Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Prime Minister’s appeal on Rosh Hashana

I thought I had heard it all. This evening I realised that however concerned we all may be about the growing human disaster almost on our borders, our Prime Minister has his priorities right.

A few hours ago a non-Jewish friend who is one of the most loyal and erudite supporters of Israel  in the UK sent me an appeal from our Prime Minister. It was entitled”New Year message from Benyamin Netanyahu”.

I who came from the UK many years ago know how wonderful it is to celebrate our festivals here.There’s no other place in the world in which Jews can be totally involved in the family,social and religious ritual which is a united and joint happening on any Jewish holiday and especially on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Sadly though there are many who do not have the wherewithal.

Prior to every festival I am appalled by the thought of  the number of charity organisations which are called into action to provide food for the ever growing population of hungry people.

About ten years ago when as head of an NGO for road accident prevention based in Netanya, I was summoned with all the other heads of charity organisations in the town, to a meeting. We were to discuss the poverty in Netanya which was a threat to the nutritional security of hundreds and hundreds of citizens and their children.

We were asked to contribute in any way to providing sandwiches for schoolchildren and food parcels and coupons for supermarket purchase for these citizens of our town.

I listened while spokespeople told of how they raise money every month some from overseas.I heard enthusiastic young women who all had jobs and families speak about innovative ways to help families without embarrassing them. I listened to women I knew personally telling of the number of sandwiches they cut and filled every day and personally delivered to the school.

Then it was my turn to speak. I said although we were in the business of saving lives and therefore respected the urgency of what we recognised as “life saving” action I would not give my support. I was prepared to donate money on a personal level but I considered it was the governments’ responsibility to provide   the minimum of food requirements of each and every human being. I added that there was no guarantee that one would always find the donors and also that since we were doing the work of the government they were becoming dependent on us.

Having lived through both Tsena and Mitun, that’s food rationing after the state was declared and  also the recession prior to the six days war, when I had three kids. I knew that kids did not have to go to bed hungry and had a sandwich with at least peanut butter to take to school.

“So what shall we do?” they said not without animosity. ” From today and everyday stand with me outside the Mayor’s office.Stand there together until she realises that she will have to find funds to facilitate the food kitchens from her budget.Failing that she will be forced take up the case for the residents of her city with the government.” At that time, the Prime Minister was BIBI, the head of her political party.

You all know the answer.

That’s why today our Prime Minister had no compunction in making a video in English to directly approach donors abroad in order to convince them to help Israel by donating generously so Israeli children will have a good meal on the Hagim.

Today, thousands of pathetic little refugees are sleeping in tents in fields or on dirty floors in abandoned buildings because the countries they are fleeing have failed them. Today it’s Israel who should be donating food and reaching out because it has the resources and warehouses stacked  with provisions. Instead, it is asking for a handout for our hungry children. 

I answered my friend by saying that I was ashamed.

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.