Photo Credit: Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson
Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Last February I found myself in the local hospital after a minor heart attack. The next day another patient was brought to the bed on the other side of the curtain.

We acknowledged each other without being able to see one another. We were able to carry on a conversation after our guests left and we found a mutual understanding.


During our chats I got to know my partner as a very religious woman. Her manner of speaking was that of a person from the charedi world. In her view, nothing depended on the individual, everything was the act of the Almighty. No event was accidental, all happened according to Divine Plan.

Her total acceptance of her medical condition and the suffering associated with it as the will of the Almighty spoke of profound piety.

Her sentences were flushed with expressions of “G-d willing,” “The Almighty will have mercy,” “This too shall pass,” “G-d forbid!” and more.

Of course, our conversation went on in Hebrew where these words have added profundity.

Ten days passed and I was released from the hospital. Before leaving, I approached her bed to take my leave. Crossing the curtain partition I saw her for the first time and could not believe my eyes. Here was a blond woman, her curly hair uncovered spread with wild abandon on her bare shoulders.

“Ora, is that you?” I asked in surprise.

“Yes, it is,” answered the familiar voice. “Let’s exchange phone numbers. I want to meet you at home.”

“Of course,” I replied. I wanted to solve this mystery. A deeply pious soul in a secular body. Who was this Ora Lavid?

A few weeks later I found out.

Ora Lavid was born Stephanie Arlette Viertel in Bucharest, Romania. In 1950, when Arlette was four years old, her family made aliyah. Arlette became Ora and her baby sister Sylvia became Sarah. The family settled in Petah Tikva, where Ora grew up, later moving to Tel Aviv to attend the Levinsky Teachers Seminary and Tel Aviv University, where she graduated with a degree in Hebrew Literature.

By then she was married to a childhood friend, Elie Lavid. Three years later a daughter, Yifat, was, born, followed three years later by a son, Ziv, in 1970. The youngest son, Lior, was born in 1975. Today, all three are married and heads of families. Yifat and Lior are parents each to a daughter and two sons, while Ziv is a father of three daughters.

Ora, who for over twenty years had taught Hebrew to newcomers at Ulpan Akiva, moved to Netanya in 1995, and continued teaching the love of the Hebrew language and the love of Israel, the love of Judaism. She has taught the new arrivals to Israel and her children and grandchildren.

Recently she retired from her official teaching position after thirty-three years but not from her mission of teaching the love of G-d and Judaism.

Ora Lavid is an amazing deeply religious soul in a secular body.