Pathway to the House of God

Bethel Youth Hostel in Haifa

This is Part Five in a series of articles showing God’s call on a family, their decision to move to Israel and what happened when they did.

In Part Four, “Love Your Neighbor,” Scott Presson wrote about a unique experience, in which his baseball throw gets a tune up when he and his brother are stoned.

It was moving day. Our family was leaving Christ Church Guest House. In the short amount of time that we had stayed there, the streets and alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem had become familiar. My father, who had never met a stranger, had probably greeted and come to know most everyone that lived and worked in the Jaffa Gate area. Through a family friend back in the States, we had made contact with a lady that he knew in Israel and she was willing to help us. She had even offered to let us stay in her apartment.

On June 11, 1948, just days before the start of Israel’s War of Independence, the ship Marine Carp set sail bound for the Middle East. A young teacher from McComb, Ohio by way of New York was aboard. She felt called to the city of Jerusalem. After ministering in Beirut, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and even Iraq, she came to live in Israel. Her name was Irene.

My father was a man that was constantly on the move. He wrote, taught and ministered. Plus he was an adventurer who loved to travel. It only took us a couple of days to realize that Irene easily eclipsed all of that. She was a diligent witness and worker for Adonai. She traveled the length and breadth of Israel ferrying people, delivering supplies and picking up hitchhiking soldiers. No job was too big and no distance was too far for Irene. To get into her car was to hear fascinating travelogues and a first person account of the history, people and places in the land of Israel. Irene was a person that knew how to get things done.

In the 1960’s, Irene had been the principal of a school in Haifa. The school had been located at a place known as Bethel, or Bet El; House of God. It was owned by a ministry in the United States. It had originally been an orphanage but now it was a Youth Hostel. Their ministry representative was currently in Israel looking for someone to take over the facility. Irene introduced my parents to him and together we went up to Haifa to see the facility.

Beth-El was situated on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, facing the Mediterranean Sea. The property consisted of two large buildings with picture windows that overlooked the City of Haifa and the Port. There were gardens with orange, lemon and mandarin trees and paved pathways lined with geraniums and roses. At streel level, there was a garage with a workshop full of tools. The buildings were separated by sets of steps and a huge fig tree. One of the structures was reserved for men and the other for women and couples. There was a large underground cistern that had been turned into a dining area and a couple of ping pong tables for entertainment. In the lower garden there was a large windmill that had once been used to pump water and an ancient olive tree that someone said was a couple of thousands years old. Most of all there was lots of room to stretch. The Hostel already had a small staff consisting of Jan and Ruth, a young couple from South Africa, Heidi, an older German woman and Martha, an expatriate from the U.S. The place was across the street from the French Embassy and near the central part of the city with plenty of shops. Overall, Bet El was a beautiful place.

Later that day, we returned to Jerusalem. I knew by their questions that my parents were interested in living and working at Bet El but I also knew that they were going to pray about it. Realistically my parents were uniquely qualified to run a Youth Hostel. Back in the States my father had taught at a military school where we had lived on campus. Our residence was at one end of the building, while the other end was a dormitory for cadets. My parents had already dealt with all sorts of issues related to people living and interacting in close quarters. Bethel Youth Hostel was set up the exact same way. We would be living in an apartment in one of the buildings while paying guests stayed just meters away.

Before we came to Israel, at different times I had asked my parents where we were going to live. My father’s answer had always been the same.

“I don’t know where we are going to live but I am believing that God will honor our step of faith and open up doors for us to bless Israel and that he is going to provide a place for us at just the right time.”

Now less than a month after we had arrived in Israel, Adonai had opened a door of opportunity that met all of our family’s needs. Just days after leaving Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, Adonai had made a way for us to be a blessing to the people of Israel.

After thinking and praying about it, my parents decided to take over Bet El. We now had an assignment and an outlet to show love to the people of Israel.

“When we focus on our love for the Messiah and what we have in common, rather than what separates us, we can begin to build bridges of understanding rather than walls of separation.”  – Irene Levy

Irene Levy is now in her upper nineties and continues to live in Israel. Over the years she has consistently practiced the ministry of reconciliation as a tireless advocate for peace between Jews, Arabs and Believers. As a watchman on the walls and as an eyewitness to the history of the State of Israel, Irene has prayed countless prayers for the peace of Jerusalem. Her willingness to be used by Adonai has enabled many to come to know the Messiah. May Elohim continue to use this godly saint on the pathway to Bet El, the House of God.

But the humble shall inherit the Land and delight themselves in the abundance of shalom (Psalms 37:11).   

Next: The Lost, The Lonely And The Seekers: The world comes to our doorstep. In 1973, God told our family to move to Israel. This is our story.