HER STORY #62 - zelda
I’m 86 years old. I grew up in England during the Second World War. Due to the Blitz from the age of eight until 11, I was evacuated, mostly to live with non-Jewish people who lived outside of London.
Prior to evacuation we went to bomb shelters every night during the bombing.
When war broke out all luxury businesses were forced to close. My father a cabinet-maker who actually designed the first cocktail cabinet which lit up as the doors opened was forced into bankruptcy. He was called up to the army, but because his trigger finger was damaged, he couldn’t use a gun. He could still use his craft, so they called him up to work at army bases.
Sometimes he was near us, and sometimes he wasn’t. When my parents couldn’t find a place for all of us, my mother would send me away to live somewhere else, and when my father was based more permanently we went to join him.
Towards the end of the war, we moved to Middlesex in London, and it was the first time I was with Jewish children. In all the other places that I’d been to I was usually the only Jewish child, and was welcomed with suspicion. I recall one neighbor, who didn’t like Jews, and she immediately told my mother, but after some time, she realized that we weren’t monsters.
I identified as a Jew. I told people that I stayed with that I had to light candles on Friday night and that I didn’t eat pork. I would do anything for them though, and be helpful and look after the children.
The first time that I was in the Jewish community was at the age of 11. I had joined the synagogue. My friends and I mainly joined to meet the boys, as we weren’t religious.
Then I eventually joined the synagogue youth movement the AJY. I was 13 years old when I saw an advert in the Jewish newspaper. I announced that there was a rally for an organization called Hashomer Hatzair, and it was something about Palestine, the Land of Israel. It was a rally for young people. So I said to my best friends, who did everything with me: “I want to go.” She said: “No, I’m not going to something like that,” and so I said: “You needn’t, but I’m going.”
It was held at a large hotel in Central London. I entered a massive hall and there must have been 1000 young people there. On the walls it said: “We are going too Eretz Israel [Land of Israel]” They were singing and dancing the hora. Many were refugees from Germany and Austria.
I remember feeling: If there will be an Israel, I will be there. On the walls outside the hotel were graffiti messages which said ‘Jews go back to Palestine.” I convinced my friend and we joined the Hashomer Hatzair. I realized that it was almost Marxist, as we weren’t allowed to wear stockings or makeup, but we loved it, and I think that that’s what really made me a Zionist. I didn’t come from a Zionist nor a religious background.
When I was 15 years old, my father died.
My father was an amazing, crazy, funny man. He was also the one who was interested in what I wrote. He knew that I wanted to be an actress, so he promised me that at the age of 16, I could leave the wonderful school that I was in and go to Royal Academy of Dramatic Art which, at the time, was the leading drama college in England.
My father got sick with cancer of the lungs. They gave him six months to live, but he insisted on going back to this workshop, because towards the end of the war people who were not essential to the WAR EFFORT were allowed to re-start their former businesses.
He died during the last days of the war. The war ended on May 8th, and he died on May 10th in 1945.
Out Of School
My father had manage to rent a big house, because no one had anywhere to live. My mother and I had quite a lot of difficult things to deal with. My aunt, uncle and cousins lived with us. As soon as my father died we were forced to leave the house.
I was 14 years old. I decided that I wasn’t going to be an actress and that Rada was not for me. I told my mother: “I’m getting out of school,” and I wasn’t allowed to leave the prestigious girls school North London Collegiate as I had received a scholarship that committed me to stay there until the age of 18.
My mothers’ sisters were all very selfish…I think that if one person had said to her: “Don’t let her leave school” I wouldn’t have done it, but Mummy didn’t have any backup, and I was always strong-willed.
And by then we had moved to the West End of London to live in a flat that belonged to my Aunt Stella. That was also traumatic. It was Mummy and I against the world, and we didn’t have much money, and I felt that it was wrong to even expect her to keep me, so I had to get out of school in order to work. We made a fictitious application to the school to say that they should release me from the scholarship. I said that I was going to an art school in Brighton, but it wasn’t true.
At 16, I started going out with guys and new friends in London. I started to work as a junior fashion model. I had a friend, who had gone to a boarding school. This girl was a spoiled brat, but very nice. She told me: “I don’t know any people in London. Maybe if we start a committee, we’ll get to know people.” She was rich, and rich people always know other rich people.
Then she asked me: “What should we do?” So I said: “Okay, let’s start a committee to raise money for Israel – an ambulance for Magen David Adom.” So we started a committee. My boyfriend, who then later became my husband, was also on the committee.
Our Chairman was the son of a millionaire. I was the only one on the committee, who didn’t have any money, but it didn’t matter since I was an activist who took on responsibility. I was sent out to the Savoy hotel, which was one of the best hotels in London, to book a hotel for the fundraising dinner. How was it that they trust me to do this? We raised the money for one of the first ambulances for Magen David Adom.
My boyfriend Leon had joined the British army. Many Jewish boys went to the army (there was conscription of all 18 year olds) but all of them said that if there would be an Israel, they would go and fight in Israel. One day, he showed up and said: “I’m going to Israel to fight.” That was in 1948.
None of the others did.
You couldn’t just go [to Israel]. First of all, there wasn’t even an airline flying there. The Brits had also just been kicked out of Israel. But he left. He went to Paris, and this was all underground, all secret stuff, organized by Haganah and Etzel, because as it happened we had a friend, who was in Etzel. He kept phoning me from Israel. He had very little money, because the travel allowance was only 35 pounds. In Paris he was picked up, and then he started working at the Jewish Agency with all the refugees, and eventually from Paris he got to Marseille there he organized a hunger strike to force the agency to send a boat as people had been waiting for months, living in unspeakable conditions. Every story and every movie you see about this; about the 800 people on the boat with no sanitation, with people giving birth, with people having sex – it was exactly as you see in the pictures.
He wrote to me [from Israel], and I was still working in the fashion business at the time. I was also still helping to raise money. He said: “You have got to come. It’s paradise.”
He was living in a kibbutz, as the fighting had almost stopped, they asked all the volunteers to go on kibbutzim, because they needed help with agricultural work. All the men on the Kibbutz had been called up to fight.
I thought to myself that it must be the land of milk and honey, trees and a beautiful scenery.
I went there in 1949, and there were no direct flights. You had to fly to Brussels and then to spend 24 hours in Brussels waiting for a plane, and then I got on a place which brought me to Lod. Lod was a very simple airport. There was a runway, and the people waiting for you to get off the plane were literally standing down below, as you left the plane you could look down and see them. And I saw this boy. Nine months had gone by, and I thought: Oh my God. I don’t even know him. I don’t even know if I love him. He might take me to bed. What am I going to do? Here I am in Israel. I don’t know a soul in the country, except him. But it was fantastic.
He was on a kibbutz, which doesn’t exist any longer. It was next to Kibbutz Ramat David and they joined forces. He asked me, if I wanted to stay, but I thought that it was all very primitive.
I was the girlfriend, so they didn’t expect me to work. I was quite happy to work though, because he was, so I had expected to work in the field, but they wouldn’t allow me.
Our friends, David and Elaine, were living in Haifa and we went to stay with them. I slept in the kids’ room, and Leon slept on the kitchen floor, because they just had three rooms.
David told my husband: “Listen, we are six guys, some from the army, some from the navy, and we need another person to join us to buy a fishing trawler. We will go deep sea fishing for tuna and other fish. People are so short of food here. We’ve got permission to go ahead and buy this boat. It’s been commissioned in Holland. If you could raise 1000 sterling or something like that, you could be our seventh member.”
So he asked Leon to join and then we thought to ourselves: First of all, we are too young to get married, because we were both under 21, and we didn’t have our parents’ consent. Second of all, we don’t have any money, so we figured that in order to get money, we better go back to London and get married and then come back.
We arrived at Victoria station in December having travelled from Haifa to Marseille by boat with other volunteers from Europe and North America who were returning home.
We told our parents that we had to be married within six weeks, and they nearly died. Nobody got married within six weeks after the war. It would take at least 18 months, because you couldn’t find a hall or a band or catering. There was nothing.
But then my mother and my mother-in-law found a place for the wedding we married on January 8th 1950. We got the money. We couldn’t afford the honeymoon or anything, so that night we went to the Savoy hotel. It was always my dream to stay there. We had the cheapest room in the hotel. The next morning, I took my bouquet to my father’s grave.
Then Leon went to Holland, and I was with my mother until I went back to Israel with 1000 pounds in cash. These friends, who lived in Haifa found me a room in the apartment of a family in the same building.
I returned alone to Haifa in March. I was a pioneer by then, and I thought to myself: I will get work, and I will be a proper Israeli. But I couldn’t get any work. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t trained for anything, but then I saw an ad in the Jerusalem Post, which had previously been called Palestine Post, which said: “Models required for a fashion show.” I got the job. It was for two weeks only, but it was money.
For two weeks I got a salary, and that was nice, but I couldn’t write and tell everybody back in England that I got a job as a model. Come on! You’ve got to fight, to dig the soil, and you’re going to write to people and say that you’ve got a job as a model? It was like a joke!
Leon came back from Holland with David who found us the flat, but they came back without the boat. This was the first time that we had hit Israeli politics. Half of the group had been involved with Etzel. My husband hadn’t been, but the others had, and the Mapai government had their hands on the money in the Ministry of Finance. There had been two ships: One was ours, and one belonged to a Mapai kibbutz. The money was there, but only one boat got the money, and that was the one connected to the kibbutz.
My husband couldn’t find a job. They wanted him to go the army, but we couldn’t have lived on what the army could have given him, and then I got terribly ill. I had appendicitis, and during the course of the surgery the appendix burst, and I nearly died. I was very lucky to be 19 and to be given penicillin.
We didn’t even have money to pay the hospital. There were no health care providers organized for people like us. We didn’t come through an organization either. We came on our own, so we didn’t have that coverage.
My husband went all over looking for a job, and we couldn’t find anything. There was a family that we were very connected to. They were lovely too us. They brought us double cream from their cows and always a delicious cake and eggs, but they couldn’t provide us with a job. They said: “Look, you’re a couple of kids. Why don’t you just go back, build your lives a bit and come back later?”
Eventually we decided that we had no choice. We didn’t want to go back, because we knew what people would say: We told you so. What did you go for? What did you waste your time for?
At the end of the war, all of your friends came out of the army reserves, and they all went into their parents’ businesses, because the economy had already started to flourish. Or they went to university or into a trade or profession. We had just wasted that time, although it still was an amazing experience.
So we got on with our lives in England, and we eventually found jobs. A friend’s father was opening a fashion showroom in Manchester, and he said to my husband: “Do you think you could do it?” My husband was a brilliant salesman, and we did it. We went to Manchester, and then I got pregnant with my first child.
Then then decided to close the showroom so again we were left with nothing. We came back to London. My husband opened his own business manufacturing ladies dresses. He put his mother and brother into the firm. We were quite happy, living in a nice rented apartment, and we had a car.
I worked a bit for my stepfather. We were fine, and then I had the second son, but then after a year, my husband started to get ill with a lot of chest problems. When we lived in London, it was very damp, and he went for an examination, and they said: “You really should get out of this damp climate,” so we knew that we had to leave England.
My mother said, you can go to Portugal or to America, and I said: “Mummy, there is only one place for me. If I’m leaving England, and we need a hot climate, it’s back to Israel,” and she said: Well, I can’t fight you. If that’s what you really want to do, do it.”
So we were back in Israel. My husband and I were on our own, and the children were with my parents, and they lived in our rented apartment, which was rented on behalf of my husband’s company.
We had connections to the Wolfson family and all kinds of people, but my husband couldn’t get a job. He had worked within the fashion business, which in Israel was hardly an industry but he decided anyway that this was the thing that he should aim for.
There were promises made but nothing came out of them…We had joined a kibbutz ulpan [school for intensive study of Hebrew], so that we wouldn’t have to stay with friends, because we were in a very bad predicament, as we had nothing to go back to, and we had nothing in Israel.
It wasn’t what I had planned at all. We had planned that we would go and find jobs, and my mother would bring the children over. What happened was the complete reverse.
So, when we finished the kibbutz ulpan, my mother wrote me: “You’ve got to come back. They have closed the business, gone into liquidation and we have to leave the apartment, because the apartment is rented through the company.” She said that Leon would have to come back, and I said: “He can’t.” If he goes back to England, he will die. He was still not well, but at least he was living in a hot climate.
I went and believe that as I had experienced utter shock to my system when in confrontation with my in-laws who had taken everything from us, I ended up in hospital and was there for six weeks with hepatitis. I had what they called a complete emotional breakdown.
So my mother had to get rid of the apartment, to sell the furniture, to pack me and the boys up for Israel. Then my husband called and said: “I found us a place on a communal moshav and I thought: Thank God! So I brought the two little boys back, and we went to Moshav Habonim which had been settled by mostly Westerners after their army service.
It was fantastic, because we were able to take the children there, and for them it was paradise.
We had to do an apprenticeship for two years to become a member. You can’t join a cooperative without proving yourself, because they give you a house, so they won’t take people, who will be bad elements in the group, or who are going to disturb things.
A few days before the vote, somebody said to me: “You know, a lot of people are against you becoming members,” and I said: “Why?” My husband was working very hard and so was I. Our kids had perfectly adjusted to the new life and they said: “Because there is a ‘we’ and ‘they’ group here,” and I couldn’t believe it. There were 50 families, and 26 voted against us. It was one vote too much against us.
I was at home alone, my husband in the fields with the workers picking melons when the secretary of the moshav, Monty, arrived at my home looking grey. “You’ve been voted out.” I thought I was going to die. Monty said: “They’ll be sorry tomorrow, and there will be a revote,” and I said: “I don’t care what happens to us, but no way will I stay somewhere, where we are not wanted.”
We had some very close friends, who were leaving the moshav because he was to become the very first golf-pro in Israel. They said: “Listen, come with us. We are renting a house in Beit Yanai.” They had four kids. So we decided to go with them.
Of course the very next day after the vote everyone came to us and said that they didn’t vote against us. I knew bloody well they voted against us. About twenty five families left because of this.
So we all moved into this house in Beit Yanai, which someone had left.
It was filthy, and we were all cleaning it up. We lived together for a while and then I found a dream apartment in the two story house of the Headmaster of a boarding school nearby. Neurim it was called.
His son had gone to Beer Sheba, and he asked us, if we wanted to rent the house. We simply walked into the paradise. If you took a step down to the living room, all you could see was the sea.
We still didn’t have any money, but we managed to borrow some and we started looking for people to help my husband start a fashion business. It was heartbreaking, what he had to go through, because after he had made such an effort to come to Israel, everything was still going against him. We should have packed and just gone back, but we didn’t.
And then finally he got a job. He worked for a Romanian, for a Frenchman and a Turk. Everybody was corrupt. The Romanians were the most corrupt.
In those days almost no textiles were produced in Israel, so you had to import it, and the rule was that you had to make up your collection and then re-export 75% overseas. He got a collection ready, and he made contacts in England for exporting the garments but he found that the Romanian guy had sold the material on the black market to somebody else, so he lost the whole deal.
Then he went to work for a French firm, who also screwed him, and then he finally went to work for Turkish people. They were very nice, but they also were totally dishonest.
Then he met a Polish survivor, Alex, and he was a master tailor. They were making and selling, and it was my husband’s dream, because he could do everything but tailoring. They went into business together, and in the end Alex disappeared with all the money that we had invested in the business. His wife and her son never saw him again and neither did we.
That was shocking, but again we kind of put ourselves together.
My son was having pain in his kidneys. A specialist who came to our village only once a month decided that one of his kidneys wasn’t working. I nearly died, because I’d had a cousin, who died of nephritis, and all I could think was: Oh my God, this is going to happen to my child.
He needed major surgery, and he could have had it in Israel, but one of our closest friends who was a pediatrician said to me: “If it was my child, I’d take him to London. It’s not a problem for you to go to London, because you’ve got your mother.” I said to him: “I can’t ask my mother. My mother is not speaking to me.” I could have said to her: “Please send me a ticket. I’m bringing Anthony,” But I had to stay in England for at least six weeks recovery period.
I was the breadwinner. My husband was home on crutches as we had been involved in a car crash. My youngest child was three, and for me to go to England for six weeks was very difficult. But I also thought to myself: You’ve got to move; you’ve got to go. This is meant to be.
So I talked to my husband and said: “Listen, I can’t fight this anymore. We’ve got Anthony who needs major surgery. You can’t get a job. What are we doing here? For his sake, we need to take him back, and I can’t see myself leaving you like this.” And he said: “Okay, if you feel that way, I’ll go with you.”
And I started a plan to leave. I still had my job, but one day my neighbor Avima, one of the few people who had a phone, called over to me: “Your auntie Kitty is on the phone from London, come on over.” She said: “I phoned to tell you that your mother and I and Joe are coming to visit you in March, because it’s a long time since we’ve been in Israel.” I hadn’t been speaking to my mother for six months. She was angry with me for not going back as she had suggested in the path. I had written to my mother though to tell her of our hasty decision to give up what we had and return to the British Isles. Somehow the letters hadn’t arrived. So I said: “Aunt Kitty, we are leaving. We are coming back. Didn’t Mommy get the letter?” She said: “No, but anyway we’re coming to the Accadia Hotel. Don’t worry, we’ll help you pack.”
So they arrived in March, and we landed back in London with three empty suitcases, three children and no money.
So that was it – a complete turnabout with our lives. My husband found a job almost as soon as we got back but two years later he had major surgery as a result of which we realized that he would never be able to work for anyone else. So that’s when my aunt and my mother came up with the idea of bed and breakfast hotels.
We had got back to London in 1966, and the house was bought in 1969. We were getting down to a really nice life. We opened the hotel. I hated the idea of it, but it gave us everything.
We worked 24/7. The only day we ever took off was Yom Kippur, and every winter we came to Israel on holidays, and then eventually we came back to Israel in 1978, to live there for good.
Our eldest son had gone back to Israel and was in the army. My second son had gone back as well with a fiancé. Our youngest son came with us. He was 15 years old. I wanted him to at least have three years in the country, before he went to the army.
From 1979 until ten years ago I was still running organizations. One of them I started with Chaim Herzog, and it was to change the electoral system. The second one was the British Israel Public Affairs Centre, located in England. I was the Israeli Director.
When we came back to Israel, we had money, so we established ourselves in Netanya, because we had a small flat there, which we had bought immediately after the Yom Kippur War. It was too small for us however, so we bought a bigger flat.
And my husband, who had money and couldn’t bare not to be in business started two businesses that failed, again. However our efforts in the UK made it possible to manage here.
Then in 1982 my friend who was heading the BIPAC office in London said to me: “Do you think you could take a journalist around Israel?” I said: “I’m not sure but I’ll give it a try.” Because I loved Israel so much, it wasn’t a big deal.
It was a dream for me. I had 12 years of doing the work that I really loved. Every month I had a least one group, if not two, to take them the length and breadth of this land including the West Bank and Gaza.
There wasn’t a place that we didn’t go to, and we would have journalists who wanted to come and see different aspects of Israel, such as theatre, literature, ethnicity, third-world, academic, religion. For example, you could have a journalist who was interested in third-world projects. They would send this person to Israel. We would decide a programme to suit their needs. They would come for a whole week, and everything was provided. When I planned the program, I made it as broad-based as possible and I moved them across the country.
Stones / Rocks
Most of the time, when you get a British or Irish journalist, you’re prepared for antagonism. They will always find something to criticise and look for trouble.
Once I took two guys, who wrote for top rate British journals on education, to Gaza. I went to a high school for women, who were learning to become English teachers. I took them to their English class, so the journalist could speak to them. The journalists asked the students: “Why are you learning to become teachers?” to which they responded: “Well, because then we can get husbands. To be a teacher in Arab society has a very high standing, and then we can go abroad and teach in the Gulf States and they will come with us.” Not what the guests expected to hear.
On their return to England they wrote what they had seen and heard in Gaza. Even though it’s occupied, people are free to study what they want and do what they want.
One of the journalists got death threats and was called “you bastard, pro-Zionist. You’re writing lies about Gaza.” People don’t want to hear the truth, and most people don’t want to write about the truth.”
The one thing one can do really, is to expose the truth and explain the side of the conflict. For example, when we drove through the West Bank, we occasionally got a rock thrown at the car, and I used to say: “Don’t talk about throwing stones. Talk about throwing rocks.” A stone in England is small. A rock is much bigger. If you throw a stone at a car, it won’t do anything, but if you throw a rock, it’s going to kill someone.
Once when driving in the West Bank a rock suddenly hit the car. One of the journalists said: “Stop the car, stop the car!” I said: “What do you want?” And he said: “I’m going after those bastards,” and I said: “You can’t do that! Just stay in the car!” When push comes to shove, and they are in that situation, they are going to respond like any Israeli would respond. This was a true situation and a natural re-action.
Once someone had said that a 15-year old boy from the Dheisheh refugee camp [in the West Bank] had been taken away and tortured with electrodes on his testicles. The news got through to London, where my boss heard about it. She immediately called me: I’ve got to come over and see what happened.”
So over she comes, and we go to the Dheisheh camp. We walked in with our driver to the camp, and were met by the civil administrator from the UN. He was sitting with others, including the camp commander and UN official. We talked about it, and I introduced Jane, my boss, and said that she had come over specially to see what was happening. She wanted to know the truth, and it turned out it wasn’t true. Someone had created this story.
So Jane was able to go back to London and say: “I sat with all these people and obviously they couldn’t be lying, because there was someone from the UN there.”
On the way out of the camp, the civil administrator from the army said: “Would you like to have a look around the camp?” Jane said: “Yes.” So we drove past a line of children in a queue, and I said: “Why are the children lining up?” And he said: “They are getting their lunch.” So I said: “Can I go and see what they are having?” He said: “Sure.” Do you know what they were having? Half a pita with some cold fried chips, no salad, no fruits. This was their lunch from the UN.
I said: “Is this what they are eating?” Five minutes down the road from the camp, there was the most amazing Arab market, overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits, and this is what they are getting for lunch. This is run by UNRWA, not us.
When I saw it, I said: “This is disgusting, and it’s keeping them malnourished.” He said: “Yes, but this is the only thing we can do. UNRWA runs the camp, not us.” So I said to him: “Listen, it’s stinking hot weather. Why can’t you bring them down to Tel Aviv or something?” He said: “UNRWA won’t let us. We have no jurisdiction over them. They get their money from the Palestinian Authority.”
This is the reality – come on! They have not been kept in camps by UNRWA in luxury. They have been kept on the minimum of the minimum, which stops them from going to work, because if they work, then they have to give up on their handouts from UNRWA. They can’t have both. That’s also why they keep the identify cards of people, who are dead, so that they can get extra money. What did Maimonides say?” Don’t give the hungry man fish. Give him a line so he can go and fish for himself.” Something like that.
The Sephardic Jews tell you about the early days, and they use the sub-story of: “We got sprayed with DDT, and we got thrown in camps.” Everyone got thrown in camps and got sprayed with DDT.
What happened was that the first people, who came in were the pioneers, and that was until WW2, and after WW2 the biggest influx were survivors of the Holocaust. The Moroccans came in after the state was created, in the 50s, and they were different kind of people. It seems that in Arab countries they had been treated as second-class citizens. A lot of them hadn’t had an education.
But, for example, I have a friend, who was a Holocaust survivor. She was 12 years old, when the Kristallnacht in Vienna happened, and from that day on she never had one day of education. She is one of the most erudite and cultured people that I know in this life. She went through hell since the age of 12, since Kristallnacht, from when the neighbors who loved and adored her, spat on her the next morning. She didn’t even get reparation money after the war, because she was Austrian, and the Austrians wouldn’t give money to the Holocaust survivors, because they said that Austria itself had been occupied.
I’m not generalizing, but we should all really pull together, like we did in the old days, when nobody thought about Moroccans, Arabs etc. We were all here, and we were all trying to make a new start in this country.
Everybody Was Full of Lice
The European who immigrated to Israel were educated, like me. We came from a European education system, whereas they [Sephardic Jews] didn’t, so they didn’t have a head start in anything.
We had nothing as well, but we found work. We did things. We didn’t have a hang up about who we are. They still have a hang up about it, because it’s true. Ben Gurion and all these people did rate the Sephardic Jews as being less than the European Jews. They expected them to enjoy European music and deny their roots and that was a pity because they should have become a bridge to the Arab world.
But what’s interesting is that they always go back to the fact that when they came off the boat, they were sprayed with DDT. There was no other disinfectant. Everybody was full of lice.
My philosophy about Israel only developed really strongly, when I was working with the journalists. I felt that we were the center, and I still feel like we are the center – that we are privileged to be on this land.
I can’t compare myself to other people, and everyone suffered in one way or another…We went through WW2. The world never thought that there’d be a war as horrific as that, and since then we’ve had nothing but horror and more horror.
You think of what we [Jews] went through, as a people, the Holocaust, the persecutions in Spain, which went on for 300-400 years. It’s just incredible. We have survived. We are so lucky to have survived.
And why am I so involved in the peace movement? Because I feel that it’s destiny here – that the Palestinians and the Israelis feel the passion for this land, that we all feel the connection to this place. I sincerely believe that something is meant to be [in Israel]. It won’t be in my lifetime, and we, as Jews, are so dirty and disgusting here.
Yesterday I sat with this amazingly honest man, who now lives in America. He said he couldn’t live here. He lived here for some years. He had moved to Israel from Argentina, but at some point he couldn’t live here anymore. However, he said: “There is something about the Jewish mind, the Israeli mind. You do deals in America or you go into discussions, and it’s at such low levels. You go to Israel, and everyone here is brighter than the next person.”
There is something about us, but we are ruining or allowing it to be ruined, and that’s why I can’t understand how our Nobel Prize winners are sitting here quietly, when they should be out there with all the peace activism, because if we make peace with the Palestinians, we could be the example for the whole Middle East.
I’m working with women here, including Palestinian women, and we are working around the UNSCR 1325. We are aiming for women to become decision-makers.
Women Wage Peace is something else. I’ve supported them from day one. They are doing amazing work, and I market them, when I go abroad, because people can go into their website and say: “Oh my God. Jewish and Arab women kissing each other, how amazing!” Most people really don’t go deep into things, and when I tell people abroad that Jews and Arabs work together, people are surprised.
There are women, who no longer want their husbands and sons to fight and die, to be maimed and injured. How many kids are we going to bring into the world and have them become traumatized or invalids?
I was on a women’s retreat three years ago, the purpose of which was to bring forth recommendations for the UN resolution 1325. Two recommendations had already been presented to the UN. One was prepared by a Palestinian group of women, and one by an Israeli group of women. Ours was a joint one to see what we actually had in common-women in conflict zones.
It was by chance that I got involved with this thing, and on the retreat we realized that we had far more things in common than the opposite and the basic things in common are what happens to people in a war zone. What women have to deal with as women is not only the loss of a son. It’s the cripples, someone traumatized for the rest of their lives. It’s the breadwinners going away. All kinds of women have to pick up the bits and pieces.
The big difference is that we [Israeli women] have a much freer society, where we can get help as individuals and not only through our husbands’ bank account or through our husband’s names. As [Israeli] women, we can fight for things for ourselves, which they [Palestinian women] still can’t.
Women Wage Peace
Women Wage Peace will not take a strong political line, and at the end of the day it’s going to be politics that will decide everything.
At Women Wage Peace, they say “we have to be open to everything,” so they announce we have people from settlements, from Likud. Come on! At the end of the day, you can’t be kissing and hugging without saying: Right, we all need to be getting into the political arena.
But, on my word of honor, if I go abroad, and I talk to somebody, who represents a women’s organization, in England for example, I say: “Google ‘Women Wage Peace,’ and then they go: “Oh my God, isn’t that fantastic.” And I say: “You should have seen, when we were taking part in the Women Wage Peace March [in 2016], and these buses arrived, and all these [Palestinian] women came of the buses, and we just kissed and hugged and cried.”
I’m Trusting You
The [politicians] here don’t represent us, but we are such a tiny country that you can make them represent you by lobbying them. At the end of the day it’s votes that they are looking at, and if you can organize a movement with even 5000 women contacting a member of Knesset that they have targeted every day – that’s how you get them.
You have got to do it consistently and to say: “I’m trusting you. This is for our future. These are our children. We are not happy. We want a party, who will work for peace.” Get in there with them.
For example, I was in the Knesset a couple of weeks ago for Women Wage Peace. I was with someone, who was an activist, and as I came out of the life, I saw Yael German, MK of Yesh Atid [political party]. She used to be the mayor of Herzliya. She also used to be the Minister of Health, and she is a bereaved mother. She lost a son.
I hadn’t had anything to do with her, since I was in road safety. We had done something called 24/7 road safety, and we did things all over the country, including in Herzliya. We asked Yael German, if she would come to attend a simulation experiment, and she said she would. That’s the last time that I met her.
So when I came out of the lift and saw Yael German, I said: “Oh hello, do you remember me?” She said: “Of course I remember you.” I said to her: “Well, I was just here at this Women’s Caucus and I would really like to talk to you. Can I contact you?” And she said: “Of course, what do you want to talk to me about?” And I said: “I would like to talk to you about peace,” and she said: “Yes, just call me, any time.” That’s all I did.
For the Soviet Jewry campaign we once went into a sales of Russian icons at Sotheby’s, which is the top auction room in England. We all dressed ourselves up in black, and we went in there, as if we were going to bid, and then when the Russian icons came up, we got up, opened our shirts, where it said “Save Soviet Jews.”
That’s what you have to do. As women, you can get in there. As men, it’s not always that easy. They’re not expecting women to do things like that.
Women Wage Peace are a remarkable organization…
During the last Women Wage Peace March I went to greet the buses carrying Palestinian Women: “Does anybody speak English?” I asked. Some of them did, and I said: “Where are you from?” And the first person was from Jenin, and Jenin for me is first of all 30 Israeli soldiers dead and the death of Juliano [Juliano Mer-Khamis], and my eyes filled with tears, and I told them: “Jenin, for me, is very painful, but I’m so happy to see you,” and I hugged them, and then the next bus was from Tulkarm, and I used to live in Netanya, and I said: “Oh, I lived in Netanya. We lived so near to each other.”
Then somebody started playing music, and somebody said: “Let’s hold hands,” and I said: “Let’s dance.” So we did!
You’re Against Us
Two years ago I went to England, and I started to talk to people and told them about Women Wage Peace and showed them pictures.
I have a lot of friends, who are not Jewish. I love them dearly, but with the British there is always a little hint of antisemitism, a little bit of digging, and when I told them: “You can’t be against anyone anymore, because we are Israelis and Palestinians together, so if you are for them, you are for us, and if you are against them, you are against us.”
There is no “I’m for the Palestinians,” unless you are also for the peace camp in Israel or vice versa, and if you are against, then you are against us for the same reasons.
Women Wage Peace have done an amazing thing on the surface, hype-wise and visually. It’s fabulous, but if you don’t get these women organized, we don’t know how these women are going to vote. We don’t know how these women really feel inside.
We know that they are mothers. We know that they don’t want their sons going to wars anymore, but do they know how to stop it?
And the only way it can be stopped is by having a government that will promise that it will work for peace, and it’s not impossible to do anymore, because Palestinians are really in a bad way, because they haven’t got the proper leadership. They can easily go into a spiral of terrorism, God knows what.
But, on the other hand there are loads of Palestinians, who are working. There are people who know that there has to be a way to live side by side and to accept the two-state solution, even if they won’t get everything they want. It’s still possible to do. It’s just that we have got nobody at the moment, who is tough enough to those in our country, who want change.
Center Of Peace
Both peoples want to stay on the land. We don’t want Lebanon, Jordan or to invade anywhere else, and we don’t want to turn anybody else into Jews, and they [Palestinians] don’t want to convert us into Muslims. They just want to live on their land, and we just want to live on our land. I don’t see why it’s so difficult.
Everyone is fighting each other, and when people leave Israel, where do they go? Every country has got problems today. It’s not like people go to America and say: “Oh, it’s wonderful here. It’s the land of everything.” Nowhere is perfect, so stay where you are and do something about it.
We don’t have to live together, just side by side, but we need to have tourism and trade and all these things, and we could become a center of peace in the Middle East instead of a center of conflict. We are the center of three faiths. We got it all here. There is no other place in the world like this. People say: “Oh, you’re such a Zionist.” It’s not Zionism. It’s because I truly believe it.
I don’t know, if we will survive. I don’t know if in a few years’ time, peace will happen, but there is no other place like this anywhere in the world.