Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Geula Cohen z’l fighter for freedom and for immigrants rights.

I returned to  Israel with our family in 1978 after a long absence in UK.

Fortunately, we had purchased a small flat in Netanya at the time of the Yom Kippur War since we were planning our return to Israel.

One son newly married and in the army was living in rented accommodation. The eldest after army service was already at Tel Aviv University and the youngest at Goldstein Village a boarding school in Jerusalem.  My husband Leon and I were able to live in that flat until we could move to a larger one.

I had been involved for most of our 12-year sojourn in London,  with the Women’s Campaign campaign for Soviet Jewry, on behalf of those who were denied exit visas after applying to emigrate to Israel.

Aliyah and all that it entailed was very much on my mind.  In Netanya, the Jewish Agency office happened to be opposite our building and so in conversations with the newcomers we were made aware of their problems.

One day we noticed a demonstration taking place and the banners read “You helped us to come now give us affordable housing.”

I went down to talk to the demonstrators and they explained to me that in the first few months of entering the country they were living in beautiful subsided apartments for a designated time and the Jewish Agency was paying the rent. This was part of the  SAL KLITA(immigration aid package) but once that ended, they could not afford to buy or even rent. They were desperate.

I found out that the Head of the Absorption and Immigration Committee was Geulah Cohen.

Since I had originally come to Israel in 1949 I knew all about her actions during the time of the British Mandate. I was in fact rather in awe of her, my politics being the opposite to hers.

Nevertheless, I called her office and with no problem received an invitation to come and to bring along some of the immigrants to meet her.

We duly met at The Knesset and she greeted us warmly and praised me for bringing this to her attention. She, of course, knew of how our involvement in the UK had spurred the opening of doors in the Soviet Union. This was well before the massive aliyah of JEWS from the USSR, nevertheless, this approach to her was on behalf of all those including those from Western countries, who had arrived during that period.

Many years later I became involved with an Oxford Student of Middle EAST Affairs and he wrote a thesis on the comparison of terrorist role models. He wanted to meet Geulah to get a woman’s point of view so he could present this in his Master’s thesis. I asked her son if we could go to see her but he said that she was not up to it. I am so sorry because I so admired her. She was a role model. Not only a fighter for what she believed in but also a great woman.

 

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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