Arrivals: 'Women don't like me'

Zahava Goldfoot, 66 - From Johannesburg to Bat Yam, August 2008.

Zahava Goldfoot  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Zahava Goldfoot
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Zahava Goldfoot was a professional ballerina for many years and could probably not have chosen a more appropriate name than the one she was born with. But then she's had quite a few other names as well.
"I've had five husbands altogether and divorced them all," says the glamorous 66-year-old whose smooth face and slim build seem to bear no relation to her biological age.
Now a teacher of English and Pilates, a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates in Germany, and living in Bat Yam, Goldfoot tells the story of her extraordinary life and how it feels to be back in Israel, where she lived as a child, this time as a full-blown immigrant.
Her father was Stanley Goldfoot, a well-known South African-born activist who came here as a young man and joined Lehi, the right-wing organization headed by Yair Stern dedicated to getting the British out by any means. As a journalist, he attended British press briefings and was able to report back valuable information to his Lehi colleagues.
Her mother was a journalist for France-Soir, also an undercover spy, and was brilliant but erratic.
"My mother was an adventuress. She studied anthropology and social science. She was a dreadful mother and she should never have had children; she was more interested in politics and exercise."
Goldfoot feels that having such fascinating parents may account for the fact that she married five times in the search for an equally unconventional husband.
Her parents immigrated together in 1944 when she was a baby and she began her ballet lessons in Jerusalem with Russian teacher Rina Nikova. When she was 16, she won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet in London, where her now-divorced mother had arrived. A few years later she met husband No. 1, a non-Jewish Olympic swimmer, and married him much to her family's consternation. Her first son, now 45, was the product of this marriage.
She met husband No. 2, a dancer with Batsheva Company, when she came to visit her father and stayed for three years. No. 3 was Irish, which accounts for the fact that she lived in Dublin for some time, taught choreography at the Abbey Theater and had another son, Dominic, who today lives in Western Canada.
Four and five were both American which is why she found herself on the West Coast and caught up in the exercise craze of the 1980s. She taught aerobics and dance in some prestigious spas and produced her own exercise video, Zahava's Barefoot Workout. By 1996 she was back in South Africa where her mother, now old and alone, still lived.
"I opened my own Pilates studio and stayed until I decided to make aliya last year," she says. "My mother died, I survived breast cancer and I came with high hopes and full of confidence. People said it would be difficult at my age, but I've moved around so much, coming here was no big deal."
"For the first two weeks I crashed with my stepmother in the retirement home where she lives," says Goldfoot. "Then I tried Ra'anana - too religious and quiet - and then Azorei Chen - too snobby. I moved to Bat Yam because it was not as expensive and I love being near the sea. I tried getting work in various sports centers and gyms but was always told I was overqualified. That's when I decided to teach privately."
"I sleep as late as I can. Actually I'm not a morning person - I don't do mornings. Anyway, the children come for lessons from about three onward. I have a health breakfast and walk Apollo [her Yorkshire terrier] and then I teach either English or Pilates."
Home is a rented flat in an old building, but she can see the sea from her balcony and the rooms are big enough to be able to convert one into a studio.
"I don't have any friends. Women don't like me," she says cheerfully.
"Terrible. I've always had a problem with money. People say that if you've been married five times at least one of the marriages should have been for money, but they weren't. My son Jonathan, a barrister in London, helps a bit."
"I believe in wine and chocolate - and myself. I've had some down moments here with the bureaucracy and everything, but I know I'm a good teacher and I know the importance of having a good teacher to make progress if you are studying dance or Pilates."
"I have to make it in the next five years with the studio. I also plan to write a book about my life and I've already got the title - 'Dancing through Life.'"