Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

To be or not to be?

Shakespeare asked that question?

I am asking it this morning?

To be or not to be’ is a soliloquy of Hamlet’s – meaning that although he is speaking aloud to the audience none of the other characters can hear him. Hamlet says ‘To be or not to be’ because he is questioning the value of life and asking himself whether it’s worthwhile hanging in there.

Its Erev -the evening of  the Festival of Succoth and we in Israel are preparing for what I have always thought is our  loveliest  holiday. It’s about joy and hospitality. However small your Sukkah or as it was, temporary home, there’s always room for more.

Room for more can mean more people who may become infected with Corona because it’s hard to keep one’s distance, these days. After all if the American President and his wife have become infected then what’s the probability for ordinary mortals?

So although I am eager to join with my immediate family later on the roof of my daughter-in-law and son’s home, I will keep my distance.

However I will not literally keep my distance, from demonstrating on the corner near to my home, which directly faces the Ayalon Highway. Of course I do not get close to anyone and we are in a completely open space. There was a time not so long ago when I went to every demo in Rabin Square. It was once called The Kings of Israel Square, renamed after, Prime Minister Yitshak Rabin was assassinated,there at a peace rally.

Had I been younger I would have been in the demonstration in Central Tel Aviv in the La Guardia area.  The scenes of what went down there last night, have already been broadcast around the world.

After 70 years in Israel I have never witnessed anything quite like that which I watched with horror on my Facebook. It was like HELL. So much so, that the protesters who wanted to leave, out of fear of being randomly beaten up, were caged in by the police and simply could not. They were literally imprisoned.

Only the intervention of recently elected Member of Knesset. Mikki Haimovitch, who had voted against the Bill to Ban Public Demonstrations(in a Democracy?) stopped the brutality, and then the police opened the barriers.

What has happened to my country. Our country.

We all live here from choice. We are free to leave and yet only a Jew can become a citizen. Or anyone who is born here, that includes all the minority groups. I am not sure, but I have to believe that some people for particular and exceptional reasons are granted citizenship. A close friend who spoke fluent Arabic as well as Hebrew, desperately wanted to join and be active in an internationally famous group working for Peace in the region.  He was denied a work permit because he was not Jewish.

I have always maintained that the unity in times of war particularly, is the feeling of oneness or family if you like, which exists between us. I remember when sitting with British Jews in London, when we entered Lebanon in 1982 and they shouted “Send the boys in”! My husband remonstrated “Whose boys? Your boys or mine?

So that is how it is with we Israelis, that is what I thought until last night.

So much hatred has been bred during the past 12 years that even non violent demonstrators are seen as a threat. We /they, are described, not only  as anarchists  and leftists but also spreaders of corona.

So whom can I look in the face today? Even on Facebook I am facing hostility. Ugly faces insulting me and or, my like minded friends and acquaintances.

If we as Jews living in the only country of its kind in the world and of which we are proud cannot feel safe in society, then what?

Having made that statement I will not leave. I will not give up on my country. The Jew as I call him with a suitcase in his heart can go..not me!

So we “live to fight a better day” another quote. All through history people have had to work hard for what they believe in, from this comes greatness. All achievements are hard earned,as they say. Seeing so many young and vibrant people out on the streets and at every intersection and bridge in the country gives me hope that the real Israel is alive and well.

Happy Festival of Pentecost  and Succoth to all!

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.