Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Women’s Day

I do not consider myself to be a feminist I have spent most of my life surrounded by men whether my male cousins who tormented me in my childhood or” boyfriends” who were not sweethearts, or the men with whom I have worked in collaboration to achieve aims that I believed were of value to the Jewish people and especially Israel society.

I am also the mother of three sons.

We are indeed living through troubled times and without any doubt the people of Israel whatever their status feel that they are not represented in the Knesset, even if they are ardent supporters of a particular political party.

A speaker at a large gathering which I attended said”We are here because we are all Concerned Citizens” I looked at my son standing alongside and said”Where have you heard that before”?

The Committee of Concerned Citizens was founded 1978 by the late Chaim Herzog, myself and a group of mostly but not all, immigrants from Western countries. Herzog during his tenure as an MK. held an weekly open office in Herzlia so that constituents could contact him. In the UK.this is a norm for very elected representive,since they are directly elected.The system  which had been proposed by the late Gad Yacobi and others, during the time that Herzog was in the US as Ambassador to UN,was what motivated us..

We set up an across the board parliamentary committee and made considerable progress bringing on board reputable Professors of Law and other academiics as well as prominent people from all sectors.  We also travelled the country and met with people from all walks of life who felt unrepresented. The rest is history and not for this article but perhaps the situation today would have been different if so many of the so called “meshugga le inyan” as dedicated people are called in Israel, had not dropped out and forced us after many years to cease activities.

Again albeit my small team of great women,the work was mostly with men.

My career changed radically when I was appointed Director of BIPAC Israel and spent with my trusted PA  Linda,12 years showing my Israel warts and all, to hundreds of media people and VIP’s who came from the UK and Ireland. The majority of whom were men.

Then in 1993 I delved into the muddy water of road safety.Men were again prominent in my life but I was incredibly fortunate to work with those whom I can only describe as gurus.

People did not want to listen to me at first and the  academic women in the field were even worse”What do you know” they said when I stood up in meetings. They were so annoyed by my presence and openly lambasted the men who were my colleagues and mentors, the very men who in fact made the most significant contribution to saving lives in Israel,ever. These  were the forerunners of many of the improvements in road accident prevention,that we see today.

They were Professor Gerry Ben David z’l outstanding physicist who came from UK in the early 50’s Professor Elihuhu Richter HU, Zvi Weinberger  who was head of the JCT  and  leading orthopedic surgeon and expert in disaster medicine Dr Yaakov Adler .

We can claim outstanding achievements which today are taken for granted by those who do not know about the  horrific carnage on our roads in the past.

So on this women’s day I take my hat off to the women who for me in my dotage are”role models” and I am proud to belong to the group known as WOMEN WAGE PEACE-Nashim Ossot Shalom.

I truly believe that women have so much more to offer than they realise.

That’s why I suffered a personal blow when as one proposed for a prize for immigrants from English(anglo) backgrounds who have contributed to Israel society since the beginning of the State(I came in 1949)I was rejected. At least I think I was, as to date I have not received a letter to say”Thanks very much, but no thank you”

I was reluctant to even accept the proposal for I felt that there would be others more able than me. Out of six prizewinners ONLY ONE was a women and all of them with one exception came from America.

Even more than the rejection, I am sad that I could not use the opportunity to publicly thank all of those men and women(my friends and supporters in all the years)without whom I could not have achieved anything.

So feminist or not I am still a fighter for what I believe in and wish all the women who read this a great productive year ahead for even after the elections ….life goes on.






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.