Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

EL AL will fly

Its not all gloom and doom. Living with Corona is not pleasant and in fact very annoying for those who want to spread their wings and fly. I am joking of course that’s what we all want. Lives are on hold not to mention business projects, livelihoods,creative and innovative inventions,family reunification and more.

We have to thank our wonderful medical services and practitioners for being there for us. Since I have a dear family member about to undergo delicate surgery in the UK we should all be grateful  that essential procedures and treatments are still going ahead  here in Israel and there too,despite all.Not forgetting that my grandaughter, Ella is a Critical Care Paramedic in the UK working around the clock at this time.

I was so happy to hear, that EL AL  Israel’s  historic and original airline  will continue to fly. I know nothing about the investors who have decided to bail them out and put Israels’ own planes, back into the blue and sunny skies, but I thank them the bottom of my heart.

Its not just another airline its also a symbol of how this State came into being. Everyone of  Israel’s  first pilots  had left their comfort zones to fight in the War of Independence.Our late President Ezer Weizman who had been trained in the British Air force was the only sabre. Some of  those plucky guys,  also had the distinction of being the airlines’ first pilots.

In  1949 I flew in with the Belgian Airline Sabena, my first flight ever . We had to take a plane from London to Brussels where we spent 24 hours sightseeing, which was a great experience for me even though, I was on my own.  Then on to Sde Dov at Lod the original name of Ben Gurion airport. It was just a kind of a large house and a runway in those days. The second time early in 1950 was with Air France. El Al had not yet been established.  British Airlines(BA) were not yet  flying to the fledgling State which the British Army had left,  with its tail between its legs.

My husband Leon had come with MACHAL ahead of me. We lived in Haifa in room of the home of the Lubman- Haviv family. near the  Stella Maris monastery on Mt Carmel.We were friendly with most of the early pilots, like us they had come from  English Speaking countries. So had the volunteers for the fledgling Navy. Such as Alan Burke from Manchester and David de Lange from London.  David had been an activist for  ETZEL the Irgun Zvai Leumi and had frequently spoken out with his leader Major Weiser to thousands in Hyde Park, before he left to take part in the War Of Independence. . One of the reasons that they had been housed on the Carmel, was that some of the wealthy Arab families who had lived there, had literally abandoned their  luxurious homes and gone to Lebanon,believing that they would return once the Jews were defeated.

As far as I can see in the Machal(Mitnadvei Hutz L’aaretz)book put out by the South African Federation, the majority of pilots were from S.Africa. The iconic Smokey Simon is still active and alive in Israel today.However one, an American whose name escapes me, was the son of the woman who owned Coca Cola which was the greatest innovation in soft drinks at the time.

She thought with her clout, that he would indeed  become Air Force Chief, but as he did not speak Ivrit, did not get the post.  I think returned to the USA shortly after the war ended.

I was taken ill and almost died in 1950 and it was two South African doctors, Lionel Meltzer and Jack Wilton, both S. African pilots, who saved my life. They had most probably also served with the British Forces in World War Two.

We have so much to be proud of in this land. When I go to demonstrations and see the youngsters with their parents, I feel as though my generation  may have failed them in some way. One has to remember we were all only surviving and struggling for many years, whether or not we came from seemingly affluent backgrounds or with only the clothes in which we stood up. We also accepted the politics of the time knowing that the first Knesset was made up of representatives of all the political parties and also major organisations of the time.

I so hope that the youngsters waving  black flags will grow up with their parents’ sense of fairness, equality and justice which is what the demonstrations are about.It’s not one man its the system he has nurtured and those sidekicks who eat every word out of his mouth,that are the problem.

We must return to the roots of what makes us such a great society. For we are.

Can’t wait to get my refund for the flight to Australia which I had to cancel.Also  to take to the blue skies again with El AL Israel’s airline,whose slogan is “The most at home,in the world”

When we say goodbye to Corona, we will fly.

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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