Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Why are more Jews leaving than making aliyah?

It was in 1978.  I had returned from a long spell in the UK where we had lived and worked together with our kids, to get to a position whereby we could once more take our place in Israeli society.

I met Chaim Herzog who had just returned from the United Nations where he had been our Ambassador, famous for having ripped to pieces in the eyes of all the UN the  resolution that “Zionism equals Racism.”

Chaim was very worried about the yerida which ensued not long after the MAPACH as it was known when in 1977  the Likud headed by Menachem Begin finally defeated the Israel Labour party which had ostensibly ruled Israel for 30 years.

He put the yerida down to the lack of accountability in the Knesset and that fact that none of the elected members ever represented those who elected them.

We have gone a long way since then and not actually succeeded in direct representation.  At least some parties do hold primaries and so give their members the opportunity to decide on whom will represent them in the Knesset, always assuming they are in a fitting place on the list!

Why are they”leaving in droves” when the whole world is in crisis?. Even those countries which were the example of democracy and stability, integrity and prosperity are not giving off good vibes.

Where are they choosing to build a new life and for what?

People are tired of the “battle” for meaningful existence on a personal level, a political level and also an economic level.

Life has for so many taken a superficial turn and if so it makes no difference where one lives. If one cannot affect the “change they wish to be” then better to seek a place to live where your daily commitment is your soul.

Only those for whom ideology is the potent decider find no problem living here.

When I first came here there was only, hope.There were no luxuries and few services. Although the basics were in place thanks to those Jews whom had lived here during the British Occupation, it was for a young girl from super organised Britain a bit like, the Wild West.

There’s no question that the early 20th century settlers as I call them ( olim only became a reality after 1948)  laid the foundations for the institutions which exist until today.

Even so, those worn out weary families who survived the horrors of World War Two and arrived via Cyprus, Marseilles, North Africa, Italy plus the westerners who volunteered for Mahal(mitnadvei hutz l’aaretz) together with those, who had survived the British Occupation were mutually and inextricably bound.

We wanted Eretz Israel and even though it was small and intimate it was the beginning of the greatest challenge our people had faced in modern times.To build a state that would be just, equal and safe for all those who lived in it.

When I first arrived life was simple. Far more of the essentials for daily living were absent rather than available. There were severe food shortages. The population had cleared out all the stocks of canned food and household supplies from the Spinneys stores which had supplied the British army but were also open to the locals.Housing was scarce and then totally unavailable and we all know the history of those first years.Rationing came in, in 1950.

Egged buses were the main source of transport.

Israel was also clean.

I was amazed when I  first saw “sponja”. The girl who came to clean my friend’s house had move all the furniture outside.Our neighbour who had served in the British Army was amazed at how bodily clean we were. He said, “the British soldiers hated to shower but there was a roll call every day to see who did”. He laughed when he told us that “hey Lubman” (who already showered once that day)  “you don’t have to do it twice”.His wife who had served in the ATS the Women’s corps, was equally impressed when she saw us hanging out our washing.

Our neighbour who had served in the  British Army was amazed at how bodily clean we were. He said “the British soldiers hated to shower but there was a roll call every day to see who did. He laughed when he told us that “hey Lubman” (who already showered once)  you don’t have to do it twice.His wife who had served in the ATS the Women’s corps was equally impressed when she saw us hanging out our washing.

Israel a Middle Eastern country  was clean.

What has happened to us over the years? Oh yes, people are clean on their bodies. We shower regularly and inside most houses, everything shines. We build luxurious skyscrapers both for habitation and for working in.We have hi-tech coming out of our ears.If slovenliness doesn’t exist inside the pristine offices, then why outside? Inside information has it that even on army bases the level of attention to external cleanliness is minimal.

In the streets, there’s detritus, sloth, discarded coffee cups, chocolate and sweet wrappers and plastic bottles, also strewn around in nature reserves even though the Keren Kayemet does its best to deter it. Around trees and bus stops in certain neighbourhoods, you will find cigarette butts and tickets and more.  On our trains and buses, one can notice that no one cleans the corners of the floors and the ridges at the sides of the seats. Noone seems to care. At petrol stations, particularly where tourist buses stop and thousands of shekels are spent daily, the toilets leave much to be desired.Not to mention at public showers and changing facilities on our beaches.

Even in some expensive dining places ..just look around.

Last but not least the receptacles for recycling that has to be the piece de resistance? In our North Tel Aviv neighbourhood the situation is appalling.  The orange and blue “pachei ashpa”  designated for collecting different kinds of trash in order to protect our environment are so filthy that it is actually nauseating to touch them.

I am grumbling because environment-friendly initiatives are welcome in any society.  They also raise public awareness promote consideration and are aimed to keep our country beautiful. The population is taking their garbage to the receptacles(if you can find one near your house that is not overflowing) so they, in fact, are doing their duty but who cares? Not the municipality.

It’s rare for an Israeli who comes back from abroad not to mention how clean it is in any European country West or East.   I myself observed that in UK and France where I stayed with relatives the receptacles(bins) are placed either next to peoples’ private homes or apartment blocks and are spotlessly clean. Others, large ones are placed in garages or more often Supermarket parking areas and again are spotless.

Whom is responsible for the cleaning, I cannot tell you. Obviously it’s a governmental decision.  The bins are not just thrown out there in the hope that some compulsive citizen will take it upon himself to clean them up.

So even though clean bins are not the reason that those seeking a “better” quality of life are leaving, it’s sad to think of how it all started and how torn apart our society is today.

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.