Today I met a fascinating woman –Irene (Shaloma) Levi. Irene is 91 years old and a book of her life – ‘from McComb to Jerusalem’ has just been published. It tells the story of her life as an unaffiliated christian missionary who, with her husband, found a ministry in Jerusalem and throughout Israel to arabs and jews, refugees and Holocaust survivors.
Part of her story is very relevant to St Andrews. In 1948 she and her husband crossed through the Mandalbaum Gate from Sheikh Jarrah area into West Jerusalem (travelling from the Kingdom of Jordan into the fledgling state of Israel) and found accommodation at ‘The Scottie’, as St Andrews is affectionately called.
And they lived in one of the second floor rooms (with a shared balcony overlooking the Hinnon Valley)for six years. It was a time of real austerity in the country, and everything was scarce – including fruit and vegetables. A meat ration was available only once a week.
Irene talks about how they managed to adapt their small living quarters so they had cooking facilities.
There were other people also living at the Scottie. Irene mentions Floride Gail-Amiel, and a Miss Anderson. After the ceasefire, some tourists began to come to Israel – mainly American – and Irene and Floride together would often act as guides.
Irene remembers one day in 1953 when she met a new guest staying at St. Andrew’s Guesthouse. The elderly lady was from Holland, as you could tell from her accent. The lady had been travelling all over the globe, speaking and preaching, and this was her first visit to Israel. She introduced herself as Corrie ten Boom. Irene didn’t really know her story, but over the next few days as she and Floride showed Corrie ten Boom around the city she learnt all about her life and experience. (Corrie ten Boom’s experience in wartime Holland is documented in ‘The Hiding Place’ which was published in 1971 – of a dutch christian family aiding Jews to escape the Nazi Holocaust , of being imprisoned herself in Ravensbruck and losing her sister Betsie in the camp).
Another memory Irene has is of returning penniless to Jerusalem in 1953 – they had been living and working in Haifa – and suggesting to Mr and Mrs Reid (who were still in charge of the Guesthouse) that she sleep in the ‘garage’ at night – because she would not need to pay rent. She did this for a few nights, sleeping on an air pillow, before the Reid’s told her they couldn’t sleep at night thinking about her out there, and offered her a space in the tower. (There used to be a volunteer room in the tower).
We may hear more of Irene’s life at St Andrew’s later. Her life story is published as ‘From McComb to Jerusalem’, is written by Petra van der Zande and published by Tsur Tsina Publications at 70 NIS. There are copies available on Amazon.co.uk
Other famous people have visited St Andrew’s Guesthouse. Who did you meet? Please do tell us.