Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

An ‘Easy Jet’ back to Israel

I’ve just spent an illuminating three weeks in my birthplace Great Britain.

Apart from meeting family and the few friends who remain there, my mission was to “feel out” how people in the wake of Brexit and the triumph of Trump, relate to the Israel Palestine conflict notwithstanding the sympathy evoked by the horrific outburst of forest fires, which was only at the end of my stay.

Also as I am an active member of the Women Wage Peace movement and as such interested in expanding contacts all over the world. The camaraderie which exists among women is universal. We have so much in common far more that unites rather than separates.

On arrival at Luton on a Wednesday night after a pleasant flight on easyJet, I was mortified to find that my baggage had not joined me! After an unsuccessful search at close to midnight, the few bleary eyed officials still remaining at the otherwise deserted airport convinced me that I should make a complaint. That would be forwarded to those responsible at Ben Gurion airport where they assured me, it was not unknown for random baggage to be removed for security checks.

With only the clothes I stood up in and a few pills which I had put into my hand luggage I was transported in a heated car by my son to his comfortable home, in the exquisite countryside of Hertfordshire.

The following day said son spent several hours of his working day trying to extract some information as to the whereabouts of the suitcase and if I would ever see it again?

It was Thursday it was freezing and wet and I had a family wedding to go to at the weekend. There was nothing we could do but take the only option and go search for warm clothes in the high quality Charity Shops in their area. I was kitted out in style for the next few days.

On Saturday night we finally collected a battered and bruised suitcase at Luton whose contents had not been disturbed and so I could continue with my plans. We have yet to find out what really happened and also to receive compensation.

For the past twenty years at least I have not only not felt at home in England even in my London, but also have had to face unwelcome criticism of my country.

This time it was different. My British ‘stiff upper lip’ friends were extremely despondent about not only the future of Britain but also of the entire Western world.They fear that democracy is threatened and with weak leadership if any in the UK, their fears are compounded.

The Israel Palestine conflict??? Well no it’s not world shaking, it’s a local problem in an Arab dominated part of the world where there is chaos in which they dare not even intervene.

The only ray of hope for me was that I met fascinating women who are involved in international organisations seeking women’s rights and freedoms and are exhilarated at the thought of Israeli women of all stripes and Palestinian women, standing together in common cause.

I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm.

Further more it felt like a game change. Those who were either pro Palestinian and or anti Israel have had the wind taken out of their sails

One of the most impressive women was Ahlam Akmad a Palestinian who was born in Nablus,educated in different parts of the world and living permanently in England who still longs for home. We both had tears in our eyes when we talked of “the land” so dear to us. She spends her time working for the rights of British Arab women helping their integration and adaption to western life.She feels that we represent that window of opportunity which sadly someone, namely leaders on both sides keep closing.

She also maintains that we need a defined objective.

One outstanding woman who came from Hampshire to London to meet me on the South Bank of the Thames was Lizzie Brightwell a member of EEPNI which sends out observers to conflict zones. We had actually met last year on the West Bank of the Jordan at the Bedouin encampment of Suissa which is under threat of evacuation.

“Have you been to the Globe Theatre” she asked.

I told her that during my childhood in London I had indeed and she took me there to spend a wonderful few hours. After a guided tour we sat on benches in the round and were transported into the medieval world of the Bard as Shakespeare was called. Groups of schoolchildren were arriving all the time as it was the run up to the Xmas holidays. They took part in mini drama workshops and so every few minutes another group of multiethnic students from four years old to teenagers would climb up on the stage and perform “one line” with gusto.

Hearing the sounds on the audio visual display in the museum being transposed into that time the early dawn of theatre, I was once again that girl who loved the English language and whose only ambition in life was to act.

I suddenly felt at home in my London with my Shakespeare and all that my English upbringing had given me.

I welcome the multi ethnic society that can live in peace. That can be absorbed like my people were so many many years before. My grandparents who arrived penniless from the Ukraine with 5 kids and not a word of English.

I think that was why as an Israeli who literally left all of that at the age of 18 to purse my greater dream of a life in the fledgling state of Israel,the despondency of my dear English friends, was ever more profound.

One had talked of a “body blow” the other that “everything is up for grabs” How very not British!

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.