Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Nil Desperandum — never lose hope!

My father was a first generation Englishman, son of  Rumanian immigrants to the UK.

At the age of 14, he left school as did most of his generation. As far as I know, he did not learn Latin but he doodled on every scrap of paper, the words “Nil Desperandum.” Sadly he died from cancer aged 39. I grew up with Nil Desperandum, so I suppose it motivated me to be optimistic. However these past few weeks I have been anything but.

Only a few days ago I met one of the most successful men in this country who is in the last stages of a project which he initiated, to send a device to land on the moon, which would record everything we need to know about the conditions up there. Although other powers have invested many millions, there has been little advancement. This is a great Israeli achievement and will be news very soon.

We talked about the past and our private lives.  During the MITUN-recession years, we had lived in the same village. In those days we knew another Israel. An Israel where neighbours invariably became family and we shared not only food but all festive and social activities.

So our conversation took a turn to the present day and the impasse in creating a viable peace process and the political ignominy within.

He said to me”Why are you still fighting, relax and enjoy your family and what is left of your years on this earth?”

I felt that he had relieved me of an obsession and decided that maybe he is right, what will be will be and there’s nothing to stop the extremists in our society from having their way.

So actually I can do nothing about it.

Being a political junkie is an addiction and tonight again I found myself at a meeting convened by the Labour Party for “A regional initiative”.  The invitation was from Henrique Zimmerman.

I am also a news junkie and have watched and admired Henrique Zimmerman for years. He is a proficient, erudite journalist with immense charisma and a style of humanitarian reporting that touches the heart. Added to which his International Outreach is immense as is his innate understanding of how things work in other lands.

Tonight at the Eretz Israel Museum of all places, I saw the real thing. To an overcapacity, packed hall of young and old, Zuckerman and Avi Gabbai, Head of the Labour Party gave impassioned speeches which included for the first time, the answers I was waiting for. How to go forward internationally, locally and most of all, at home here in Israel. How to change the name of the game from fear and depression, indifference and disappointment, to one of hope for a better future.

Gone illusions of annexation, gone the hopelessness of Geneva, Oslo but, here and now solutions and suggestions which are feasible and possible and which could provide the beginning of creating a viable, self-sustaining and lasting peace in our region.

Two states, three languages, break the impasse, take on partners, create a regional consensus. Take the lead and not be led or constantly, creating a defensive stance.No one in the world will do it for us, we must do it for ourselves We are the strongest country in the region and must use this positively. All negotiations and protocols and news releases in three languages.

A regional package and encouraging economic initiatives in all areas.

Both men spoke of meeting the Pope and other dignitaries and leaders in surrounding countries and of their willingness to support a positive initiative.

Henrique had set up viewing possibilities in every country with which he had personal media contacts,to cover this event. The message has gone far and wide for the first time in history.

MK’s Stav Shafir and Itsik Shmueli spoke to an audience, who had not forgotten their contribution to society. The demonstrations for Social Justice in 2011 which reached massive proportions, involving hundreds of thousands of people, for no less than 5 weeks running. Stav and Itsik went the extra mile to become Knesset members, shining in their respective fields of the economy, and the weaker sections of society from childhood to old age.

Itsik spoke of “restoring the hope” and Stav…the “example of the possible”.

I had always felt that the weakness of the campaigns of the left as opposed to the strident of the right was the lack of a good PR person at the helm. Although they mostly consist of caring and humane, human beings with the right intentions, they will rarely be offensively arrogant.  The expression “go for the jugular” has not been heard in their vocabulary.

Now there is another voice emerging from the Labour Party one which so many of us were waiting for. To hear the leader of the Labour Party promote the two state solution with mutual agreements backed by neighbouring states, to ensure that subversive groups will not emerge, was inspiring and welcome. Also to give Arabic its rightful place in the State of Israel and to ensure equality amongst all sectors of our society by overturning the Hok Haleum (Nation-State). I came out of the meeting heartened and encouraged as did every single person there tonight.

Now they will move forward with parlour meetings and happenings in the community and we can look forward to lively primaries with some wonderful new young people amongst the candidates.

My father was right: “Nil Desperandum.”

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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