'Unique, special place'

My Israel Story – ‘I’ll never forget the excitement’

At 87-years-old, Susie Klein reflects on her connection to Israel over the past seven decades.

  • Susie enjoys the Israeli market experience, 1994.
    Susie enjoys the Israeli market experience, 1994.
  • Susie Klein watches the Independence parade in Israel, 1960.
    Susie Klein watches the Independence parade in Israel, 1960.
  • Newly married Susie Klein with her husband aboard the Theodor Herzl, 1959.
    Newly married Susie Klein with her husband aboard the Theodor Herzl, 1959.

My Israel story starts with my memory of the UN voting for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

As a young girl, I sat around our dining table with my brother and parents listening to our radio. When Australia voted in favour of Israel’s independence my mother burst into tears of joy. I was just 11 years old and didn’t really understand the enormity of the vote.

My father explained what this all meant to the Jewish people of the world – and told me that his own father had been present at the Zionist Congress in Basel when the idea of the State of Israel had been formulated. My father explained that when we tried to flee Germany in 1938 (when I was 2 years old) the British had not allowed us into Palestine. The following year in 1939, we escaped Germany and headed by boat to Australia.

20 years later in 1959, as a newly married young woman, my husband and I travelled by boat from Europe to Haifa in a ship called Theodor Herzl in time for Yom Ha’atzmaut. I still remember the excitement when, as part of the Israeli Independence Day parade, planes flew overhead, each clearly marked with a Magen David.

Since then I have returned to Israel many times in many different capacities, both with my late husband and with my family and later in a work capacity as part of my Jewish community involvement.

In 1978, when my three sons were teenagers, we visited Israel and were overawed at the changes and development and the way the Israelis had made the desert bloom. We travelled from north to south, including the Dead Sea and Eilat.

We visited many projects, such as WIZO and JNF parks and developments, that were funded by Diaspora communities.

While coordinating programs for Shalom College and the State Zionist Council in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, I visited Israel several times.

Many of our tour and program participants had not visited Israel before and it was always so special to witness their excitement at discovering the achievements of the Jewish state.

Over the years, through my many visits, I observed the rise and decline of the kibbutz movement, which many of my friends from Sydney Habonim had joined. During my teenage years I had been a very keen member of Habonim and quite a few of my friends had gone on a Hachsharah program outside Melbourne to ready themselves for kibbutz life.

To this day, I have many family members and friends living in Israel.

During later visits I have seen much disillusionment in Israel and some of its politics and actions, which has distressed me greatly, particularly when embittered Israelis were talking about leaving the country. I am very disappointed at the present government and the direction they are taking, and am sure our founding fathers (and mothers like Golda Meir) would feel the same.

Despite this, my love and admiration for the State of Israel has not waned over the years, since that first recollection of the UN vote being read. While I am now too old to travel again to Israel, each time one of my children or grandchildren travel there, it makes me proud and excited that they will be experiencing the wonderful country and witnessing the development of this unique, special place.

In recent weeks alone, the strength of the Israeli democracy shown by the continuing political demonstrations gives me hope for the future and hope that Israel will once more become “a light unto the nations”.

I am now 87 years old and have visited Israel many times since that first visit – but I will never forget the excitement of those times in that newly formed nation.


How to participate:

  • Collate 10 to 15 high-resolution images from a trip to Israel.
  • Email ajn@jewishnews.net.au with the email header MY ISRAEL STORY, and include your FULL NAME, MOBILE NUMBER, and HIGH-RES IMAGES from your selected trip.
  • One of our journalists will be in contact to find out more.

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