Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

The post Pesach blog updated!

I decided to update my blog because theres been so much talk about why Diaspora jews are “turning off us” where is zionism, or better still what is it?

If you have already seen it then just look at the postscript.

> “Blue Tit in residence” to quote my daughter in law, Lucy of the shoulder

> length russet hair. “Watch them going in and out of the bird box. Some go

> in and try it, others have to pluck up the courage. They poke about till

> their partner arrives. Then, when they decide that’s were they want to

>nest, having perhaps negotiated with some absent landlord, they frantically collect scraps of moss  and wool garnered from  Dot  and Ruth the Jacob’s sheep, we keep purely to eat the grass.

After furnishing the box with bits of wood and straw from the chicken roost(no Ikea for them) they take up their positions until the eggs hatch. Tweets from the baby chicks send the parent birds into frenetic action. They are devoted parents fiercely loyal and protective,bringing> worms and  insects wriggling in their beaks man can but learn from them.

>. , > Later   with my granddaughter Ella, we go to the large shopping mall in Watford, a bustling multi cultural town. I venture into the ladiestoilets. A smiling black lady opens the door to the cubicle but will notlet me enter till she sweeps up a piece of paper that someone has dropped!.Everything is spotless. Days before Easter ,shoppers are  oozing out of every pore and the  lines at the supermarkets mirror those we see in Israel on our festivals.I seem to be the only one saying “Happy Easter” to all and sundry, maybe in the current climate it’s not politically correct? I lose my purse containing credit card and cash but Ella comes to my rescue and when we get home and I contact Israel to report the theft, I find that someone has already withdrawn several hundred pounds ,they will have a happy Easter,no doubt.Erev Hag we are all involved in preparing for the second seder for 130 people, which my son and Lucy organize every year with a team of volunteers from their  masorti shul known as SAMS.  In the pristine kitchen of the school premises hired, for the occasion shelves and tables have been swathed in plastic sheeting and people of varying ages including 3 of my grandchildren are chopping and slicing.Others hanging decorations in the school hall, which on any school day is where morning assembly is held. I doubt if there are any jewish pupils.

> We have a traditional Shabbat and Seder with the family including Ella’s brother Tom my firstborn grandchild,Ore my youngest granddaughter from Israel who is working in London  and some friends.Shabbat morning, Micah,Tom,Loui, Harry and I go to the  shul which is   still housed in a church hall.  SAMS members are hopeful that this year they will finally be in their own premises.. I am called up to the Torah, two years ago I was asked to speak at a Bat Mitzvah about Gilad ShalitThank God this year that wont be necessary. The community is loving and caring and I wish that I could transport them all to Israel. They make such efforts to remain jewish but do they ever truly feel the sense of belonging, which we take for granted?

 That evening we   battle the elements, Easter outside activities are cancelled since in the British Isles, weather   has no biblical connotation.

The hall is warm and welcoming. The seder, singing and role playing by all present and the innovative approach of the Rabbi plus the great food that flows in seemingly without effort, is heartwarming. Ella Micah,Loui and Harry are beavering away in the kitchens which are simply freezing.

The day after the festivities I go with Lucy to Wendover an exquisite small town whose houses are reminiscent of the television series Candleford, currently on our screens in Israel. She has just started to drive her car again after a hip operation. We allow ourselves a coffee at ‘Number 2 pound street’ but   as we are “kosher for pesach” we do not eat any of the mouthwatering cakes and fudge which are titillating our nostrils and promise to return.Before leaving, I venture into the toilet. I have to admit that I have a toilet mania after years of involvement in the hotel business and having been in Israel since the earliest days. I have made the transition from literal holes in the ground to foul smelling, once white bowls usually without seats,toilet paper(remember how we used to carry a roll with us wherever we went?) or washing facilities. Today’s either super latest Italian “sitting houses”(beit hakisai as once known) or  the invariably neglected variety, depending which petrol station or other public place one happens to be, are a constant source of annoyance. One day I plan to run a campaign for attention to this necessary and underestimated issue. Britain inspires me!

This toilet is different.Facing me above the   gleaming white bowl is a massive mirror   elegantly framed with a union jack design! A display of bacterial, regular and liquid soap sits above the washbasin as well as expensive hand cream. I spend more time than   needed to empty my bladder, just contemplating the sight. In a shop next door I find toilet rolls also in the union jack design I consider buying some as gifts but cannot bring myself to do so. Somewhere deep inside me, lurks a still loyal brit!

From there to an equestrian friend of Lucy who lives in an impressive period house with stables. Her teenage son when told that I was a visitor from Israel responded” How cool” and then “but how do you live there with so much hatred” I was taken aback and responded “Most Israelis don’t really hate anyone, or do you mean the impression one has that everyone, hates us’? I would have welcomed an in depth conversation with   this highly intelligent young man from a very assimilated home, who was emotionally moved at the mention of Israel.  Sadly there was no time.

Next day I am at Tring station having said goodbye for the time being to the sheep with  the cuddly brown and white woolly coats. I have peeked at the birds who are busily pecking the remains of matzo from Seder night. The chickens have provided eggs for my matzo brie for breakfast.

 I have missed the train to Euston and have to wait. I look around for a newspaper. No England Today here, their PM doesn’t need an Adelson to prop him up. Not even THE  BIG ISSUE the magazine the homeless sell for one pound   which gives them at least a modicum of dignity in this fast materialistic society, where on the surface, most appear  to be well off. On the other hand I hear from the young people I meet including my own grandchildren   about the paucity of good jobs in any field. Britain is producing   highly educated down and outs. The aroma of coffee draws me to a caravan/café where   two dark skinned(have to be politically correct) men ask”can we help you”? They do not sell newspapers but I am tempted by the coffee. My “cappuchino” is sweetened and stirred for me.  They ask me where I am from and are surprised, but no hostility is evident. This was my first brush with anyone from an oriental background. I  stroll down the platform. The train chugs in, pristine inside and out, its off peak.  Mostly women and well behaved children who are  seemingly looking forward to a days outing alight, all are white. We stop at Berhampstead and Bushey but only when we get to Harrow Weald and Watford I can relax at last, I am in multicultural England. However everyone is quiet and well behaved. No loud mobile conversations, only some texting. Why are they all so quiet? It seems to me that only my own people are truly noisy, pushy and seemingly rude.

It is my only opportunity to be in the heart of London so I stroll around taking in the diversity of the awesome town in which I was born. I feel like a tourist yet I recognise those buildings and arcades which have stood the test of time and the few remaining familiar fashion stores. I cannot relate to the bustling hordes for I know not from whence or why they came? I am excited to be there but feel no sense of belonging.

In the evening I meet up with friends in the stylishly refurbished and full of life St Pancras station and am reunited with my granddaughter Anna who had just started a new job. We sit in a trendy champagne bar and imagine what Queen Victoria would have thought of it all.

  Ella collects me in her 10 year old Yaris to take me to her mother’s farm in Cornwall which she bought after her husband, my son Anthony died.   I am about to enter a world which I have never known. Ownership of farm land in England was forbidden to Jews   up until WW2.

I am immediately involved in the drama of a pregnant cow who has refused to get on her legs and it is feared that she may die. Vets are in and out with differing opinions of what should be done.  I am fascinated by  everything around me. Music of a kind I am not used to, dogs barking, ducks quacking, falcons and barn owls speaking in tongues, sheep with minute lambs, cows and even alpacas.200 acres of farmland and fields, so green and full of life. I succumb to the sheer beauty of it all, embracing nature. While dizzying around on their ATV I even manage by skin of my teeth to avoid crashing into Jac’s jeep.  They are in shock,I am having fun.I am wined and dined,Jac is a fabulous cook. I meet all kinds of pleasant farming types. Anna the cow,   dies and when the vet opens her they find not one calf but two, dead inside her .

Loving “Christian friends of Israel” arrive from Ilfracombe,  we spend the day seeing the local sites while the family on the farm sadly, tend to the arrangements for disposal of the mother cow and her calves.  I have not looked at the date since I arrived there.

Only on the plane home on April 20 do I realize that I have missed Yom Hashoah. I was with my family yet no one mentioned it. For the masses in the UK it was a non event. I am ashamed.

 My son and daughter in law are at Ben Gurion to greet me. I am looking forward to the Shabbat meal. This one is different.I have had time to reflect. I look at the multi ethnic mix around me.       Persia, Rumania, Poland, Spain, England, Ukraine, Egypt, Italy, Holland and Turkey have all been involved in the production or reproduction of this incredible family of mine in Israel. Are we Frankim Ashkenazim Sepharadim? Does it matter? We carry the pain of centuries of persecution but also of joy, achievement and unfulfilled dreams of peace

Tuesday, tonight we will start the 24 hours of remembrance. I pitch up at the school where I help kids to improve their English they jump up at me with delight, they have missed me. In my break I sit in the schoolyard observing the bright eyed multi coloured kids dashing about, most don’t even look “jewish” all are Israeli. Each one, a world unto him or herself.  They carry on their shoulders and in their little souls the weight of their ancestry which makes them special, rather than chosen and binds them.  At the end of Yom Hazicharon, we will go from “darkness to light”. One of the teachers raises  the question  of bereaved families who want to change the protocol of holding grandiose celebrations, immediately following the excruciating day of remembrance. ”But that’s what Jews do” I say “ During Shiva we do not sit on Shabbat“  Life goes on.” I truly believe that is our strength.

 In the evening I stay in, glued to the TV.  Despite my bold statements of the morning I weep, greedily identifying with each and every mother. As she speaks, pictures of her son from his early childhood to his final letter from the battlefield make up the background. Dates flash by 48,56,67,68,73, every year in the 80’s 90’s into 2000 and on, too much needless waste of life.

 On the plane coming back I had seen Speilberg’s“The Warhorse” A shocking chronicle of man’s inhumanity and the utter futility of war, have we learned nothing?

As I sit here trying to write I am swamped by feelings of belonging, coupled with inadequacy, by emotions of pride and anger.  The need to scream out “enough

We tenacious Israelis must take the reins, turning our warhorse into a peace horse. Not as tragic figures, but as an exemplary just and humane society,which includes our minorities,  whose only purpose must be to create a   model for mankind. We who abide here in ha’aretz must start the process, no one can do it for us. This trip made me realize that I must not expect anything from those who are dear to me who live outside of the land, except on a personal level. We have made our choices and we have to be responsible.

When I told my family here about my wonderful holiday they asked   ”Would you have liked to stay there?” I think you will guess the answer.

Happy Birthday Israel!


PS. My God what has only happened here since my return. Not even two weeks and we are already into election fever.  Our PM Benyamin Netanyahu has  been  so far unable to set the date.  He is sadly sitting shiva following his iconic father’s passing,while his minions sit feverishly playing the date game with their future religious partners.Every other member of Knesset and his dog have been on radio and TV airing opinions of what may be the outcome.The pundits have come out of the mothballs,throwing figures at us,surely not  expecting anyone  to believe their forecasts at this stage. Lets just hope that  the 400,000 protesters of yesteryear will vote, pulling their aged parents out of their apathy ,to join them. Lets show the world that we Israelis can put our money where our mouth is and elect a representative government(even though our system provides no personal representation) with a Prime Minister ready to “go the extra mile”.It seems that the biblical  ironic saying ” man plans and God laughs” has never been more  apt.This summer will again be a hot one  but lets hope that the political element which was lacking last time round will be alive and well in 2012.Lets create an atmosphere that will enable every citizen of Israel  to excersize their democratic right and drop their vote of choice  not coercion, proudly into the slot, with confidence that they are making the right decision. 

Yes the holiday in the old country was blissful, but the reality of life in little Israel is,awesome!

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.