Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

On returning from the UK and apartheid

Just back to the only place on earth that I truly feel is home, after a short but meaningful trip to my birthplace.

I am always slighly apprehensive when I go to England, because  certain media  ranting continuously reminds us about the threat under which Jews are living in Europe and the antisemitic trends in society, there. Not to mention BDS and the unpleasantness in universities. One tends to feel uncomfortable about visiting,even for family reasons.

So, I was glad that most of my time would be spent within the confines of family and actually in locations where I felt nothing untoward. That is to say, in the country village in Hertfordshire where my son and family are the only Jews.  There one feels almost in a time warp surrounded by white,polite,middle to upper class people the kind I remember from childhood. Also in Chatham in the beautiful part where my granddaughter who is a paramedic working in the Kent ambulance services,lives.Her work takes her to the lowest economic groups in the area and she really sees life in the raw,but not I. She took me to Bluewater an enormous shopping mall which she said is always on the radar as a possible terrorist objective.”Plus ca change”?.

Hampstead and Golders Green which are today multi cultural, plunged me into another world. Golders Green road where I had spent some of my teen age years and  had  looked away from the writing on the walls which said”Jews go back to Palestine” was all at once  like being in Mea Shearim or Asia.

Jewish food sold in thriving deli’s owned by Indians.The doughy smells of beigels and pittot at Carmeli’s,guess who are the owners? Arabic and hebrew  shop signs,charity shops  like Christian Aid and Oxfam rubbing shoulders with Norwood Jewish Children’s home,and so on.

I actually felt less comfortable amongst my own than I did in other places where I did not see another soul who could be”one of us”.

However, since I needed to meet certain people who would be interested in a project on which I am working I ended up one day in JW3.This is a state of the art cultural meeting place built by the generosity of well known jewish  patrons, but in fact  they told me, open to anyone in the area who wishes to join in activities. JW3 is a play on words of the postal address. It means Jewish West Three instead of  North West Three. I was so naive that when I approached the gate a pathway from the stunning entrance, I thanked the guy who asked to examine my bag and said”In my country we do this too” Almost no one checks bags anywhere in the UK.

Another experience was at the Jewish Book Week at Kings Place likewise a superb location near Kings Cross Station which is used for multi cultural events  in arts  and music. This time there  was CST (jewish,security volunteer organisation)presence,the place was packed.  I had gone to hear a friend from Jerusalem, Elliot Jager whose book about his childhood, was launched in London and on that day AB Yehoshua was in the programme,which pleased me no end.

I also went to the theatre and as people do in England had drinks before the performance where I chatted to other random playgoers, who were most interested to hear that I was from Israel.

What I did not know was that it was anti Israel Apartheid week in England. No one I met had mentioned it although I noticed in the newspapers that there had in fact been large demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.

So today my first day in Tel Aviv where I had an appointment at Migdal Hamea the Kupat Cholim Klalit medical centre,I had a heightened sense of where I am and what the world doesn’t see or want to know about.

While, waiting to see my doctor a Gastrontologist whom I guessed by his name was an Arab, I went into the toilets where a motherly woman was inspecting and tidying up. I got chatting to her about how it was in Kupat Cholim in the old days before digital technology had taken us over. We agreed that it was more irritating but profoundly human.She told me she lived in Jaffa.

Our conversation switched when she mentioned that she has lived next door to a jewish lady for years whom her kids called “Safta.” She said she wished it were like the early days when people mostly took each other at face value and were not afraid, we hugged and left it at that.

Then to my Doctor who was about 30, handsome, tall and for my money, an outstanding practitioner. He made me feel that I had nothing to worry about and that I could always come back to him if the proposed treatment was not up to expectation.I think that the next time I see him he will be a Professor.

From there I went for my session with Fadhi who is the deputy head of the physiotherapy clinic I attend. He is also brilliant at his work and we “oldies” from varying backgrounds like me, adore him.His humour and dedication to his job is unsurpassed.

So I have to pinch myself and wonder what is wrong with us here. Why have we failed to blend with those most important to us in this mixed society and why cannot we give them the credit,respect and honour they deserve as citizens.

I am not ignorant of today’s realities and as an immigrant myself who came to the fledgling state, feel that our generation was to blame for the lack of vision as to what lay ahead. We trusted implicitly those who had succeeded beyond wildest dreams to create a State and immediately dealt with the humanitarian problems that came in its wake.We ourselves were in survival mode until 1967.We survived Tsena- severe rationing in the early years, we had Mitun- the recession after that. Not easy days, but full of hope.

Every where in the world today people feel threatened by”the other” sadly the fear is instilled in us. However inside this land and especially the part which is called Israel we have to ensure that the fragile  fabric of our society is not torn asunder.

I feel blessed and privileged to be here, an intrinsic part of this mosaic.

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.