” I replied. “Anyway, I’d get all flustered with the Hebrew.”
When I got home, though, I did what any good journalist with a crush would do – I googled him. It turns out that Lachmi is a local Jerusalem boy who grew up religious (unusual on Srugim where all the actors playing religious Israelis are actually totally secular).
Lachmi attended the religious Horev schools (where a number of children of our friends go) but got into hot water after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated when he set up a memorial corner without official school permission. He was suspended from the student council for three months and some students compared him with Rabin’s killer, Yigal Amir, saying they “both took the law into their own hands,” Lachmi told Maariv NRG in a 2010 interview.
He subsequently transferred to the Hartman High School (from which our oldest son graduated). Lachmi majored in theater.
As upset as Lachmi was from his treatment at Horev, that wasn’t the last straw. He had received an offer to act in a film and he ran the script by his mother. There was a scene in which he had to kiss a woman. His mother vetoed his participation. It was Shabbat and “after that, I just got up, turned on the TV and turned it off, turned it on and turned it off several times,” he said. “And the sky did not fall.”
Lachmi is now a proud, but ambivalent, datlash – an Israeli acronym for someone who is formerly religious. He still visits his family regularly on Shabbatot, but says he can’t abide by stringent religious laws that require strawberries to be soaked in soap for five minutes or that forbid eating brocoli at all, for fear of ingesting forbidden worms, he told Maariv.
What was his connection to the wedding? His still religious brother is married to the groom’s sister. And, it turns out, I could have actually talked to him without getting tongue-tied – he’s half Anglo (his mother is from Australia). I did the next best thing: I friended him on Facebook. Perhaps I should now go and stalk the other actors from Srugim. I kind of have a crush on Hodaya too…
Srugim returns to Israeli screens later this month on Yes.