By Claire Rahil Lorenzo
I was born in Jerusalem in 1920 in the Mamilla area in what is now called West Jerusalem. I enjoy telling people how I lived because I vividly remember details, names, and events of my past beautiful days in Jerusalem. We lived perfectly well then, and life was beautiful. We were very, very happy!
I was raised in a beautiful apartment building that still sits between the US Embassy on Agron Street and the building that is currently the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. I spent my school years at Schmidt School, located in the German Colony. As I used to walk from my house to the school, I passed by the cemetery Maaman Allah and the spacious pool nearby of which I was a bit scared because I had been told that a man had drowned in it. We bought our bread and groceries from the Ishtakleff family and at the Freij grocery shops of which there were two in the Mamilla area. Our neighbors were Bshara Habib, and the Sfeir, Haddad, Saad, and Murcos families, as well as the Mistakawis, who owned a tailor shop, and Dr. Afifeh Lorenzo.
On Sundays, I would go with my brother Anton, my sister Mary, and other friends to Thé Dansant dance parties on Princess Mary Street (now Shlom Zion Hamalcha). On other weekends, we drove to the beaches of Tel Aviv, at the time a garden suburb of Jaffa, to swim or stay at a hotel for three days. I liked going to the sea but didn’t particularly like to swim and always felt that the owners of these hotels, who were soon to be called Israelis, were waiting for the weekends to benefit from the entrance fees to the sandy beaches that you could not find in Jaffa, where the coast is rocky. We also used to go on hikes and picnics in the hills of Ein Karem, enjoy our time together, and sing among the almond and pomegranate trees. In Ein Karem, we often visited our relatives, the brothers Michel and Francis Rahil and their family, whose house is still in the neighborhood, next to the Rosary Sisters’ Convent. At age 16, I started working at Jerusalem’s central post office, and at 20, I married Alberto Lorenzo, an accountant at the Jerusalem Municipality.
It is worth noting that people would come from as far as Beirut to visit Jerusalem over the weekend. Life was simpler and more joyful back then. I remember that birthday celebrations could last three days!
Claire Rahil Lorenzo’s family had to leave Jerusalem during the Nakba, moving first to Amman and then to Beirut.