Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

The neighbourhood and Yom Kippur

On this eve of  Yom Kippur ,like many other Israelis I have been out to do some last minute  food shopping so I can fulfil my obligation regarding the family meal, before we take the fast.I also decided to have my grey roots  coloured so that  I would look my best in front of the children,their children and yes my great grandchildren..

Yossi my  local hairdresser  left me with the dye on my hair while he attended to others.Not having time to waste I wandered out of the salon into the fruiterer next door. After excusing my appearance, brown dye on my forehead and a towel on my head  I chatted with the greengrocer Shlomo while he weighed my purchases ..

Suddenly I heard”Oh hello Zelda” it was the lovely young woman from the post office which is next door.She received an apple gratis,from Shlomo,we all exchanged “Hag Sameach”and I went back to Yossi. Other neighbours popped in,Yossi washed and cut my hair and I finally wended my way home.

I live in a “neighbourhood” its almost in a time warp. Its Israel in the 50’s when immigrants from Europe and North Africa were housed in “railways”which was what we called the  longish buildings with four or five tiny flats on the ground and the same above.. Some of them are still living in those cramped flats but many have been added to ,expanded and tarted up!However although strangers who come to visit are shocked at the third world appearance of some of the properties,it has its own charm. Irrespective of the social strata,religious propensity of the residents,people are friendly and relaxed with each other. We have a sprinkling too of tenants who are not Israelis and they are accepted without question and fit in to the mosaic.

We who came here at the birth of the State,remember a very different Israel to what we are today.So that’s why I feel lucky to live where I do. Too many have forgotten where they originated. Only today in the paper I picked up in the hairdressers, I read of a multi millionaire who started life in Pardess Katz…that was a neighbourhood, too.I am sure he is’nt living there now.

I feel in a way that our generation failed to see the problems that we would face in the future. We mainly were in the “survival” mode. We left it to our leaders they were heroes in our eyes.Mostly we did not question their actions.

Today its not so different although the neighbourhood (region)we inhabit has changed beyond recognition. We Israelis have much to be thankful for, but so much around us  is wrong and disturbing.

Not coming to terms with our neighbours across still undetermined borders, is one equation. The second being that we have grown used to being an unequal society and are seemingly inured to the suffering and deprivation of so many in our society.In that I include the young people and vatikim-the third age,whom are living longer than ever before, due to our excellent medicare  but under extremely difficult circumstances. Some with children living overseas for whom Israel is of no interest.

I look from my balcony to the Community Centre down below.Surrounded by the shaded green lawns  is a tiny sephardi shul which needs a coat of paint and the   football pitch constantly a centre of activity.Everywhere are groups of mothers and tots sprinkled around under trees still bearing balloons, from someone’s birthday party.

I wonder how many of the people in my neighbourhood are worrying about what drastic changes may affect us in the near future.We are still licking wounds after the fateful and devastating Tsuk Eitan campaign.We are screaming out at the budget which is supposedly to improve our quality of life…or is it?We are hanging on every word of our embattled Prime Minister.We are longing to live like people in…is it Luxembourg?

Perhaps this is just the time for us to say,lets go see for ourselves whats going on in the West Bank on the borders of Gaza or in Tachana Merkazit.or Lod or East Jerusalem? We may have surprises we may change attitudes. We may start lobbying our elected parliamentarians even though our  political system prevents  us direct access and  allows them to not be accountable.

Yom Kippur provides us with a rare opportunity to reflect and account for ourselves and to  connect with our  relationship to GOD and to the human race.

Fast well and may you be written in the good book.

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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