Veterans: Julius and Anita Collins

For Anita, making aliya meant, more than anything, persuading Julius that they should do it.

collins 88 224 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
collins 88 224
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
When Anita and Julius Collins made aliya in 1983, packing his set of bagpipes was a top priority. He'd been playing the pipes since 14 and couldn't envisage life without them. "I used to go and practice in the middle of Sacher Park so as not to disturb people," says the sprightly 86-year-old, "and it always attracted a crowd." While the plaintive wail of Scotland's national instrument may not be to everyone's taste, for Julius it's been a way of life. "In 1938 I played in the Jewish Lads' Brigade pipe band on Remembrance Day for the fallen soldiers of the Great War. The minister of war was Hore-Belisha, also Jewish, and he was inspecting officer with the earl of Athlone, Queen Mary's brother." With an extraordinary memory, he can pinpoint dates, recall names, places and events that occurred more than 70 years ago. And what an interesting life it has been. LIFE BEFORE ALIYA Julius Collins (né Cohen) volunteered for the Royal Air Force in 1941. As a physical training instructor, his job was to get the pilots physically fit for their missions and he spent three years doing this. In 1944 he went to India and spent several years there. "I used to run 40 or 50 times around the soccer field to keep fit," he recalls. And of course he played the bagpipes. "It was my job as a Jew to pipe the non-Jews into church every Sunday," he says. For the Jewish festivals he would join the local communities in Bombay or New Delhi. He and Anita were married in 1948. Julius worked in the fashion business and studied at night school to become a physiotherapist and chiropodist. He was always interested in local politics and public-speaking. He even stood as a Conservative candidate for Parliament in a strong Labor constituency. "No, I didn't get elected but I came second and raised the Conservative vote quite a bit," he recalls proudly. In 1983, with their two grown children, Laurence and Ruth, living in Israel, they decided to come here too. Anita in particular came from a very Zionist family. Her brother Noah Shein had been active in helping to bring illegal immigrants to Palestine in 1946 and had given his British passport to a Holocaust survivor. When he arrived in Atlit as an illegal immigrant he did not want the British to discover he was British too and pretended to be a deaf-mute. He was interned in Cyprus for several months and after his release became a founding member of Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi. PREPARATION For Anita, making aliya meant, more than anything, persuading Julius that they should do it. "He came because of me," she says. "We had an active life in Glasgow and Julius was busy with his committees, Masonic lodge and his music. But my heart was here." ARRIVAL "We were in Cell Block 2," jokes Julius of their sojourn in the Beit Canada Absorption Center in Jerusalem. It was harder for him than for Anita because his heart wasn't in it. Their daughter Ruth was engaged and they had to make a wedding at a time when they had given up their home in Scotland and not yet become used to the new life that faced them here. It took Julius several years until he accepted that Israel was his home. SETTLING IN Julius decided that since he'd been in sports all his life and loved to swim, he would get a job which would allow him the use of a pool. He went to see the manager of the Hilton Hotel and left his calling card. Through a lucky sequence of events, it was picked up by the manager of Hapoel Jerusalem organization and he was offered a job as trainer for track and field athletes. "I was with them for nine years, and we won five gold medals in the Maccabiah," says Julius. DAILY LIFE They say the days pass so quickly and they are always busy doing something. Anita began doing voluntary work as soon as she arrived, and Julius, as well as his sporting activity, has worked as a guide at the Supreme Court. He plays the bagpipes whenever he can and gets together with other pipers who are scattered around the country. "The problem is that it's so hard to get together to meet and play because one of us lives in Karmiel, another in Ra'anana and another in Jerusalem. But we do sometimes manage to play, we meet in Ramat Gan Park and as well as pipers we have a drummer." They have made many friends and lead an active social life. They meet for coffee, go to exhibitions together and have a subscription for the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. They are members of the local Conservative synagogue, which they attend regularly. And of course there are always trips to see the children and grandchildren. LANGUAGE "Unfortunately neither of us speaks Hebrew very well," they say. Even in the ulpan they attended everyone wanted to speak to them in English, and all their friends are English-speaking. In his work with Hapoel, Julius was never required to speak any Hebrew. OBSTACLES Because of their lack of Hebrew they feel somewhat cut off from what's going on around them. "If we need to write a letter or read a document we have to ask the children," they say. As a politician Julius finds plenty to upset him here too. "I think the electoral system leaves a lot to be desired," he says. "It's ridiculous that you don't choose your own candidate. And [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert is completely out of his depth." BEST THING ABOUT ISRAEL They both think the health system is wonderful, and unfortunately both have used it extensively. Julius survived two bouts of cancer and is convinced his lifetime's activity in sports helped him. They also love the weather. "It's wonderful to wake up every day and see the blue sky," says Julius. "I remember in Glasgow when for six months we didn't have two consecutive dry days." ADVICE TO NEW IMMIGRANTS "Just be sure that when they promise you something they mean it. We met several people in the absorption center who were left in the lurch after promises didn't materialize. It takes time to make a new life in a new country so be flexible." "Find out more of your heritage," adds Anita. To propose an immigrant for a 'Veterans' profile, please send a one-paragraph e-mail to: [email protected]