"Israel will survive and we’ll get through this."

Leah Ben Ari

Location: Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv

Residence: Kiryat Gat

Age: 59

The encounter: I was on a family outing at the Tel Aviv Museum. At the entrance of the museum I met Leah, who had just arrived in Tel Aviv to meet her friend, Rachel. Leah suggested that I interview both her and Rachel. 

What are you doing here right now?
I always interview others. Ha! So, now it’s my turn to be interviewed! I’m here to meet my friend Rachel.

What is you occupation?
I used to be a Hebrew teacher, but I haven’t taught for many years.  I now work at the University of Tel Aviv in the department of sociology and anthropology. I do research on children in a school setting and how they deal with their feelings. It is face-to-face research, for which I interview the children.

How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I identify myself first of all as Jewish, and then Israeli and secular.

Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I’m divorced. I have two daughters, both married, and six grandchildren: five boys and one girl. My oldest grandchild is thirteen; the little girl is four.

Where is your family from?
I was born in Romania. I immigrated in 1960, when I was five. Since then, I have lived in Kiryat Gat. Except for my studies and army service, I haven’t left. I love the south!
My parents were Zionists. They wanted to immigrate earlier but didn’t get exit permits to leave Romania. As soon as they received their permits, they left everything and moved to Israel. Since they brought me here I haven’t wanted to leave.
During the Second World War, my parents were still young. My mom’s family was displaced during the war. She returned to Romania when the Russians came. My father, even though he was a young child, had to do forced labor; not for the Germans, but for the Romanians. Most of my family survived the Holocaust, except for my father’s grandfather and some uncles who were killed in a pogrom in the town where I was born.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I don’t believe we'll have peace in the coming years. I don’t think the two nations are ready. But in the end, there must be a compromise: a compromise on our side and on their side. Even if we reach a cold peace, like we have with Egypt, I could accept that. I live in the south, and to have war every three years, that’s unsustainable! All the money we spend on security... we would be in much better shape if we could invest that money in education, health care, and the economy!
Even so, our situation isn’t terrible. The Israeli economy isn’t in such bad shape- it’s just that the money isn’t distributed right. The cost of living is high, but, still, the number of homeless people here is much lower than in many other countries. True, most of us struggle to survive economically. But very few people really go hungry.
Even though I don’t believe we’ll have peace any time soon, I still believe that Israel will survive and that we’ll get through this.