May 1967: I was a junior buyer at Marks and Spencer, and Michael House in Baker Street turned into an Israel communications centre. Many of us volunteered, and many of us went to Israel. I arrived the day after Shavuot, and with 42 members of FZY went to Kibbutz Hagoshrim, right on the Golan Heights. The road outside the kibbutz was lined with tanks, the apple orchards had shell holes, but nothing on the kibbutz had been damaged.
We were part of a huge influx of young people from all over the world, who just had to be in Israel at this time. We worked in the fields, in the laundry and the kitchens of the kibbutz, and as things calmed down, people came back to the kibbutz guest house. This was the best job, as the food was far better than that served in the dining room. I learnt to iron a shirt, by ironing 50 shirts on the morning shift. I peeled boxes of apples to make apple pie, and we picked apples and grapefruit.
We were also taken on trips in army lorries, up to the border with Syria, and right down to Eilat. We saw the sun rise on Masada, and sat under the waterfall at Ein Gedi. We walked through to the old city of Jerusalem, over piles of rubble and with the Mandelbaum gate lying across the road. And would you believe that we hitched a lift into Gaza, where my friend Sue and I were almost sold for four camels each! And there we bought Cadbury’s chocolate, not available in Israel at the time.
Those four months are still the brightest memories
of my life, and made the deepest impression on me. Turned me into a Zionist
who now has two sons and five grandchildren in Israel, and who makes several
trips a year to the country I love.
- Helen Reisman