Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

To inherit or forget it?

I awoke this morrning  as I do every day to the sound of birds, and as it was also late for me, sweet voices of children playing on the grass below my balcony. I had, I think, disturbing dreams which I have the ability to forget the moment my eyes open.

I did not want to get up because I had no plans for the day.

I suddenly realized that I must take after my mother because even on her last day, she had, as always, prepared her sewing and reading materials for the day ahead. She was not a gregarious activist and impatient animal like me, but she had to be busy and feel useful nevertheless.

I started to think about the life I have lived and compare it to that which people live today. The world on one hand has turned into a place where if you have the means you can actually have “others” and technology do almost everything for you,  no sweat. You can choose to have a child from sperm which you purchase and a process that doesn’t even have to include your own body,sex,feelings or pain. You can fix your face your boobs,your sex, even your mind through umpteen therapies.

If you have the means you can have someone see to your every need,  not to mention a foreign worker. Further more with remote control, you can open your doors turn on your lights,tv and oven, open your shutters and so on and so forth before entering your home.

The instant   information at the end of a fingertip(or a voice command) turns you into an authority on any subject, even into  a gourmet cook, before you can say “I know it all”

The smiling news presenter  on Channel 1 the other night, when being shown the latest I pod, pad or whatever, said” all it has to do now is make me a cup of coffee!”

While all this is going on millions  around the world are still starving and oppressed and we the “fat cats” are also the victims of the mores of our society and our leadership, whether democratically elected or not. Progress for some, regression for others?

None of it makes sense. In the amazing city that never sleeps where I live now, we have super duper first world life styles, elegant towers, state of the art this and that and luxuries to exceed anyone’s  wildest dreams and yet, are rubbing shoulders with the third world and not only in Tachana Merkazit.

Then I got back to me and my personal narrative. What it’s like being a widow and facing challenges alone but also having freedom of choice in everything I do.

I was reflecting upon the values on which I was brought up, the personal suffering and difficult experiences that life threw at me. The gift for survival and positive thinking enabled me to produce a  beautiful family while thrusting at windmills, to achieve some of my dreams but not all of my aspirations.

Then I thought about that advert on the radio when one of Israel’s senior actresses with a slight European accent says” I want to go to” she calls it a” senior citizens home” I beg to differ, “its an old age residence” but she says “I worry about selling my house and what about my children’s inheritance”? She then goes on to say about the home she is advertising “Ah but this place is different'”

That statement will not drive me to a gilded cage surrounded by old and feeble people of my age, but it   triggered thoughts that I had never had before.

Who ever worried about my inheritance? Why should I worry about my children, for whom I provided a loving secure childhood despite economic hardship, helped them into their adult lives and today they are all far richer in material terms, than I and their father ever were.

Why am I trying to live off a meagre pension? Last nights news gave me hope, that it maybe enhanced by the bonds or egrot chov as they are called, that Yitsak Tshuva is paying back to the public, after spending our invested money like it was going out of fashion!

Everything I have is the result of the endeavours of my late husband(not partner) who was also my best friend and myself.. He who suffered for years from debilitating illness, also worried   about the children, although his own life had been far from easy.

When did I ever get an inheritance? My own father  a cabinet maker who spent the war years  as a maintenance worker on army camps, died when I was 14 at the end of WW2. The little he left my mother was “loaned” to greedy relatives who   supposedly offered her means of income but    she was too young and inexperienced to deal with the sharks.

My stepfather left almost nothing to her and when she died, we were looking after her. She deserved so much more than I her only child, was able to give her.

My brother in law diddled my husband out of all of their mother’s money and possessions. We were in Israel.

My extremely wealthy maiden aunt,  stepfather’s sister who had actually known me since I was born, did not even mention my name or those of my children in her will. That was to use her words ”because we were not “blood relatives” but left 1000 sterling to her three bridge partners, to have a slap up meal at the Savoy Hotel London.

We had suffered her when in England, through every Friday night meal and hagim. She always had a long face, criticized, chattered all through the Seder but   as they say would have “cut us out of her will” had we not invited her and included her in every aspect of our lives. Yet she did! My youngest son was holding her hand when she died in a London nursing home.

My mother’s youngest sister the “rich” one in the family who had given me gifts as a young woman, been involved in my life in Israel even in the 60’s when almost no one visited, also did not mention me when she passed on. I always hoped she would leave me a piece of her exquisite jewelry, but I think kindly of her anyway!

Finally, the Aunt, my mother’s closest sister who had no kids.

She was like a second safta to mine. As she lay dying in a London hospital  my cousin whom like me was a named beneficiary in her will forced  her to rewrite it  entirely in his favour. It was then witnessed by two nurses. He can live with   ”blood on his hands”.

My late father’s parents and his siblings abandoned us when he died but due to a stroke of luck and my youngest son’s investigative abilities and tenacity, we were able to take advantage of the estate of   an aunt who had died, intestate.  Her home had been given to an insurance company who had paid her a monthly allowance. Although that was lost, we found, 50years after his death, some furniture which my father or grandfather had crafted in the 30’s , a small amount of money, loads of  sepia photos, but none of my father or me!

So thinking it over I wonder since no one in the world thought about me, why I am worrying like the actress on radio, about “what I am going to leave to my children and grandchildren?” Maybe only love?

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.