Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Will it ever change?

I haven’t been to Bnei Brak in a while. Bnei Brak is the town nearest to us and is totally identified with the Haredi, ultra orthodox community. Even I who usually dress very casually make sure that my knees are covered and I always wear a closed top when I go there. On this occasion I needed to have an X-ray and was directed to a Kupat Cholim Clinic, there.

I can never find my way around Bnei Brak either it has the feeling of a ghetto, so I took a taxi to the address I received. The clinic was situated in a high rise building the entrance to which was covered in stone blocks and all in all very aesthetic. When I reached the X-Ray department and opened my handbag to produce the Doctors detailed request, I was asked for a Tofess 17. A form is called a tofess and has all the medical information about the patient and also covers the expense of the procedure.

Aghast I discovered that I had neglected to get one and they looked at me blankly and said “sorry you cannot have the X-Rays, without it”. I immediately took out my mobile phone called my clinic and of course it was after four o’clock and everyone had left.

The taxi I had arrived in had left  too, so I took out my mobile again to call a Gett Taxi. As I did so a young Haredi male passed and yelled “Stop photographing the taxi rank, or I will call the police”.

Finally a cab turned up and I was on my way home.

I shared my story with the driver and he agreed with my comments about this area.

I cannot call it a neighbourhood, as its actually a town. A town with streets littered with cigarette ends and random paper bags and wrappers of all kinds, although here and there one detects a garbage can or dump. Every garbage container is filled to overflowing, as the use of disposable plates and so on, is extraordinary.

Girls and men pushing prams filled with lovely babies, some blonde and blue eyed. Young women with thick stockings when the thermometer reads 30 degrees and more.

This is the reality of Bnei Brak and while there’s a seeming majority of lower social economic income groups, the shops selling finery for bar mitzvahs and weddings are so overpriced its unbelievable.

We can only hope that a generation of orthodox yet open minded Rabbis will bring the change possible. There are not just a few, highly educated orthodox people in almost every sector of our vibrant society. They could and should bring new vision to the movements which while over-subsidised by the present Government, basically control their members. Ostensibly through the Rabbinic leadership.

Personally, though during my childhood I experienced antisemitism in all of its forms. I always enjoyed relationships with non Jewish girls at school, even though some would not tell their parents that they had been to my home! Ironically almost the whole of the Upper Sixth form in my school were German Jewish Refugees who surpassed the rest of us with exam results but could hardly throw a netball or wield a hockey stick! In English public schools sports are a significant part of the curriculum.

I am so sad to think that even our acts of self defense which of their nature cause civilian casualties, are turned by the media essentially, into out right slaughter of defenseless citizens.

I believe like many in Israel that we have an obligation to find a way to live in peace with our neighbours and then we will surely find the way to live within our neighbourhood!

Maybe those of us who grew up in the  British Isles really knew who the enemy was.

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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