Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

When arabs like us more than we like ourselves?

This short email “We are worried about you and everyone, in Israel we see terrible images on our TV.screens” which I received from  friends who recently stayed with me, prompted me to send  an email to all my friends,family and acquaintances in Israel and overseas. I used to be in the business of hasbara!

I wanted to remind them that thousands of Israelis will stand together  on Shabbat evening, October 31st  in Rabin Square,Tel Aviv.
We will remember our  late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated there 20 years ago at a “Peace Rally”- for his efforts to find peaceful co-existence in our region”.
I did not know at the time that former US President Bill Clinton would be coming.

My email provoked an amazing response. I think that people wanted to hear that there is a modicum of sanity in our precious land, which appears to the outside world like a madhouse of terrorists on one hand and killings of innocent bystanders on the other.
They begin to wonder which is worse a dead Israeli or terrorist attacker or someone who happened to be in the right place but at the wrong time?. Senseless yes but expected also, yes.The scared public is becoming trigger happy.
We in Israel are torn apart both by our sincere love for this land all that it represents but also by the fact that our inherent values calling for tolerance,justice and charity are being challenged daily. Our urge to defend and protect our own is symptomatic, but when emotions run high cool heads are hard to find.

What we share is the desire to live in this place which is like no other.

A country where old and new philosophy,tragedy and history  are brushing shoulders daily. A place where guilt and pain from the collective memory of everyone who treads this land, is brutal in its intensity.
It is hard to explain this to people outside. We tend instead to seek support, by being seen as the victim. So do our nearest enemies, who are also living in “the land”

I am a left leaning, zionist of yester-year who feels that maybe my generation failed to see what was ahead.I always justify myself by saying that between 1949 and 1967 we were just surviving and trusted our leaders to know what was best for us.

I try to go to events calling for coexistence and an end to conflict where I may learn something new or identify with the aims of the organisations.

Last Thursday night I was surprised beyond belief.

I saw a notice on the FB page of a large movement of which I am a member.It encouraged us to turn up at a demonstration of Israeli Arabs and Jews convening at the plaza at the entrance to Tel Aviv University.
I expected to see hundreds of students.
On arrival I was met by an all male line up of Israeli Arabs mostly swathed in blue and white flags. I noticed an attractive blonde middle aged woman talking to people in the crowd… I stood with the demonstrators  but felt strangely out of place..
The men were friendly and told me where they were from.They gleefully pointed to a banner which was written in arabic.”What does it say” I asked.”We hate the Palestinians” they laughed.
I was incredulous,how could that be so? Hate your own people.!
I asked if any  students from the organisation “One Voice” were there.
They said that they didn’t know what I meant.

I asked them if they knew who Sayed Kashua was or if they had seen the film “Dancing Arabs” ? Again no!
At which point the blonde lady whom I think was called Anette shouted at me” We are the true voice of the arab people.””We are zionists  and support the State of Israel, it is our country and we are proud of it.”

She  pointed to a hand made banner in hebrew  decrying the stabbings and then said to me, maybe because I was wearing a t- shirt of Women Wage Peace “You are really disturbing me, will you go away”
I was in a state of shock. What was I doing here?

“One Voice” is a movement which encourages intermingling of Jews and Arabs within the University. I have been to their events which are well attended,interesting and heartwarming. A place where mutual interests, are what is important .
WWP is a movement of Jewish and Arab women all concerned that we live and connect with each other, for the mutual benefit of our children, for the future.
The new movement whose name I did not get is I believe  connected to one of our extreme political parties. I heard from a bystander,that Anette had run on their list for the Knesset, but did not get in.

At last, she who was most averse to me, addressed the handful of spectators who had gathered around.She was a lively speaker and every mention of Zionism and patriotism was vigorously applauded. They clapped even louder when she attacked the MK’s of the United Party.
The only journalist I saw present was from  was from “Israel Hayom”.

After a while I left with two other people, who happened to be right of centre and over a coffee discussed the evenings’ happenings. We all felt uncomfortable for our different reasons.
I couldn’t wait to get Israel Hayom on Friday but there was no mention of the demo.
I threw the paper into the garbage.
Then I thought, is this a good story for Hasbara?

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.