I joined a musical workshop to make new friends and have some fun. My husband, Leon, had been dead for less than a year. He had been a wonderful, loving, generous and caring partner but had been very ill for a long time. Immediately after Leon’s death I felt as though a tremendous weight had been lifted.

The adjustment to being alone was easier than I thought. Leon had been concerned that I would not be able to cope living alone. Though I had been terrified to be in the apartment alone and would sleep with all the lights blazing any time that he went into hospital, I now found that I enjoyed my own company. Fortunately, our apartment in Hadar Yosef is five minutes from our family and on the top floor of a five story block, so it feels safe. My family were wonderful! Having married granddaughters with little ones living nearby meant that I did not feel lonely.

After that initial feeling of total freedom, I realized that I did not have any friends in Hadar Yosef.  The friends I had in Tel Aviv were in touch. Our close knit circle in Netanya were too far away, however, for although I have a car I have no sense of direction. I discovered this when as I child in gym lessons. When I was told to use a left or right limb, I always touched my watch to check. I have been going in the wrong direction most of my life, but always manage to reach my destination eventually. My husband had fears about this too, and to console me inferred that it wouldn’t take long for me to find another man to take care of me.

People told me that I should take up bridge and find hobbies and join the pensioners clubs and do an art class. They added “You might meet someone there!” Or “At least you will make friends”. Well, I don’t like card games. In London, during The Blitz of WW2 playing cards and making rugs were national pastimes. I always hated losing at cards and the thought of arguments with bridge partners was more than I could contemplate. I am quite artistic but pottering about on my own satisfies me.

On the advice of a younger friend I tried Jewish Café, an up-market version of J Date. “Joe” gave me his phone number after we had written back and forth a few times. He read my profile and asked me questions to which I responded openly, giving my opinions. I tried to find out more about him. He said that he lived in Givatayim which is nearby, he is an economist, had been a widower for six years and had lived in London. He insisted on speaking to me in English, yet his accent was foreign. I enjoyed the conversations which were warm and friendly. I found myself searching for his messages on email. I was getting hooked, but had nagging reservations. The question of getting together came up often and after about 3 weeks we arranged to meet in the Ramat Gan Shopping Mall.

That weekend before this meeting, I went to visit my friend Lucy in Tiberias. From her balcony I gazed out over the tranquil bluish grey expanse of Lake Kinneret, surrounded by mountains and lush green forests where tiny villages nestled. Detached from familiar surroundings I cleared my head and reached a decision. I would not meet him until he sent me a photo and told me about his family in more detail. Returning on Motzei Shabbat, I rushed to the computer and found a message ‘I am really sorry but I have to go to Jerusalem on business and will not be back in time”.  I wrote back a short response, something like “Don’t bother me again” and waited.

A few days later he wrote to say “What a lovely special lady you are. I do hope that you will find a knight in shining armor!” At 75, hardly! I was shocked. I called my son “Do you think he is some kind of pervert? What should I do?” His answer: “Forget it, Mum, he doesn’t know where you are”. I looked him up using the clues to his name in his email address. I looked him up on Google and guessed that he was  connected to a very well known female journalist. I found that he had written a book about financial corruption in Africa. He had co-authored the book with someone I know. So, the pieces of the puzzle of his identity fell into place, but what did he want from me? I was convinced that as I had found his address he could find mine. Perhaps he would come to my home, hide in the stairwell and attack me one night?

A month went by and suddenly on my birthday there was another email. At that point I wrote back in no uncertain terms. I asked, “Do you get a kick out of leading women on?” And “Are you writing a book about widows?” I concluded “If you ever contact me again I will expose you”. He never did, but that put me right off dating services.

A friend who sings suggested that I join Tel Aviv Community Theatre (TACT), so that’s how I got to the music workshop in the summer of 2009. 40 people were packed on to the stage at Yad LeBanim in Tel Aviv and I knew only one: a man called Don. The composer/director, Daniel, explained that for 6 weeks we would be working on several songs from famous musicals. I knew all of the songs but one. Someone with an American accent leaned over and said to me, “How do you know all the songs?” I smiled and explained that as a girl in London I had been an avid theatre goer. There was hardly a musical or a play I had not seen.

It was fun joining in but my vocal chords were out to lunch. I was surrounded by aspiring tenors, sopranos, jazz and blues types aged 18 years onwards. Then Daniel ran his fingers over the ivories and sang a Steven Sondheim song ‘Being Alive’ from the musical ‘Company’ which I had never seen. As the words tore into my soul, uncontrollable tears streamed from my eyes. My friend Don leaned forward putting his hand on mine and said, “That’s your song isn’t it?” I felt a bit foolish.

I was determined that I would learn that song and sing it at the final session. Three weeks passed and on the night of the selection of singers for the final night performance, I timidly raised my hand and said “I haven’t much of a voice but I can act”. “Can I try?” Daniel looked at me disparagingly, having already picked out his favorites. “Leave it till next week” and he turned away.

I left that night and never went back. But that song says it all . . .

Someone to need you too much

Someone to know you too well

Someone to pull you up short

To put you through hell

To give you support

In being alive

Being Alive


Article by Author/s
Zelda Harris
Zelda Harris was born in London and came to Israel in 1949. She returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.

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