Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

A welcome from the Prime Minister’s wife

Today I was invited to a ceremony at Solarz Auditorium at  Tel Aviv University.

It was to mark the arrival in Israel of 400 young people, from at least a dozen countries worldwide, who are volunteers in the Tsbar Program which includes learning Hebrew, integrating into society through volunteering and then pre-army training, culminating in serving in ZAHAL — the Israel Defense Forces.

The excitement in the hall was palpable with many Israeli families and friends connected with the young people from overseas, as well as officials from organisations associated with the project.

There”s no question that every Israeli presented with the opportunity to welcome these enthusiastic volunteers felt inspired and actually privileged.They are beautiful to see and most have already finished their first degrees and or have had experience outside of the schoolroom.

Their decision to “leave their comfort zone” was mentioned and their courage to up and come to Israel is admirable.

However, one cannot take way from them the motivation and commitment to Israel and the Jewish people, by suggesting over and over again that they have made a supreme sacrifice.Most of the speakers however did just that. There was also little talk of vision for the future, of which they could be an integral part.

The down side was that the volunteers from Garin Tsabar in the audience, very few of whom understood Ivrit, were submitted to a succession of speakers for whom English, French or even Russian  was beyond their ken.

The upside was that, had they really understood the messages being spewed out, they might have been less motivated.

No one took into account that by taking this step, they were seeking a meaningful life in Israel for the future and not merely serving in the military.

I am not referring to the speakers by name; that would be unworthy, because the members of Garin Tsabar know little about the rights and wrongs of our society and even less about the speakers who took part. Or previous events in history to which they  referred. Tsuk Eitan — the protective edge campaign of last summer — was mentioned as some of last year’s members had been engaged in that war.

Except for the uplifting performance of the Tsofim singers and dancers, there was little to write home about or laugh about, either.

There was a lot of boasting about achievements of the participants from the USA and credit is due, but in nine years of activity was there not anyone from S.America, Europe or Russia who had achieved anything?

There were two highlights of the event. One, a young man who was born in Israel, but went with his family to Australia. He came back on his own and seemingly has a career in the army. He gave advice in both Ivrit and Oz English, stressing the need to learn the language, in order to truly integrate. He also told those present that they should become more like the Israelis. He received a good round of applause. The other was the wife of our Prime Minister, Sara Netanyahu, who is honorary President of the Israel Scouts Association.

Her attendance was announced. She ascended the stage to address the eager audience looking extremely attractive in tight jeans, a casual blouse, and a most flattering new hairstyle. She received a grand welcome.

She managed one sentence in English: “I hug you all and thank you for coming.” She went on in Ivrit to talk about her son who had done Shnat Sherut — service for the community — as a member of the scouts.

She was warm and caring and motherly. It made me wonder why she has not descended from her residence once to talk to those mothers of Israeli boys and girls who are serving in ZAHAL. The mothers who for  over a month have been fasting in a skimpy tent in the sweltering sun, only a heartbeat from her house?

Proud as they maybe of their children, they are only asking for “an end to conflict.”

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.