Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Breakfast, Oh no!

With a freshly fractured arm and a rather grubby bandage I turned up reluctantly to the AirBandB first “meet up”in Tel Aviv this week. About 50 eager “hosts and hostesses” met in the trendy Dizi bar in Dizengoff Street once the “celeb” centre of the city that never stops”. Working the crowd were a bunch of attractive young people all wearing grey t-shirts with the famous AirBandB logo, entwining ropes symbolizing continuous involvement.

The organizer of the event Andrea from Canada had Israeli connections as had most of the representatives who came from Berlin,Dublin,Italy and Moscow, where they represent the Israeli side of the business.

After some introductory words a screen went up and within moments we were envisioning a range of romantic and exciting venues, only a flight breath away. One could not avoid being carried away by the range of challenging projects, adventures or pure hedonistic pleasure. All within our reach if we travel through this whirlwind enterprise set up around ten years ago in San Francisco. ”Two airbeds available” a notice in town and a phenomally successful initiative took off.

About 50 locals were hosts.The well stocked bar was at our disposal and all kinds of tasty bits followed by sandwiches appeared without much ado on the tables in front of us, throughout the evening. It was a  pleasant atmosphere. Most of the high spirited reps had started life as hosts and were happy to chat about anything. I was waiting to hear from the preferred or outstanding hosts,the secret of their success. I couldn’t understand why I had not yet received the accolade, since I thought of myself as the “Hostess with the mostest” at least experience wise!
I and my family had returned to UK in the roaring sixties flat broke. Through force of circumstances we had no option other to open a bed and breakfast business in the then least salubrious part of London, near  Kings Cross and St Pancras stations.

In those days with a dearth of hotel rooms in London,” back packers” and or Professors on a budget, would beg for a bed even in the corridor. Since we could neither offer luxury nor many creature comforts the ” great British breakfast” was the piece de resistance.Dishes overloaded with bacon,eggs,a grilled sausage pink and shiny on the plate,juicy red tomatoes,fried bread and sometimes baked beans too! This accompanied by as much toast,jam and butter you could eat, washed down by coffee or tea.

While we were milling around a young lady approached me” I am Yulia from Moscow’

She asked my name and I replied’I am Zelda and my grandparents came from the Ukraine,hence my name. I visited Moscow in the seventies and eighties but that was during the time of the”Iron Curtain” so I guess its changed”I was not sure if she knew to what I was referring since so many immigrants from the FCU are hardly aware of those dark days.”Its really great now and when you come you can stay with me”she replied with enthusiasm. “You know,I might just do that. Travelling alone at my age is risky so I always prefer to go to where I know people”.Well that’s what airbandb hosting is all about and at that moment the whole concept of why this innovation came into being was clear as crystal.

So having made a friend and almost booked my El AL and not Aeroflot flight I returned to my seat to learn what I had to do to be a super host!

In typical Israeli chic fashion most of the people had turned up in jeans and t- shirts no faux elegance was evident.We were all about business no?

“So let me introduce Chaim'”(not real name) said Andrea ‘he in a few short years has to be our most successful host in Tel Aviv’.

He of the tee shirt and jeans,middle aged with a slight paunch dived into his presentation.”Well firstly I have a few apartments.They are all pristine white from top to toe even the bedding. When my guestS arrive they are impressed by the scent of the perfume I spray in the flat but if it does not suit their taste they don’t need to spray,again.They find a heart shaped chocolate on the pillow so they know they are loved.I leave buckets and spades and towels for the beach. I think of their every comfort and my phone number is evident should they need me day or night”
A great round of applause. I thought that this was”home hospitality” all that I a poor widow can offer?.

I had to join the queue of well wishers as I left but I could not resist the chance to ask him one thing. ”What do you give them for breakfast”?

He looked at me aghast.” Breakfast oh no, I don’t give them breakfast”

I left, chastised but grinning nevertheless and when I got home rushed to the listing site to look at the comments from those whom had stayed in my home…….we loved sitting with you on the balcony and enjoying the Israeli breakfast.

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.