Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

The meaning of turquoise

I had an hour to kill before catching a bus to a meeting of Women Wage Peace in Ramat Hasharon. So I decided to spend the time having coffee and a bite to eat, in my favourite neighbourhood bakery Bar Lechem in Neot Afeka,

Since we moved to Tel Aviv some 9 years ago, this has been a regular place to meet up with friends. On entering, the seductive smells of freshly baked bread and yeast cakes not to mention the  rich aroma of coffee, titillate ones taste buds.

It’s not unusual to see there “celebs” sometimes dressed to the nines  but more often than not garbed in a flagrant t shirt and jeans.The women who look familiar from TV, often  tend not to put on make up,so one is never quite sure.  Here in Israel people do look over at others and sometimes make eye contact. In London that’s taboo.  So living in a neighbourhood with an eclectic mix of people, life is interesting and at the same time friendly. Also in the mornings in Bar Lechem you will find mothers with babies in prams or at the breast, chatting with friends,everyone one is made to feel at home.

As someone vacated a table I sat down and a young man came over and asked what would I like to order.  I chose a tomato and cheese focaccia and a large coffee. I was twiddling with my mobile, when a blond attractive  woman came to sit opposite me and said “Would you mind if we photograph you?You are an interesting and beautiful woman and when I saw you come in dressed all in turquoise,I knew that I had to have a picture”.

I was in shock.What a compliment at my advanced age,I am not used to that. True I was sporting a jaunty cap since the sun was still a force even though it was six o clock. I was wearing matching three quarter jeans and a tee shirt.

We got chatting and then I told her that the reason I chose these clothes was because I was en route to a meeting of Women Wage Peace and their colours are white with turquoise, so I thought it fitting.

This hue a combination of blue and green was chosen by the movement as a sign of hope and as anyone in Israel can join there could be no offense.

“What are those women?” she asked.

“Surely you have heard of them” I replied,surprised.

“I don’t watch TV or read Facebook I am the wife of the baker and you can imagine the long hours we work”. I also have three kids at home”.

“Well you have a great business” I said. “I have been coming regularly since moving to this area. My husband who was in a wheel chair, used to love to sit here and always enjoyed the “tasters” of your broad assortment of artisan breads, spread with delicious french butter. My favourite is the brioche filled with vanilla cream and chocolate. I haven’t found this particular delicacy in any other place I have visited in Tel Aviv.”

Within a short time we felt like we had always known each other, there was an unusual empathy. When I told her about my activism  over the years she said  “You should know  that every loaf of bread,rolls and cake we have over in the evening, is given away to organisations for needy people. Mothers who are visiting their kids in the army can ask us for a parcel. You too can come anytime you hear of someone needy. That’s our small contribution to society.”

I felt humbled, a chance meeting and such an enlightening and inspiring experience.The water brought my bill and with it a box of delicious granola cookies,a gift from Shiri the owner of this delightful cafe.

She does have a website and instagram called Shiri Bar Lechem if you are tempted to find out more.

Stimulated,flattered and energised  I left to get my bus. I arrived at the venue a private home, to find a packed room with women of mixed ages who had gathered to watch a film “Pray the devil back to Hell” which has now been shown in 200 venues the length and breadth of the country.

“Not an easy film to watch” Miri and Tami the two presenters told us.

It certainly wasn’t!

It chronicles the remarkable story of the Liberian women who came together to end a bloody civil war and bring peace to their shattered country.The horrific scenes of killing and destruction coupled with the personal testimonies of the women who lead the movement and others whose graphic description of the rape of a daughter  in front of their eyes,the helplessness and despair of telling a hungry child “there is no food” and more, are overwhelming. I cannot do justice here to this extraordinary film  or the women’s movement which brought Christians and Muslim women who were all observant, to come together for a mutual cause which drove them to take incredible risks until they won.

I suggest to everyone find out when “Pray the devil back to hell” is being shown in your area.

Women wage Peace has a membership of at least 8,000 women from all ethnic and religious groups from the length and breadth of Israel. Its activities are many and varied . They have become a non violent and non party political force, to be reckoned with.They cannot be ignored and pledge to stand and work together until a Diplomatic Accord is reached between us and the Palestinians.

Last summer they sat fasting for 50 days outside the Prime Minister’s house to commemorate the Tsuk Eitan war in Gaza. People came to join and visit from all over the country and many parts of the world. Neither the PM or his wife came down to say hello once although politicians from many parties came to pay respect.

In October this year they will lead a two week March of Hope from the north and south to converge on Jerusalem. It will start on October 4th.They will be joined by Lema Bau the Nobel prize winner. leader of the Liberian women’s movement.

In the same way as we came out for Gilad Shalit the people of Israel will have the chance to come out for freedom of speech,expression and movement.For an end to conflict and the beginning of a new way forward in our region.

Promises from groups also outside of Israel have been received and simliar marches are being planned in coordination,in other countries.

Hats off to women who wage peace and all their menfolk and children whom support them.

Thanks too to Shiri who made the wearing of turquoise more meaningful than ever.

Quote: the color turquoise helps opening lines of communication between the heart and the spoken word.It is a happy,friendly color.

Need I say more?

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.