An Israeli RCer in New Zealand

Hello dear Tim,

I have been part of the Israeli RC Community for twenty-three years. Harvey used to come here every year, and I had the pleasure of getting close to him.

My family and I spent the last two years in New Zealand. Just before we left to come back to Israel, I wrote a long letter to Harvey, knowing he would be happy to hear of my contribution to the world during that time. The letter was still in my computer when I arrived in Israel and I heard that Harvey had died. I had long sessions over losing him as my friend and the fact that he wouldn't be reading my letter. It took me a couple of months to realize that it still made sense to send it.


My dear Harvey,

We are ending two years in New Zealand, and it is a good time to write to you.

We came to New Zealand for an adventure into the unknown. The beginning was frightening. My partner and I were raised in Zionist families. My father was a working-class Polish Jew. He lost all his family in the Holocaust and was the only one to survive. "Going abroad" was not part of our families' vocabularies.

I was proud that on my mother's side our family had lived for twelve generations in Israel. (My great grandfather came from Spain after the Jews were exiled by the Inquisition.) This amazing family history became a burden, however, when I began thinking about leaving Israel -- the one place I could call home.

It took me a year and lots of discharge to start feeling at home in New Zealand.

As is true in other cultures, because of the way we are brought up in Israel, some things become part of our "identity" and are not questioned. Having to live outside of Israel gave me the opportunity to discharge on parts of my "identity" that I could not discharge on before.

During the first few months in New Zealand I found myself checking in my purse and hiding my tampons before going into the cinema. It took me a while to realize that I was no longer in Israel and that in New Zealand I would not be checked for bombs. Our daughters were afraid of going to New Zealand because they feared there might be a war there. In fact, we met children in New Zealand who didn't even know what the word "war" meant. We also met people who had never before met a Jew.

We built meaningful relationships with people who were considered "enemies" of Israel. We surprised some Egyptian families by inviting them to our home and being their friends. They were sure we would not want their friendship. We also got close to a Lebanese family and found that we were similar in our struggles to feel at home outside of the Mediterranean. We found it easy to make new friends, just by being open and warm and listening to people's thinking.

We made friends of religious Christians and gave them their first close relationships with Jews. We sat for hours through the night discussing religion, Jesus, and the relationship between Christians and Jews.

Living in New Zealand made me realize how easy it is to be a Jew in Israel. We don't always appreciate this. We take it for granted. In Israel on a high holiday the whole country is on holiday. There is no dilemma about whether or not to send one's child to school. On Yom Kippur there is no music on the radio or on TV. In New Zealand we became more aware of making choices and looking for meaning.

Cherie Brown's Jewish Liberation Workshop in Sydney, Australia, gave me the courage to lead an evening on RC theory and Jewish liberation for the entire Jewish community in Christchurch. Some of the people who attended this meeting later joined my fundamentals class.

I was invited to the north island of New Zealand to lead a workshop on relationships and was told that many Maori people were going to be there. This was exciting but also overwhelming to me. The only way I could lead the workshop and give people good counseling was to take time myself. I tackled some of my deepest fears that weekend. The Maori community "put themselves into my hands" with love and trust and left me in love with them for their courage, warmth, and power.

These two years in New Zealand made my life richer in many ways. I learnt to appreciate more the constant support and guidance you have given the Israeli Community from the beginning. Your friendship and your being an ally enabled it to grow.

Thank you for being such an example.

With love,

Varda Ginossar-Zakay


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07