1975: Israel

This is the beginning of that part of my autobiography which begins and ends with my secondmarriage. As many of those mentioned in it are either close friends, colleaguesor even opposed to what I stood for, I’ve had to be careful what I say.

I have deliberately written this in a ratherself-centred way, because what I want to focus on is what I learned or failedto learn rather than giving a blow by blow account of what happened to me.

It begins in 1975, a year and a half after my ileostomy operation inwinter 1973. It had taken me some time to come to terms with what had happenedto me, and eventually I resigned from m post at UMIST and after an abortiveattempt to go playing music in South Africa with my brother Jeremy, I decidedto go to Israel. I desperately needed some kind of break. I had never been to Israel, so somehow the idea formedthat I should, particularly since my brother had been there a lot in the mid1960s. So somehow or other I asked my mother whether she thought I should go toIsrael.

Her answer was an enthusiastic yes. I had metmany of my Israeli relatives when they visited London but had never experiencedthe joy of being in Israel. April 1975 saw me embarking on an El Al flight toIsrael. I think I remember my aunt Aliza meeting me at Tel Aviv airporttogether with her partner Amatzia, who owned a big paper business in Jerusalem.I also think I remember my cousin Kobi being there, smiling and tall as ever.They all spoke very good English so there was no problem communicating. We hadseen Aliza and Kobi many times in England. Aliza’s late husband Eliezer, whohad been a top man in the Israeli fund raising operation, had travelled a lotto London on business and often brought his family with him.

Aliza had arranged for me to get help from the Hebrew University’s Faculty ofBusiness. I had room in an office, where I turned my recently completed doctorateinto a book on product planning.

Israel was a totally new experience. The drive up to Jerusalem is a veryspecial experience After a short period on the flat, at Shar Hagai you begin torise into the Judaean mountains, passing by several monuments to the war ofindependence in the form of red lead painted military transports, wrecked bythe Arabs during the war. Sometimes flowers and other memorials are placed bythem. The road rises and falls and then finally after crossing the last ridge,Jerusalem appears opposite, like a golden dream, its uniform bright sandy-whitecolour achieved by tough planning regulations which forbad (and still do)building or facing in anything other than Jerusalem stone.

You then wait at traffic lights – often for some time – before hitting thehustle and bustle of Jerusalem traffic before finally reaching yourdestination. My destination was Aliza’s small flat in a quiet street ofRehavia, an inner suburb of Jerusalem. She still lives there.

I realised that it was going to be rathercrowded. I slept in the lounge while Kobi slept in the other room together withhis mother. My cousin Dinah was already married and so no longer lived at home.

Kobi became my guide. He took me all overJerusalem, finding new ways to fill one’s stomach. I was lucky that eatingfalafel and the many other delights of Jerusalem streets didn’t give me a tummyupset. The biggest impression that Jerusalem made on me was the beauty of thegirls. I would stand at the crossroads and marvel at their beauty, which musthave derived from the incredible mixture of Oriental and European blood thathad taken place since Israeli independence. And it was not just their faces.They were nearly all slim and shapely and very well dressed. By that I don’tmean expensively dressed, just that they dressed with a style that seemed to mealmost Parisian. And when they smiled, they showed beautiful white teeth. I wasin heaven. And the sun always shone, so the girls were never overdressed asthey so often are in England.

I realised later that what I was seeing was partly a result of genderimbalance. It was less than two years since the Yom Kippur war had caused thehighest absolute casualty rate in any of Israel’s wars since the War ofIndependence (when 4000 military and 2400 civilian deaths occurred). The Junewar of 1967 had cost nearly 800 military deaths, while the war of attritionthat took place in Sinai from 1967-70 cost over 1500 lives, and the Yom Kippurwar over 2600 lives. The number wounded was several times larger thanthis.  Nearly 5000 lives in a populationof 2.5 million created a small gender imbalance, particularly among the young.

I started to learn Hebrew. I found myself a bookcalled Elef Milim Part 2, the first part of which I had used as a teenagerwhile learning Hebrew in Loughborough. I started to work my way through it. Ialso enrolled in a class, but I found that they were going too slowly and gaveup the class and concentrated on teaching myself. Many English people findHebrew a very difficult language, but I found it so logical that it appealed tomy mathematical mind and I learned it very quickly.

The whole of Jerusalem was open to me. It was lessthan eight years since Jerusalem had been reunified. Jews walked into the oldcity without any fear. We were still the conquerors. The Arabs was stillenjoying the relative peace and well-being of living within a Jewish state, inparticular the big increase in tourist business that peace had brought. Theyhad experienced some repression, as Palestinians, under the Jordanian Hashmite regime(another great British colonial success!), so some were happy with thesituation. Later, their aspirations started to rise and they decided that theywould like independence. I am sure that there was great resentment underneaththe surface but I am also sure that their feelings were mixed. Talking toArabs, who might not have seen me as a Jew. I suppose I benefited from the factthat I was very English in my looks, with hair that got fairer in the sun andbright blue eyes, plus a strong English accent, and the Jordanians andPalestinians had generally loved the English.

Back to thegirls. Aliza introduced me to Ricky Hochstein, who worked for her. Ricky introducedme to a close friend of hers, Ofra, who – to cut a long story short –eventually became my wife. As we are no longer together, I have not writtenabout how the relationship started and developed, out of respect for her.Suffice it to say that it led to marriage and two beautiful daughters, Maya andTalya. At the time, Ofra’s English was not so good, so I had to improve myHebrew to make sure I was communicating well.

I returned briefly to the UK to interview successfully for a job at Kingston Polytechnicas a senior lecturer, which meant a big pay rise. August saw me travelling backto England with Ofra and an unborn Maya.