Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Rothschild Boulevard Tel Aviv, again?

As an old timer, my first view and impressions of Tel Aviv when I  first arrived in 1949, is etched in my mind.

I cannot help but feel nostalgic when on certain bus routes across the city I encounter many buildings and sites which are still relevant and I hope will be so forever.   

Maybe relevant is not the word, but inscribed in the annals of our modern history.

The city of Tel Aviv was established 108 years ago.

So last night  I descended the bus near to the Habima Theatre and made my way to Rothschild Boulevard.I was going to meet Amir Peretz one of the candidates for leadership of the Labour Party-Avodah as I prefer to call it. My emotions were working overtime.

In the sixties I had worked in Tel Aviv in Trumpledor St. It is a bit of an eclectic mess today, but still housing Tel Aviv’s oldest cemetery. In this hallowed place lie the remains of none less than Shaul Tchernikovsky, Shoshana Damari, Haim Arlosoroff and Lova Eliav to name but a few outstanding human beings who all contributed to the making of the State of Israel.

In 1964 in the basement of number 22,  Trumpeldor St,  Geoff Tollman an immigrant from South Africa opened the very first company to import Scandinavian furniture into Israel. An Israel in which few of its inhabitants had the foreign currency to purchase this “Avant Garde” furniture of the time.

When he offered me the chance to work there it was exciting for me, because my own father had been a cabinet maker and furniture designer. Love of furniture was instilled into me as a small child.

In the 80s I opened an office in Achad Haam Street in the same neighbourhood, which I loved. At that time I was anxious to see a move to preserve the old houses in the area which had been neglected and abused over the years. Many were being replaced by starkly modern sky scrapers which started to fill every available space. The first of which being Migdal Shalom in the 60s.

Since that time many of the houses have been preserved, partly due to UNESCO’s declaration of Tel Aviv as the “White City” which contains the most Bauhaus buildings in the world.

Rothschild Boulevard, the very name is scintillating and can take one back into the history of Europe and the immensity of the power and influence of the Rothschild family there, prior to their interest in  Eretz Israel-Palestine prior to and during the British Mandate.

In recent memory this beautiful residential area became the habitat of thousands of desperate Israelis who wanted a better deal from their leaders. The same leaders that we have today.

The masses that made their makeshift homes in the street named after of one of the wealthiest families in the world at one time, called for Social Justice. Nothing more nothing less!  Everyone’s  basic right, in a democratic society founded on Jewish and Western principles and values. Or am I mistaken? Sadly after an immense effort never known before, nothing changed. Neither did the leaders!

So  I made my way to meet Amir Peretz and his supporters in a section  where  white tables  and chairs  had been tastefully arranged and arrayed with bright red Amir Peretz t-shirts for people to take and don. There were Israelis from every sector of our society. It was like Israel in the early days. His supporters included disabled and haredi activists, immigrants from FSU, old timers and young enthusiasts who flock to Peretz, as to an uncle.I did not hear one English accent!

He is warm and forthright and immensely likable.

The t-shirts’ image. His black hairline and thick mustache reminded me of  Lech Walesa and Che Guevara, all at once.

I cannot describe the feeling, something we need, to unite, identify with, the element seemingly lacking in other candidates.

He transmitted passion, sincerity, experience… “been there done that.” No silver spoon, no soft start in life just getting on with it, breaking barriers and succeeding.

He spoke about his mentors including Lova Eliav and Ben Gurion.

This from the guy from Shderot who stayed put.

All around us entering the theatre and Mann Auditorium were  Israelis seemingly oblivious to the political happening so nearby. We had a trendy group of musicians who attracted a few watchers but not a hairs breath away the restaurants were filled to overflowing with young men and women just having fun. I had sat for a while having a beer and observing. They were the kind of young people anyone of us would have been happy to have in our family circle. They were friendly and polite no excessive drinking or wild behaviour. After work, relaxing and maybe a few even wandered over to Rabin Square which was filled with people involved in the big “World Yoga  Happening” organized by the Indian Embassy.

I had intended to go there that evening but got waylaid by my social conscience. I can always do Yoga but in a few days, we party members have to vote for a leader. We have to build a strong opposition to the present government and to work for the improvement of our society and the settlement of this ongoing destructive conflict with those with whom we share this land, which cannot be ignored any longer.

Buildings are buildings and memories can be nostalgic and give one a momentary warm feeling inside. The future is the challenge and ours to determine. Are people thinking about it?

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.