Little Sister Aliza (1922-2011) participated actively in the foundation of the Hebrew speaking Catholic communities and in their development. We publish here extensive segments of the words of Brother Yohanan Elihai at her funeral in Ein Karem on February 17, 2011.

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Aliza was the daughter of a Christian father and a Jewish mother, and this fact was important for her. However she grew up as a Christian. She had a beautiful voice, studied music and her mother seemed to have dreamed of a career for her in this domain. However, she wanted to enter a monastery – at least that was what her mother thought and therefore she cut relations with her daughter.

Aliza wrote to her mother over a period of eight years and received no answer.

However, after a long period, the mother came to see for herself and discovered that this was not a closed monastery but rather a family. She fell in love with the sisters and spent her final years in a parents’ home directed by the Little Sisters in the south of France.

I met Aliza in 1949 in France and already then we spoke about the Hebrew language.

In 1950 – the state of Israel was two years old – a long time before the Second Vatican Council changed the attitude of Christianity to the Jews, who might be interested in this little country?

It was Aliza who asked Little Sister Madeleine, the foundress of the congregation and the general superior, if she would permit her to go to Israel and live there. Little Sister Madeleine understood and gave her assent.

This, in 1950, Little Sister Madeleine came to the Middle East with a few sisters in order to found fraternities here and there, particularly in the Old City of Jerusalem and in Bethlehem, which were at that time a part of Jordan. Yet, she brought with her Aliza too together with another sister and whispered to them: we will also reach Israel.

I was then in the region and I also dreamed about Israel. Therefore, we asked for the permit to pass through the Mandelbaum Gate into Israel, something rather out of the ordinary at that time. Only personnel of the United Nations and some consuls were able to pass. We waited for a month in the Old City, in Saint Anne’s (the home of the White Fathers) and we studied Hebrew. Finally, the permit arrived and we passed into Israel on August 25, 1950.

I will summarize everything in a few sentences: Aliza first worked as a cleaning lady in a hospital. There she befriended some of the patients and she never forgot them afterwards. She learnt how to make ceramics and that became her profession for the rest of her working life, until she was 72. In time she became a member of the National Union of Ceramicists (and I might add the paten and chalice with which we celebrate this Eucharist are the work of her hands).

She had a very direct character, decisive and intense and it was not always easy to live with her. However her sisters loved her as she was because she was honest, and faithful (faithful to the patients she had met and to all her friends – and there are those present here who could testify to that). She would visit the sick and the elderly and she did this for 60 years. Sixty years of presence in Jerusalem, in Israel, with all the ups and downs and difficulties. There is no need to repeat that she loved this country, the Jewish people, the Hebrew language and she was a faithful member of our Hebrew community from its very first day.

A final word: she loved the land, the earth – after all ceramics is earth + water (+ air + fire).

She asked not to be sealed in a coffin but to be wrapped in a simple sheet/shroud just as a Jew is buried. And so she returns to the earth, the earth of Israel, the earth she loved to mould with her fingers.

We cannot but mention that she loved the verse from the Book of Jeremiah: “Just like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6) or the verse that is said on Yom Kippur: “Behold the clay in the hands of the potter, stretching or shortening as he sees fit, so are we in your hand, preserved in love”.

She seemingly internalized this thought in her life – and I thank God for her witness to His love.

May her memory be blessed.

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