Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

From Peretz to Peretz – a sentimental journey

My father’s hebrew name was Peretz but as he was born in the UK his Rumanian parents gave him the name Percy. Quaint really, such an English name and so old fashioned.

He died on the last day of WW2. V-day was declared on May 8th but to be precise he passed away on May 10th after a grueling battle against cancer. I was 14 years old, he was only 39.

He was a great optimist and a warm, fun loving, charismatic man. My friends used to visit us in order to spend time with my father! I do not think there were many kids who could say that today. When my first son was born I wanted to find a derivative of Peretz. So we called him Peter and gave him the hebrew name of Peretz and I thought no more about it.

When we arrived in Israel as a family it was 1958 and when Peter started school he was asked if he had a Hebrew name. He proudly said “Yes its Peretz” “Oh no, said the teacher “That’s old fashioned you must choose a modern Israeli name”. His response was “If I cannot be Peretz I will remain Peter”. and so it was.

When I was asked to support Amir Peretz years ago  I checked him out and decided that he could make a positive change. It was more to do with the fact that I also knew he had been a pupil of Lova Eliav a man I admired greatly, a true humanitarian. I also thought that someone who had worked so hard to achieve would have true values.

During this current campaign for the leader of the Labour Party, as I prefer to call it, I went to hear several of the candidates whom I did not know previously.

I might add I have been a Labour supporter for all of the years I have lived in Israel and even a former member of RAFI the party that Ben Gurion formed when he fell out with his peers!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafi_(political_party)

Rafi was a Center-left political party in Israel, founded by former Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion in 1965.

I had worked closely with Bujie’s father the late President of Israel Chaim Herzog and with Omer Bar Lev’s father, Haim during my stint at the HQ. in Hayarkon Street after the MAAPACH (takeover by Likud in 1977).

With this in mind, I went to a Darcenu meeting to hear Avi Gabbai only days after he flew into the Labour Party. I had been a big supporter of Ehud Barak when he first joined the party and always felt that he had never genuinely cared about the Labour Party but only in furthering his own career.  At a pub near to where I live I heard Amiram Levin a former General and very nice man indeed whom I felt would make a sincere effort to give the public what they need. At a parlour meeting in my area I listened to Professor Avner Ben Zaken who had good ideas about changing the electoral system which I hope he will push ahead now that he has joined the party.

Erel Margalit, I have known for years and have been to hear him on many occasions, , he is an achiever.

So like many others, I was weighing up the pro’s and cons and not entirely sure where I would “hang my hat” as it were. Then I was invited to a meeting in Rothschild Boulevard which I have already written about and was won over not just by the speaker and not because of his name Peretz, but by the people who were with him.The atmosphere of warmth and trust. His personal demeanor and his sincerity.

My decision was clinched after another meeting at Beit Sokolov last week. There I met up with some of the people whom I had known over the years when I worked in Hasbara.  At this meeting, we were given explicit details of how the voting process would go and so on.This was important because there had been innuendos at the start of the campaign, about falsified membership figures.

The hall was packed and the atmosphere again warm and friendly.

Among those who spoke up for Amir were Revital Swid, Nachman Shai, Hilik Bar, Doron Avital and Itzik Shmuly.

In my opinion, the “whole campaign” leading up to this had not only been dirty but also puerile We had been bombarded by messages to look at this link and that video and this and that pollsters’ views, ad nauseum. I had stopped looking and deleted all of the messages.

Last Tuesday, election day at Ganei Hatarucha was buzzing. Lots of attention from the press, even I was interviewed both by radio and Channel One KAN. It seemed that the opinions of old timers were valid this time around.

The result was rather mind boggling but the good stuff is that so many more people I really admire in politics and other fields have come forward in support of Amir Peretz.

On Wednesday of last week exhausted and elated at the results of the voting I joined with a group of people who spend the hottest summer months facilitating visits of Palestinian kids to Tel Baruch beach.Although they have been doing this for some years it is hardly known about in Israel.

The young visitors were just exactly like any other child at the beach except that they had been on the road for about 4 hours till they got to us.  They were stopped and double checked at the checkpoints, even though they all had passes which had been approved by the Civil Administration.We the volunteers had sat around for two hours in the hot sun waiting for the group to arrive.Watching the joy of these children some of whom had never been to the seaside, as they jumped the waves and played with brightly coloured plastic rings and small floats provided by the volunteers was moving indeed. Handing out cups of water and chunks of juicy red watermelon after they had devoured tasty sandwiches, was a pleasure. Even language was not a problem quite a few of those regular volunteers of all ages and both sexes could speak reasonable Arabic but for most, a smile and a touch were more than words.

On Thursday I went to an end of year performance of the Department of Community and Educational Theatre  at The Western Galilee College in Akko.

My son Peter is the head of that Department.

His grandfather Peretz-Percy, whom he never met would have been proud.

The Arab and Jewish students put on a series of skits centered on true life experiences which described the reality of dual existence in Israel. It touched on the family attitudes, social tolerance or the opposite and yet showed how once the barriers are down and one gets to know “the other” true respect and collaboration turns to friendship and love.

So now I am waiting for Monday and hope that Peretz will be the winner and that he will be capable of “delivering the goods”. He can and will touch all sectors of our society. He has already established working groups(matot) for the disabled community, Ethiopians and Sudanese and even Haredim from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem.He needs also to reach the hearts and minds of other groups that feel out in the cold.

Today it was heartwarming to see messages from both Erel Margalit and Bujie Herzog, from Merav Michaeli,  Prof. Yuli Tamir, Uzi Baram and Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg. All wishing to work together for the greater good, that of the people and the  State of Israel. Bringing a true end to conflict with those with whom we share this land and the building of an equal and empowered society, willing and ready to face the challenges that positive change will provide.

Last week in which I experienced so many emotional ups and down strengthened my faith in the people of this country who deserve leaders who will lead.Leaders with whom we can identify. Leaders for whom human beings, mutual respect, and dignity will be a priority.

Have a good week!

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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