Hav­ing a ‘gran’ old time

Nathanel Cre­son and Edna Na­hari, his reli­gious Ye­menite-Is­raeli savta, are back­pack­ing through Asia to­gether

The Jerusalem Post - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - • By AMY SPIRO

Nathanel Cre­son is back­pack­ing through Asia. It’s not a par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing choice for a 26-year-old, but many peo­ple are taken aback when they meet his travel buddy: his 74-year-old grand­mother.

Cre­son and his savta – as he calls her – Edna Na­hari, are just about half­way through their four-month ex­cur­sion, and they’re hav­ing the time of their lives.

“With savta, a lot of the lo­cals are very drawn to her for some rea­son,” said Cre­son in a re­cent phone in­ter­view from Ja­pan. “When they see us to­gether they ap­proach us and want to take pictures with us .... She def­i­nitely has brought some magic to the trip that I can­not ex­plain.”

Nei­ther Cre­son nor Na­hari are new­com­ers to in­ter­na­tional travel. Cre­son, who grew up in Swe­den with an Is­raeli mom and a Swedish fa­ther, has lived in Norway, Scot­land, Aus­tralia and Barcelona, and trav­eled ex­ten­sively in be­tween. Na­hari, who now lives in Ei­lat, was born in Ye­men and moved to Is­rael as a small child and grew up in Jerusalem. Cre­son said in ad­di­tion to vis­it­ing the fam­ily in Swe­den many times, she also trav­eled to Africa, Thai­land and other des­ti­na­tions.

“She’s quite ad­ven­tur­ous,” said Cre­son. “But I think a lot of her trav­els have hap­pened in her later years. When she was younger she was a full­time mom.”

So how ex­actly did the un­likely duo de­cide to pair up for four months of what they have dubbed “The Gran Adventure”?

“The idea was born a few months ago when my grand­mother vis­ited me when I was liv­ing in Barcelona,” Cre­son re­called. “I’ve al­ways loved to travel and I asked her just as a crazy ques­tion: ‘Grandma, would you be will­ing to go back­pack­ing with me?’ And sud­denly we both though it was a great idea.”

And it wasn’t hard to get the rest of the fam­ily on board with the no­tion ei­ther.

“My par­ents and my sib­lings were re­ally, re­ally sup­port­ive,” he said. “And my un­cles and cousins, I think they thought it was a fun idea... I think ev­ery­one felt also that savta de­served some­thing like this be­cause she has al­ways given so much to her fam­ily, she is the most pos­i­tive per­son in the world. I think ev­ery­one thought it would be a fun thing for her to do.”

So two months ago they set on their way, and have al­ready vis­ited sev­eral cities in China, South Korea and are now in Ja­pan. Cre­son had been to Asia in the past, “and I know how the peo­ple are, how in­ter­est­ing the cul­ture can be, and I had a feel­ing she would like it here,” he said.

Still, the pace is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than his nor­mal trav­els. “I’m still with my 74-year-old grand­mother,” he said. In­stead of be­ing out all day, ev­ery day, “it’s one big­ger ex­cur­sion a week and it’s a small trip ev­ery day. Some­times we spend the day in the hos­tels and we play backgam­mon to­gether.”

And when they are out and about, they of­ten have unique ex­pe­ri­ences and meet­ings that Cre­son doesn’t think he would have by him­self.

“In China, when I told them I’m there with my grand­mother – I said the word grandma in Chinese – peo­ple were re­ally happy,” said Cre­son. “They sat with us and spoke with us. We could some­times share a snack with some strangers just be­cause they felt that what we were do­ing was beau­ti­ful. This has been the magic of the trip – to have these au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment. This is pre­cisely what I wished for her.”

Their trav­els also take into con­sid­er­a­tion the fact that Na­hari is ob­ser­vant, though Cre­son is not.

“She is reli­gious so... when we can, we do spend our week­ends in the Chabad houses,” he said. “But if we can’t, it’s me and her in the hos­tel, and I make the Kid­dush and she lights the can­dles. She re­spects that I’m not reli­gious, and I re­spect that she is reli­gious. I think this is part of how we are go­ing to un­der­stand each other more as hu­man be­ings, not just as grandma and grand­son.”

And when the duo are done see­ing all that Asia has to of­fer, Cre­son is plan­ning on set­tling down a lit­tle closer to his beloved savta. He in­tends to make aliya and live in Tel Aviv, “a very lively city which I think fits my per­son­al­ity.”

But some­thing tells me he’ll also be mak­ing some fre­quent trips down to Ei­lat.

(Cour­tesy Nathanel Cre­son)

NATHANEL CRE­SON and his grand­mother Edna Na­hari in Hangzhou, China, (left) and in Seoul.

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