Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Are our hands tied or our minds?

Watching the horrendous scenes on our TV screens the past few days is heartbreaking. Even more heartbreaking is reading the comments in TOI after Head of the Opposition Itshak Herzog appealed to the government to help to alleviate the Syrian refugee situation by providing a haven for those on our borders and in particular those who have relatives here.

Enough has been said about our obligation in the context of what happened to us as a people in recent history. We know that the world turned their backs on the Jews of Europe prior to the decimation of a people whose only guilt was that they were Jews. The British who fought a deadly war against the Nazis were also responsible for turning refugees away, not from Britain but from Palestine. This is a different story in a different age. We have sat by while Assad allowed criminal, brutal elements to ruthlessly and willfully kill and dehumanise his own people. We ordinary people, dependent on our democratically elected leadership, can only “tut tut,” even if in our hearts we know that we have an obligation as human beings to act.

Herzog’s statement is based on his deeply spiritual, ethical, background and his sense of responsibility to humanity.This drama has not yet played out. It may bring a drastic change to the balance in Europe. It may cause the United Nations to act, although they so far only exhibited impotence.

We should present a serious aid plan for these families who have lost absolutely everything and who thought from the beginning of the uprisings in Syria  that the West  would intervene.This maybe another small move to creating peace with our neighbours,this is about people not about politics. We have an impressive history of giving help to communities in disaster situations.

The other move we should make is to give the “illegal immigrants” or foreign workers who are lingering in Holot and Shacharon prisons permits to live and work wherever they want in our country. After a time they could even have the option to become citizens. The infiltration is now at a minimum. They are not coming here in droves and those who have proven themselves as carers should also be allowed to stay here  gainfully employed and housed.. They have proven themselves to be worthy,  reliable and loyal.This would be an example to the other nations now faced with the worst human crisis since World War II.

Refugees are unwilling immigrants who are grateful for any haven.However, if the countries who take them in and apply humane conditions and option of citizenship eventually they can be happy and fulfilled people and hopefully able to visit their own lands when the situation settles down.

I may sound naive but on the eve of our New Year when we account to God and man for our sins and errors we should be strong enough to reach out with confidence  as a people who can identify with both suffering  and survival.

We are fortunate to be in this centre of three faiths.  If we can take our faces and fingers out of the Ipad and breathe in deeply enough, we can also find a way to peace with our neighbours and create an exemplary society for all the people, who share the land.

Shana Tova ve gmar hatima tova.!

PS:.At the start of the turmoil in Syria, I had a student in my home who had visited Syria to seek his Kurdish student friends with whom he had studied.Most had gone into hiding. On his return to my home he found in his backpack a torn piece of  tee-shirt on which was written, “I am your victory at this country, prove for me in the WEST!”

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.
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