Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Who am I and where do I fit in….belong?

I came to this country in 1949 I was 18 years old. I had lived in London throughout the Blitz. I had heard stories about the Holocaust and how our people, the Jewish people had suffered “ad infinitum”. I was fortunate to be accepted to an elite English girls’ school where almost all the pupils in the 6th form were German Jewish refugees.

They spoke little of their lives in Germany and they were actually the lucky ones whose parents had been able to leave. They also were the smartest pupils in our school but got little medals, as they could not play, “sports”. They just were awkward around a netball or a hockey stick!

One of my closest friends in Israel over a very long period, was a Holocaust survivor from Vienna. Her name Luzi Mandelstam. When we compared our teen years, there were hardly any that matched. At the age of 16 I was having the normal life of a teenager (despite the war) life. Luzi, was in the Vienna ghetto and after that in Auschwitz, where she saw her Mother and Sister “selected’. They were forced on to a truck and that was that! Her father had fled to Poland and seemed to have disappeared. She was sent from one concentration camp to another.
As a Jew, I never had any problem with identity. There were fellow pupils whom I invited home who said “Its so nice here and your Mum makes such good cakes but, I can never tell my father that I was in a Jewish house!” Mostly we felt “equal”.

Until now, that is! With rising separation I can call it that… or division of society I am anxious for my grandchildren’s and great grandchildren’s future. This new Government whom do they really represent? Sadly, although in 1981 together with the late President Chaim Herzog an attempt was made to change the Electoral System, the outbreak of the first Lebanon War stopped all of our activities. Two years later no one was remotely interested and look what we have now? With rising violence and increased antagonism only those who agree with the present and what appears to be the future division within our society, will be cheering. Little do they realize that we are on a slippery slope.

I came to Israel in 1949, I voted for Ben Gurion! That was all that I thought I had to worry about. “A land for all of its peoples”. My boy friend who after WW2 had joined the British Army, (all young men in Britain, had to do 2 years of military service) left the Army in order to go to Israel when the British Army left Palestine. So he was a “Halutz” maybe? We never questioned why or what. The country needed us and we wanted to be a part of this society which we thought was inclusive, for all whom lived here! A multi cultural and inclusive environment.

Over the years and involvement in activities like Road Safety which did not discriminate between the race or religion members of society, my mind set has remained the same. I am so proud of our achievements and now, I am concerned to say the least.

Maybe those who “opted” for the USA (I met some when on an official visit to Washington) are smiling now? Maybe not. Israel is not just a place to live. It is, as a visiting journalist once said to me “the heart of the monotheistic world.”
Let it stay that way and let us be thankful.

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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