Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Brits in Israel?

It is well known that it’s rare and sometimes impossible to be credited or even recognised in Israel for what one has “done for the country”.

This does not only apply to immigrants but within society itself. The verb in hebrew is Lefirgen” it has no translation.
So its obvious that many great and accomplished Israelis have fallen by the wayside in this respect. Having said that, there are those who have done proportionately little but with  a vast amount of publicity not unconnected to their own ego.When it comes to being a “celeb” then that’s only about money and one day’s celeb is another day’s bankrupt.
In the early eighties The Committee of Concerned Citizens headed by the late Chaim Herzog  tried to change the Electoral System to one of Regional Proportionate representation. David Ben Gurion, who had emulated the British system was quoted as saying  “if our system is not changed there will be a disaster”.
Chaim wanted more than that, he also wanted to see a  second or upper house similiar to the House of Lords in  Britain. In his opinion  a seat in the “Lords” would not only not only reward those who had served their country well,but would allow them to continue to give of their knowledge and know how. In other words  ex diplomats,giants of industry education and so on would remain accountable to society and not be put out to grass!
I was recently approached by  Naya my friends’ granddaughter to help her with a  school project. It was to compile examples of the contribution of various immigrant groups,to the State of Israel.

She told me that she had coopted all the members of her own”mixed” family to provide her with information.
The only hurdle that she  encountered was finding such information about British Olim(immigrants) although she did a google search, it produced nothing.
She asked me if I knew of any whose feats had been recorded, were they even alive ?
As a  citizen who grew up in the UK  I am of the generation who arrived prior to or during the War of Independance.
By and large those who came in the early days to toil the fields,fight the mosquitos and survive on diet of eggplant cooked in a hundred different ways, were idealists, influenced by the difficult and distressing years of World War Two.They mostly had been in the British Army as conscripts at the end of the war or during it.. Some were university graduates,  others had been been members of  Habonim, Hashomer Hatzair or Bnei Akiva.I followed my boy friend who was the only one in our social circle to volunteer.  He after working in Paris for the Hagana with the refugees who were coming through, finally made it to Marseilles where he boarded a rickety old boat that brought 800
Moroccans,Indians,Europeans and a mere 18 westerners to the promised land.
I am at this moment  writing to this young lady,  that I think its indicative of our British upbringing that we are not “braggarts” and maybe that’s why there is little written about us. The impression that Aliyah from the USA is dominant is not played out in the  comparative figures of aliyah of what are commonly known as “anglos”. The Brits,Canadians,Australians and South Africans tended to stay in the land they had chosen,whereby US olim came and went back, with more frequency.  Compared to the size of the Jewish population in the other countries(less than 400,000 Jews in Britain), one would expect the numbers to be higher.
So maybe it should not come as a surprise to anyone that the winners of the Bonei  Zion awards this year are with one exception, all from the USA.
The British aliyah spawned no less than Chaim Herzog, Abba Eban,David Kimche, Abe Harman and Yehuda Avner in statesmanship,Pinchas Rosen,First Finance Minister,Professors Gerry Ben David, David Newman,Elliot Berry,Henry Tabor – Father of Solar Energy and some fine journalists. Outstanding women such as Rebecca Seiff,Zena Harman,Frances Radday,Alice Shalvi, to name a few. The very first woman announcer on Kol Israel in English was British.
Others today hold influential positions in every aspect of Israeli society and live  all over the country.Their committment to volunteerism is especially high and they are prominent in every organisation reaching out to those who need help, for whatever reasons. Only in political life they have not been known for making a difference so perhaps there’s an underlying reason,for this?
There are those out there who will never get the recognition they deserve. However their profound contribution,personal example and committment to the kibbutzim they helped to found,the  organisations,companies and frameworks they have created, their great sense of humour and the British “stiff upper lip”have made them an integral part of this fascinating country.
So I wish the best of luck to Naya,whose grandmother Nurit  founded the wonderful organisation for road safety “Anashim B’Adom, in Israel.
We hope that you get 100% for your work.
Also congratulations to the Ministry of Education for creating a meaningful project to promote understanding  and respect for all the diverse communities in Israel.

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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