Transcending all borders, bachelor takes a wife

FAIR OAKS

Bachelorhood let Kevin Cohen bungee into half a dozen careers, at times practicing law, marketing vitamins, making watches and locksmithing. He has been a benefits consultant, sold real estate and worked as a surgical tech. Marriage was the one career he never contemplated. Growing up in Tel Aviv, Rakefet Bachur also appreciated her independence. She has camped in Australia, hiked in New Zealand, explored Guatemala. She served in the Israeli army, producing radio programs. She didn't know a soul in Tampa when she arrived four years ago. "We accomplished a lot separately,'' she said. "Now we'll grow together."

• • •

Rakefet, now 33, came to the United States to work in the Tampa office of an Israeli medical device manufacturer in June 2004.

"I learned to develop my identity and build a life," she said.

She got involved with organizations like the Tampa Jewish Federation and Jewish National Fund. One new friend, lawyer Mark Wright — Kevin's cousin — invited her to enjoy a Passover seder with his family in May 2005.

There, Rakefet met Kevin's twin, Steven, and their father, powerhouse attorney Barry Cohen. She met his grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins.

"Everybody except Kevin,'' she said.

The family saw a potential fix-up for their avowed bachelor and asked both of them to come to a gala fundraiser for the Children's Museum of Tampa. Once again, Rakefet found herself at a dinner surrounded by Kevin's relatives.

"I compared it to a scene from The Godfather,'' she said.

Unlike some unfortunate Corleones, the Cohens were winners that night. Kevin won the grand prize in the raffle — a 1-carat diamond worth $5,000.

The single guy prepared for the inevitable fish-winning-a-bicycle teasing.

"Just give it to her now," Kevin said his father ribbed him, referring to Rakefet. "My sister Geena called a week later and asked if I had sold it on eBay yet."

"His Aunt Hope said I was his lucky charm,'' Rakefet said.

The lucky winner tucked the diamond away and escorted Rakefet to her car. He asked for her phone number, said good night and called immediately.

"Just checking to see if you gave me your real number,'' he told her.

The couple grew close in the year to come, enjoying long bike rides at Fort De Soto Park and, with friends, Friday night Sabbath dinners featuring Rakefet's matzo ball soup.

Still, a future together seemed unlikely, given Kevin's aversion to marriage. When her visa expired in June 2006, Rakefet returned home to Tel Aviv.

"I was hoping he would come get me,'' she said.

He didn't.

On July 12, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon fired rockets at Israeli border towns, beginning a one-month conflict that took at least a thousand lives.

"It was a very emotional time," she said.

The pair spoke weekly, but never about getting back together.

"It was hard for me to imagine myself married,'' said Kevin, now 43. He wrestled with priorities. Did he want to be alone for the rest of his life? Did he want a wife and family?

He had come to a decision by the time she visited Tampa in May 2007.

Kevin met her plane and soon shocked Rakefet with his declaration of love. They spent the next 10 days reassessing the relationship, he said, "children, when and how many, where to live, all those things."

Come to Israel if you're really serious, she told him.

Tucking the diamond in with his passport, Kevin went to formally ask her parents' permission to marry her. They had a ring designed by an Israeli jeweler and discussed his making aliyah, immigrating to Israel.

For now, they decided, Tampa is home. Rakefet earned a scholarship to the University of Tampa, where she is pursuing a master's degree in management, focusing on sustainable business. She is also a marketing coordinator for BayCare Health System.

Kevin is launching a new business child-proofing homes.

At their March 16 wedding, they danced to Israeli music and ate wedding cake circled with pink cyclamens, the flower called rakefet in Hebrew.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at ascherzer@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3332.

Transcending all borders, bachelor takes a wife 07/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 28, 2008 2:15pm]

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