Life was far from easy at the beginning for 25-year-old Helen Goldfoot when she arrived in 1952. Coming from the comfortable lifestyle of a Jewish “princess” in South Africa, she arrived in a country of austerity, rationing and shortages of everything.
Her neighbor in Tel Aviv, Paula Ben-Gurion, used to bump into her shopping for fish at the local Tnuva.
“Don’t give the poor girl a live fish,” admonished the prime minister’s wife. “She’s new here and she won’t know what to do with it.”
Most people in those days kept their carp swimming around in the bathtub until it was needed, but for Goldfoot, the fishmonger gave a coup de grace on the fish’s head and handed it to her to put in her net shopping bag. “It started jumping all over the place,” she remembers. “I just dropped the bag and ran.”BEFORE ALIYA
She was married to her first husband, Harold Stutzen, a passionate Zionist, and when she told her parents they were moving to the new State of Israel, “it broke their hearts,” she said.THE JOURNEY
“It was a harrowing experience with two small children, one of whom was a baby in arms. We had a stopover in Nairobi, had to get off the plane and on again and the whole journey took 24 hours.” ARRIVAL
Her husband had been a month before and found a third-floor apartment on Rehov LaSalle in Tel Aviv. It was cold and bare, but she felt sure she could make it look nice once her lift arrived.
Sadly, the container with all her beautiful South African furniture was not waterproof and everything was ruined.SETTLING IN
Somehow she managed to cook on a three-ring paraffin stove, although the smell was terrible. Once a week the paraffin seller went down the street selling his wares from a donkey cart. “He would call out ‘neft
’ and I ran down three flights with the container,” she recalls. “If you didn’t get there on time or missed him because you were out – well, you just didn’t cook.”
The same applied to the milkman, who sold his milk from a donkey cart, “but you had to boil it before you could drink it.” Everyone needed a ration card and people lined up for basic necessities like onions and cabbage. Small children qualified for a ration of 100 grams of meat a week, “but it was so disgusting, I said they could keep it.” Occasionally her father would send tins of bully beef from South Africa.
“You could buy things on the black market – I remember someone sidling up to me and whispering ‘eggs’ out of the corner of his mouth – but we were idealistic and wouldn’t buy like that.” Her eyes sparkle as she recounts the early experiences.
“It was hard, but we loved every minute of it,” she says.
After 12 years she divorced her first husband and two years later was to marry another well-known South African fanatical Zionist – Stanley Goldfoot. While still a teenager in South Africa he had been fired with enthusiasm for the battle for a state by none other than Ze’ev Jabotinsky. He came here, joined Lehi and made himself a great asset to the cause.
Helen had secretarial skills and helped him in his business ventures, one in particular that made a kind of history.
In 1964 she and Stanley decided to start a new English-language paper as they felt The Jerusalem Post
had become too left-wing. It was not Stanley’s first journalistic venture.
As an intelligence officer for Lehi, he founded a scholarly publication – The Journal of the Middle East Society
– so that with his journalistic credentials he could spy for the underground.The Times of Israel
first saw the light of day in 1967 and lasted for six years. Helen did editing and typesetting with a small staff of secretaries and translators.
“Looking back we were ahead of our time,” she says. “We ran crusades – for road safety even then, against crime, against monopolies, and we had good columnists like Yisrael Eldad whom Stanley knew from the prestate underground.” It was here that Stanley published his famous “Letter from Jerusalem,” a defiant and eloquent expression of the justice of the Israeli cause.
After the paper folded, they moved to Jerusalem and became very supportive of the Women in Green movement and settler activity.
One of her husband’s last projects was to build a yeshiva in the Har
Nof neighborhood for young returnees to religion – Yeshivat Dvar
Stanley died three years ago, and Helen moved into a retirement home in Herzliya.BEST THING ABOUT ISRAEL
“The people – there are a lot more good than bad.”ADVICE TO NEW IMMIGRANTS
“It’s only really hard at the beginning, and if you have a friend to go
with you and help you through the bureaucratic jungle, it’s a good
idea. And don’t put too much faith in promises from officials; try to
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