Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Of loss and hope.

How do you deal with wanting your mind and hands to be in sync? How easy or hard is it to put emotions into words, when you want to weep and yet want to share your feelings with the world.

For a few days, we have been aware that the iconic Uri Avnery has been unconscious due to a stroke. We missed his last column and knew why. I had made a point of posting his column which I receive by email or did, every week on a Thursday, on my  Face Book page..

Trite that may seem, but I knew that not everyone was as lucky as me to be on his email list. Lucky or not Uri did not only represent for me one whose opinions were similar to mine, but also someone of my generation. The generation for whom Israel was/is the most special place in the world.  In acknowledging this, one must also admit that is our home, because no other place was, even if we were legal citizens. It is also home to over 2million other Israelis who are not Jews.

He was a realist and a super human being. He recognised and identified with “the other”. He was almost noble. So erudite, yet so easy to read and understand.

During my 12 years as Director of Britain Israel Affairs Centre in Tel Aviv, I had occasion to include him in social gatherings, at which visiting journalists could hobnob with the locals. I had many spats with him. My role was to create programmes for media people and VIP’s from the British Isles. The range of topics for them to cover was any of general interest, in which they were specialists.

ImmigrantAbsorption,Education, Innovation, Religions, Theatre, Music,Literature, Agriculture, Medicine you name it. Israel had so much to offer.

I felt that his criticism of Israel was questionable, I learned to my horror later that he was right.  I was starry-eyed at the accomplishments we had achieved since I came here, not so long after him..I had to believe in my country totally. The Israel Government was not paying my salary but because of my love for this land which I wanted to imbue in our supercritical and invariably hostile visitors, I showed them Israel warts and all, including the West Bank and Gaza and held nothing back.

The results far exceeded expectation. Being honest and upfront was what they liked and it was reflected in almost all of the articles that were published and or shown on TV.

Today, I could not do that job. I cannot lie.

In the 80’s under Begin and Shamir, criticism was not a crime, censorship was almost not existent and one could actually go in and out of Gaza and the West Bank with little restriction. Today, I do not know if those journalists would be allowed in to Israel? If you have nothing to hide you can be transparent, so what does it all mean?

Over twenty people in the past month have been refused entry.

In May I travelled abroad, I was asked by an airport official in passport control, when did you last go to Jordan?. I replied”I have never been to Jordan” “Oh yes, you have look at this stamp”. Oh! I said “I was on a day trip to Petra with an Israeli group” I cannot even remember what year it was.

So Uri has left us and I still cannot absorb it and naturally face my own mortality. Yael Dayan spoke about him today on radio, I wept.

When I sat at this computer to write my blog I found in my email an encouraging message from the  Head of the Archive Department at the National Library of Israel. The place where we can go to make memories come alive. They announced that the “Remembering 35″s archives which were mostly kept by Barbara Lyons z”l, from the very first days of our activities on behalf of Soviet Jewry, is now fully catalogued and is available online.

So a day of great sadness but also of joy. A powerful movement, “started by housewives” will now go down to posterity.

Thank you to all of those wonderful women of Britain. Those still with us and those whom we will never forget. Thank you for the courage, determination and self-sacrifice on behalf of brothers and sisters living under oppression and   denied freedom of self-expression,  in the FSU.

If we can learn from history we will remember Uri for the special person that he was and also all others who believe that freedom is worth fighting for.

http://primo.nli.org.il/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=NNL_ARCHIVE_AL004736209&context=L&vid=NLI&search_scope=Local&tab=default_tab&lang=iw_IL

If you will click on the link, you will reach the general description of the collection. If you’ll go down and click on

לרשימת הפריטים בסדרה

You will be able to explore all the files.

Please distribute the catalogue among your colleagues.

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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