Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Awakening in the Knesset

As a child of WW2 I have experienced fear, living in shelters, food shortages and separation from parents. However, I am one of the lucky ones who did not live under occupation.

My late husband who left everything behind in London in 1949 found his way to Israel because during his army service with the Lincoln regiment, fellow soldiers who had returned from serving in Palestine would regale their mates with what they had done to the f-g Jews.

We grew up traumatised by the Blitz and then for the last two years of the war the 24-hour rocket attacks. Buzz bombs and then the silent long-range missiles which dropped without warning giving no time to run for shelter (Sounds familiar to Israelis?). This only affected those in Southern England so like here, those out of the range of missile fire were enjoying their lives without a care.

Our children on the Gaza border bear the brunt and have done so for 17 years.

Every few years we attack Gaza, threaten to destroy Hamas and then we leave having actually only caused havoc. But we have not deterred those fighting for freedom, with very little tools. This tactic does not achieve anything, the situation persists and it’s a living hell. It is simply a vicious circle.

We have destroyed homes, livelihoods and we have rationed electricity and water and prevented them from having any social intercourse with the outside world. Their children’s spirit has been crushed but even so as they reach teenage they adopt the line that ‘it’s better to die for our homeland’ than just rot. The average age in Gaza is 16.

Yesterday, in the Knesset the home of our parliamentary democracy after years of indecision, petty rivalry, ethnic division, for a multitude of reasons, egos were replaced with decisions based on witness accounts and published reports. An atmosphere of enlightenment prevailed.

Yesterday I was proud to be a Jew and an Israeli in the full sense of the word (I was never ashamed but did not feel that the values instilled in me as a small child existed anymore). One who lives, breathes and values this land more than any other. One whose expectations that we will always remain: a thriving democracy, respect our neighbours and the stranger within and strive for peace. They have been jolted and dashed in the turbulence of our day-to-day political life and the direction in which it has taken us.

The session in the packed to capacity Negev Hall was entitled ‘Children without Hope’ or as Eiman Oudeh, Head of the United Arab List said in his opening speech, ‘a generation with no future’. MKs Dov Chenin, Ksenia Svetlova and Michal Razin chaired and the decorum was exceptional until Oren Hazan entered the hall his body language expressing without words why he was there. As a result of his disruption to the proceedings he was forcibly removed only to be replaced by Nurit Koren and Dr. Anat Berko who had been sitting quietly at the side waiting for the right moment to vent their spleen.

Also present were members of the leading human and civil rights groups in Israel, officials from various foreign countries included the Head of Delegation of EU to the State of Israel, The Dutch Ambassador, the Deputy British Ambassador and more.

Eiman Oudeh continued, ‘we have to work together and we will prove that we can. We must save our democracy and alleviate the profound and cruel suffering that the occupation has caused for so many years. We who initiated this meeting have been threatened, vilified and insulted in the corridors of the Knesset. Already the opposition is tweeting that we in this room are inciting the public. As if by honestly acknowledging and exposing the suffering of the children in Palestine and Gaza through under nourishment, psychological and emotional problems that may never heal, evident for all to see is being disloyal to the State. We Jews and Arabs who are loyal, gainfully employed taxpayers many involved in humanitarian, legal and welfare work, are being called traitors. The public in Israel is being incited to hatred, voices are being suppressed but in this day and age it’s impossible to constantly hide the truth. The time has come to work together for the common good and the future generations of all who inhabit this land.’

Michal Rozin went on to say that we worry about the shortage of water here due to our wastefulness but do we think about a child in Gaza or Palestine who may have no running water in his/her home. They are our neighbours. We send out aid to disaster areas but what about providing a quality of life for Gazans?

Ksenia Svetlova looked visibly shaken and hardly controlled her anger. ‘I came through a barrage of insults as I made my way here. I can hardly believe that this is our Knesset. The public are receiving fake messages from those who control our lives and the media. This is creating hatred. Innocent kids did not ask for this situation and it’s up to sane and worldly people to find solutions, not to ignore them. Among our critics Yair Lapid has been saying, ‘they in this room today are giving a gift to our enemies.’’

We raid their homes, said Gabi Lasky who is an internationally acclaimed lawyer, humiliate the parents in front of the children, and drag them out of their beds in the middle of the night. Those children are being raised in an atmosphere of violence and frustration so their high level of aggression is coming to the fore.

Our own children, on the other hand (except for the Israeli children on the Gaza border) are growing up immune to the suffering so close to home and they believe that all the Gazans are terrorists.

The representative of the EU member states then spoke, ‘a child is child and can learn what is good and bad. When he sees no light at the end of the tunnel and watches his parents impotence in the face of the treatment they are handed out, respect dies with hope at that point.’

Towards the end, MK Aida Touma Silman raised the issue of the impoverished and undernourished children in East Jerusalem but when she approached the Knesset chairman Yuli Edelstein on the subject, he rejected it on the grounds that it would undermine the Jerusalem Day celebration.

Rami Elhanan was amongst the last to speak and he spoke about the inhumane conditions in South Hebron and as a bereaved parent whose 14-year-old daughter was killed in a terror attack, almost pleaded that those present will advance the process to bring an end to the suffering.

I returned home to find in my letterbox an announcement from Tel Aviv Municipality that on August 9th the renowned opera Nabucco will be performed in Park Hayarkon. Every year thousands of Israelis from all over Israel descend on our park, maybe while listening to the ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’, we no longer slaves, can give some thought to where our responsibility lies today.

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.