Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Playing for Time

The Corona virus in a way has taken over our lives.

Having said that, I know that indeed I am lucky to be very near to my closest family members in Israel. Because of that I am able to share Shabbat and Hagim with them.The effect of Corona  has  forced isolation.  The yearning for companionship is almost over powering. Human touch too.

Earlier this evening I joined a Kabbalat Shabbat on zoom with Rabbis and members of the Reform Congregation at Beit Daniel Synagogue in Tel Aviv. It was really soothing and I was amazed at what I got from that connection to something, that I was not conscious of missing.

Tonight after returning from Kabbalat Shabbat with my family who live very close by and have  kindly invited me to move in with them for “the duration” which is what we called World War Two, I picked a  Netflix movie.

It was called “Playing for Time.”  it was about Auschwitz.

My dearest friend Lucy was a survivor who died just a few months ago in Tiberias, where she spent her last years close to her younger daughter.   When Lucy was 12 the Nazis invaded Vienna where she was born.  Aged 16 she, with her mother and younger sister were consigned to the Theresienstadt ghetto. In 1958 when I first met her on  Moshav  Habonim she and her husband Charlie became our family. Our kids of similar ages played together and we exchanged our experiences of World War Two. Hers, being far more horrendous than mine. I shared everything I could with her, like clothing which my petite Aunt  Eve, who was her size, would send from England. Also, Nescafe which had just been invented and was the typical gift that every tourist would bring to the Israeli objects of pity, who had made Aliyah at a difficult time for Israel.

However, this film unlike others I have watched about this period, drew me in to such an extent that I could imagine Lucy in every scene and event that took place.

It was gruelling. It was seemingly based on the survival of an opera singer from France.

For me, it was watching Lucy’s life at that time.

She was an extraordinary woman despite all that she  had endured. From the first scenes of the film I could imagine her there. She never played on the horrors but more than once had  she had described Dr Mengele arriving at Auschwitz. He insisted that all  the prisoners congregate in the courtyard.He then  he indicated with his leather whip that, the healthy young women go to one side. She was one of those. Her mother and sister were pushed to the other side and soon after taken off in trucks to the Gas Chambers.

Lucy never exploited these horrendous experiences to elicit attention to herself. From the moment we met, it was I who wanted so desperately to try to compensate her for the hell that she had endured. This while, I also a teenager but slightly younger, had albeit spent days and nights underground in shelters. We endured strict food and clothes rationing and other discomforts. Many of us youngsters in London at least, were evacuated to areas which were distanced from the nightly bombardment known as the Blitz.

There’s a song actually a love song called “Nothing compares to this ”

That was all that I could think of. I believe it more than ever after sitting through that movie.

Nothing compares to that.

I could see her and feel her. I was not able to come to grips with the fact that the sweet,erudite and cultured woman I knew, the woman who was my closest and dearest friend had been one of those, whose torment I was watching on my screen!

Lucy left us during Corona and there was a  Zoom Shiva organised by her daughters Yael and Irit and conducted by Yael’s son Guy. Friends and family and people who had come into her orbit,from many parts of the world, had the opportunity to speak about and pay tribute to her.

Now listening to my favourite Avi Etgar’s music programme every Shabbat midday. I am thinking that I will try for a Netflix experience that maybe less gruelling, later this evening.

Wishing everyone a good week, Shavua Tov to those who will go out on the streets and those who will find other interests to keep busy. Maybe?

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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