Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Land of hope and glory

I suppose I am a fatalist, on one hand I want to change the world on the other  “whatever will be will be”.

My son who died much too early always said “Don’t stress yourself Mum, things will happen whatever you try to do,that’s the way of the world.”

So this morning as fate would have it, instead of taking an option to go to the pool to swim or to my synagogue which is a taxi ride away, I tuned the radio to one of my favourite programmes on reshet “B.” “What the newspapers say around the world”

I had not paid attention to advertisements during the past week that the programme today would be dedicated to the Battle of Britain….75 years on.

It was an superb presentation in that those historians and military experts who spoke plus the age old recordings of non less than Winston Churchill and “Vera Lynn” singing the “White Cliffs of Dover,” created an almost palpable image  of what happened there. Especially for one of my generation.The fact that someone mentioned “the younger listeners should take note of the togetherness of the population, faced  with the possibility of invasion” annoyed me, as I wondered how many young people would be be listening on Shabbat. I hope that this programme will be repeated and maybe introduced to the school curriculum…or is this an impossible dream?

The programme ended with “Land of hope and glory” and me the life long “zionist” who during that war from the age of 13 only waited for the day to go to the land of Israel and did so in 1949,cried.

I wasn’t thinking of England but of my land, Israel.

I was jolted back to the days and nights of the V1 and V2 rockets. I could envisage the row of five untended graves behind the grave of my father. Sadly he died of cancer the day the war in Europe ended. We watched over his body while the crowds in the pub near to our house were singing,dancing and of course boozing.

The “Battle of Britain”  knocked out the last vestige of nazi power on the continent  for which as a Jew I can only be grateful.The speakers also mentioned the strong connection of members of the British  establishment who were Nazi sympathisers and on whom Hitler depended  to finish the job as it were, once he invaded Britain.

Why those five graves,one complete Jewish family who (I only found out years later) died when the last rockets fell on a block of flats in the East End of London a predominantly Jewish area.

Then the presenter Yithak Noy moved to the Israel connection of Chaim Weizmann and Chaim Herzog during World War Two.

Herzog  had always been an icon for me. My fateful meeting with him  in 1978 when I returned from a sojourn in the UK led to  the founding of the Committee of Concerned Citizens to fight for Electoral Reform.We worked well together, he the General and former Ambassador to UN and me the idealist with the British upbringing.

There’s a lot to be said about the stiff upper lip of the Brits which beyond doubt was evident at that fateful time. I am not sure at all that it exists today. In time of war here I feel the same togetherness and sense of purpose that I breathed as a child but is it? A love of country and identity.

Today that’s lacking in British Society and the loyal affiliation of immigrants of the past years, is at the best speculative.

And what about Israel?

We need to decide what is most important to us.

Whom would we fight and to what purpose…to survive as what? We have had an incredible opportunity to build a land and society founded on the basic tenets of our beliefs. We have  taken that to an extreme by denying others human rights and freedoms, those precious freedoms which I as a child in the UK I was brought up to believe in.

At this time of atonement and renewal we can learn from the past and dig deep to find the answer: what are we prepared to fight for?

Gmar Hatima Tova.

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.