Veterans: From London to Kiryat Yam, 1959

Reminiscing on his life one can see how Freedman's cheerful personality, humor and positive attitude sustained him through some difficult times.

October 18, 2007 11:10
zvi freedman 88 224

zvi freedman 88 224. (photo credit: )


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Many romances blossomed at the Israel programs of the Federation of Zionist Youth and many British immigrants had their first taste of the country in these summer camps which continue until today. Zvi Freedman met his wife, Ruth, on such a program at Kibbutz Usha in 1953, when he was 20 and Ruth was 19. They married two years later, and are still happy, living in their pretty Kiryat Tivon house and enjoying their seven grandchildren. Reminiscing on his life's experiences one can see how his cheerful personality, humor and positive attitude sustained him through some difficult times. BEFORE ALIYA Freedman was born and grew up in the East End of London. His father was a Lithuanian immigrant and his mother was born in London. During the Blitz, he was evacuated to Buckinghamshire and billeted with a Christian family. "Even at seven I felt the difference between the quiet, cool church I attended on Sundays and our local noisy crowded shul," he smiles. The family was bombed out of their home and moved to Clapton, in London. When Freedman was 14, his father was sick and he left school to help him run his confectionery and tobacco shop. His mother died, he lived with a sister and joined his brother's tailoring business in the Strand. As happened to so many bright young men of that time who were forced to leave school early, conscription into the British Army gave him new career opportunities. He served in Egypt in 1951 and on demobilization took matriculation courses at evening classes. After his kibbutz experience in 1953 and his marriage to Ruth, he studied agricultural engineering. "We were all the time preparing to return to Israel," says Freedman. "We even had left some suitcases at Kibbutz Usha." ON ARRIVAL The Freedmans did not opt for kibbutz life, however, and eventually settled in Kiryat Yam. "We were very content," he remembers. "We had this little 65-meter apartment, no furniture, a gas stove from England that could not be connected, so like everyone else my wife cooked on kerosene stoves." WORK Freedman worked on a three-month research project at Kibbutz Ma'ayan Zvi for the Ministry of Agriculture, renting a room in nearby Zichron Ya'acov. After that he walked the streets of Haifa looking for work. Ruth was expecting their first baby and he was anxious to find permanent employment. His first job was as assistant tractor mechanic, not quite what he wanted, but it brought in a basic salary. He then replied to an advertisement in The Jerusalem Post for a drainage engineer and was eventually employed by Tahal Consulting Engineers. This was the turning point and the start of many years of permanent employment and fascinating projects which took him and his family to Iran and the Ivory Coast. After the devastating earthquake in Iran in 1965, 60 Israelis joined a UN mission and spent four years there on recovery of the infrastructure. Entire villages had been destroyed and the damage to agriculture and irrigation was in urgent need of repair. Freedman's job was to rebuild the irrigation network. By that time he and Ruth had two children, and Ruth, a bookkeeper and secretary, worked in the project offices. "The villagers kissed our hands and we were welcomed by the shah," he says. By the time they left Iran, the orchards and fields had been rehabilitated. Talking of that time in his life, he reflected that the Iranian government of today should be reminded how they were rescued by Israeli expertise in the 1960s. Still working for Tahal, he joined a government delegation to the Ivory Coast to work on jungle clearance for agriculture. His next place of work was Sinai, where he worked for the Defense Ministry supervising road building. The Yom Kippur War started during this period and he served in the army, returning to his work in Sinai when the war ended. Altogether he served 26 years in the military, including three wars. He was in a combat unit till the age of 51, serving as liaison officer with the UN. It was only after the children were in school and they had moved to Kiryat Tivon that Ruth worked outside the home. She opened a shoe shop in the neighborhood and on Freedman's retirement, they opened a second shop in the town center which he runs to this day, although Ruth's poor health compelled them to close the other one. HOUSING The family was fast outgrowing their small apartment in Kiryat Yam and they found a larger home in the same area. To save money to move, in addition to the day job he taught English at evening classes, a talent that he discovered by accident. After they returned from Iran, Freedman visited a friend in Kiryat Tivon, and was told there was a house for sale. Ruth was reluctant to move from an area where she had so many friends, but when she saw this beautiful, green, pastoral little town she was enchanted. She was less impressed by the house, which needed a major face-lift, but over the years they renovated and extended and enjoyed the extra family space and garden. LANGUAGE Freedman learned the basis of Hebrew at synagogue classes in London. During his stay at Kibbutz Usha in 1953, he studied at ulpan. When they made aliya, they could converse and work in Hebrew. "We never had problems communicating in the language," he says. But they did speak English at home and they continue to do so with the grandchildren, who all have a very high level of English. SOCIAL LIFE With the family growing up in Kiryat Yam, there had not been much time for a social life. "Our neighbors were like family. Nobody had telephones, women were stressed when the men were on reserve duty or away working, and everyone helped each other." Freedman's passion is the Kiryat Tivon Chamber Choir. It is a serious hobby, for the choir performs at many major festivals, including the Succot festival at Abu Ghosh. He learned guitar and piano as a child but a good singing voice runs in the family. "My father was always asked to sing Grace After Meals at family weddings," he says. FAMILY The Freedmans have three children, two of whom live nearby with their families. One son studied business management and computer science at the Technion, another is a CPA living in Washington DC, and their daughter, also a graduate of the Technion, is a senior computer consultant. There are seven grandchildren and the house is always full of visiting family. "They are always dropping by to see how we are doing, particularly since Ruth's health problems," says Zvi. "They have wonderful family values." REFLECTIONS "We have never regretted our decision to live in Israel," says Freedman. "We went through some hard times, but then so did everyone else. Society was more open, there was more trust and generosity and we all struggled." He recounts how he bought the carriage for the first baby from the manager of the local grocery, who agreed to add it to his monthly payments. "It was quite shabby, but my wife painted it and repaired it and everyone admired the royal carriage," he laughs. As for the future, he is positive and optimistic. "We have the brains and talent out of proportion to the size of our population" he says. "We need good leadership and we need peace and I believe we are slowly getting there." To propose an immigrant for a 'Veterans' profile, please send a one-paragraph e-mail to:

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