Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Cleanliness is next to godliness!

My mother  Rene,was the greatest influence on my life.  During World Two we were separated from my father  for long periods of time . Despite my being evacuated that is, farmed out to various families during the war years, her words of wisdom which maybe as a teenager I didn’t always take seriously, have stood the test of time.

I am not a brilliant housewife she was. I am untidy in the extreme. My granddaughter says I am ADD and it runs in the family. However I am almost excessively clean. Cannot abide a dirty spot or crumbs on the floor or furniture. My salon is always tidy! My office a mess!

I can still hear my mothers voice”always clean and wipe in the corners otherwise you will never get a husband.” She also said that about nail biting, “no man would want a wife who has to hide her hands under her skirt”  Actually I never bit my nails.She would add “Cleanliness is next to godliness”

I wanted to have hands and nails like hers which were always beautifully manicured although she spent no money on manicure, massage or even beauty treatments. She was a natural beauty.  Her two younger sisters who were rich, had everything. She was never jealous.She always said” Do not look at others. Your life is yours, so get on with it”

Rene was one of ten children born in London to immigrants from Ukraine.

Her given name was Rachel (Ruchel)but she, who was blonde and fair skinned with a straight nose, was often taken for a shikse! So much so, that one night while being escorted home with her sister by two young men  whom they had met at a dance, they were mildly amused by what the two guys were saying about them between themselves, in Yiddish.

As they approached their home a head appeared from a first floor window and a blast of Yiddish came out from my Zeide.”Why are you so late you dirty stop-outs.” The guys one of whom became my father, ran for their lives.

According to her she was the one who cared  the most for her mother. Every Friday before Shabbat, she would scrub the  kitchen/dining table with bleach so it would look white.

During the week they covered the table with newspaper.

She always had a beautiful table. I asked her where she learned how to do it?

I must add,that her two younger sisters were married to wealthy skin merchants! Furriers. Their homes were luxurious.Their tables laden with silver and crystal glass.

My mother said “I bought magazines and copied what I read in them. I stitched my own table cloths and serviettes to match, from remnants that I bought in the market! As for crystal glasses I bought one every time I had a little money, until I had a set.”

My mother would have been an outstanding example of how to deal with Corona. How to appreciate what you have and set an example.

My neighbours’ have been attentive and kind. I am the only really old person in my apartment building. Also I have family my son and his wife nearby and granddaughters with their own families, who are constantly in touch and also worrying about my every need.

However today I got a shock when I went to dump my garbage in the place where all the bins are kept. I found chaos there as if no one had time to look for an empty or half full bin  but just threw bags in without a care! There were indeed empty bins towards the back.  Why?  There are no air raids Thank God! No hurry to get home or get anywhere actually!

I could understand this on the Gaza borders in those days when any moment a rocket could fall and one would have to run for safety.  Dumping ones garbage is not a priority but its a fact of life in organised society. Also there are  great guys and sometimes women who dedicate their working lives even now in the early hours,  ridding us of the garbage we dump!

So if we are expecting that others will learn from this weird extraordinary experience which has literally caused the world to come to a halt, there’s no guarantee.

Here we go with another questionable government of sorts, hardly anyone can be happy about that. Especially since some of those who have been caught wanting on their watch as it were, are responsible not actually for the Corona virus,but for the lack of supplies and equipment necessary in a time of epidemic and fear.

We owe a debt of gratitude to many people in our society from every sector, who are carrying out their responsibility to the public in  varying organisations and professions,hardly seeing their own families. Without them the situation would be acutely worse.

Looking forward to an end of this, can I call it inconvenience? Also to the lessons to be learned for mankind as a whole, when it is. The most important being the sanctity of human life.


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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