Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

A “wow” weekend

On Thursday, May 10th several hundreds of people came together in the elegant and comfortable Residence of the British Ambassador to Israel, in celebration of the 100 Aliyah of British Immigrants to Israel since its inception 70 years ago.

Sadly 30 of those who were recognised for making a significant contribution to the State, are no longer with us.  They included the late  President Chaim Herzog and his brother in law Abba Eban as well as Chaim Weizman without whom there may not have been a State.  Also, 21-year-old Esther Cailingold who came here alone and was fatally wounded during the War of Independence. So too,  Zina Harman the first Israeli Nobel Prize winner for her work with UNICEF, She was also the wife of  Abe Harman who became Ambassador to the USA  and incidentally mother of Naomi Hazan the outspoken peace advocate. Pamela Kaplan a most dedicated human being who dedicated her life to immigrant absorption and especially in later years with the Ethiopian influx. 

Professor Alice Shalvi  educator,founder of Pelech schools and the Israel Women’s Lobby, spoke for the people like me who came in 1949, about the change in Israeli society and expressed her admiration for those of the exBrit community who in many branches of society are propagating the ideals and principles upon which they were nurtured in the old country! Speakers for the evening, included our host the charming Ambassador David Quarry who spoke of cooperation between our two countries. The Leader of the Opposition Yitzhak Herzog whose late Grandfather was the Chief Rabbi of Israel was joined by other warm-hearted and generous people from Jewish News and the UJIA sponsors of the event and a  woman officer and former Ambassador, representing the younger new immigrant, generation. However, they could not possibly reflect the deep emotional bond and drive which brought a handful of us to this place whether through Habonim, Hashomer Hatzair or just on our own. Neither was there any mention of the English speaking Air- Force Pilots and Naval officers who came here during the War of Independence, not only from Great Britain without whom there may never have been a State.

There may have been a reference to the inimitable Ezer Weizman who had been trained in the British Air-Force and headed the fledgling IAF.

Anatoly Sharansky currently, Head of the Jewish Agency spoke mostly about himself. He threw in few words about the 35’s (British)Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry, many of whom made aliyah ahead of the Soviet Refuseniks for whom they had fought unstintingly.Their dynamic and forceful leader Doreen Gainsford, was in the audience.

May the 10th was also the anniversary of the death of my father at the age of 39 only two days after the declared end of WW2 in Europe. He was only 39 and I think would have been proud that I was there, as he was still alive when I joined Hashomer aged 13 and pledged that I would make Israel my home.

On Friday night our family including some from abroad and others new immigrants went to Beit Daniel Reform Shul with my firstborn great-grandson Tal, who was to be Bar Mitzvah the following day. Rabbanit Galia mentioned to all those seated that among the “askarot”(reference to deceased family members) was that of my father.

Later, I had the opportunity to tell Tal about my father and our family.

His mother’s father(who sadly died before he was born) was from a Rumanian family and so was mine. His grandparents on his father’s side were Persian and Eastern European. His grandmother Vivi and her family are of  Egyptian and Italian origin and his SABA who is my son is from British and Spanish Portuguese stock.

Think of the responsibility he has with all that heritage. I did manage to also tell him that the sense of humour and fun in our family also came from my Dad.

The following day he performed like a prince. He exuded confidence but also modesty, serious and yet every now and again a flashing smile as if to say”I am really enjoying this” and so did we.

In the evening on the roof of his grandparents’ home, a great bash was held with almost all of the food home cooked.

How fortunate we all were that the rain clouds disappeared. Later when people arrived home or dashed to public places with huge TV screens to enjoy another Eurovision knife edge final,  Netta from Israel came in at first place with an incredible public show of confidence from around the world.

That was a weekend not to be forgotten.





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.