July 19, 1999
Stella Levy, who commanded the Women’s Corps of the Israel Defense Forces in the 1960s and briefly served in the Knesset, dies.
She was born in French Mandatory Syria in 1924 and made aliyah to Haifa in 1929. She was active in the Haganah during high school, and she enlisted in the British army’s Auxiliary Territorial Service for women in 1943. When the IDF established its Women’s Corps, she participated in the first officer training course for women, then completed the IDF’s course for female battalion commanders in 1949. She studied psychology at Haifa University and political science and art at Tel Aviv University.
Levy was the only woman to rise in rank from company commander in Haifa to the chief officer in the Northern Region. She became the deputy commanding officer of the Women’s Corps, then served as its commanding officer with the rank of colonel from 1964 to 1970. She oversaw the ma’abarot (transit camps) for new immigrants and led a campaign to eliminate illiteracy.
After her IDF service, Levy served as a diplomat from 1970 to 1974 at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, where she was the liaison to women’s organizations. She helped form the Israel Police’s Civil Guard, a volunteer civilian auxiliary force, in 1974 and was part of the guard until 1976. She entered politics in 1977 as a candidate for the ninth Knesset with the Democratic Movement for Change but failed to win a seat. When Stef Wertheimer, who was elected on the Democratic Movement for Change list and joined Shinui after that party broke up, resigned from the Knesset in February 1981, Levy was appointed to replace him. She lost her seat in the election for the 10th Knesset in June 1981.