Name: Benjamin Isaac John Israel
Date of birth: 1911
Place of birth: Bermondsey
Where do you live? Nightingale House, a Jewish care home in south London
Where did you live before? Since my marriage in 1937, I lived in Tottenham Court Road and then Mornington Crescent. Before moving into the home, I lived in Sutton and was an active member of Sutton and District Synagogue.
What was your occupation? I had many jobs, including as a warehouse superintendent. During the war, I was called up to the Army in the Medical Corps to serve as a nurse. I opened my own salon and cut Charlton Heston’s hair when he was promoting Ben Hur – it cost two shillings, but he gave a generous £10 tip!
Were you married, and if so, for how long and to whom? I was married to the wonderful Millie for 76 years (together for 80).
Do you have any children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? I had one son called Victor, who was born in 1942. He died in 2012, before we moved to Nightingale.
What is your happiest memory? When I first laid eyes on Millie at the dance academy in Piccadilly.
What do you consider to be your greatest/proudest achievements? My marriage. Together, we built a family, a home, and a successful business we were passionate about. We travelled the world, experienced different things, and contributed to our community of Sutton and District Synagogue.
If you could live your life again would you do anything differently? I would not have scrubbed the floors at Magdalen College in Oxford so much – nearly 80 years on and it’s still giving me pain! But, seriously, I look back on my life and see it as a life well lived.
Do today’s youth have it easy compared to when you grew up? I wouldn’t say that! Life is complicated. Sure, they don’t have to worry about wars and bombs, but job security isn’t certain and life is becoming increasingly expensive. I think that weighs down on many young people.
What advice would you offer to today’s youngsters? Don’t take life too seriously. Work hard and appreciate all the gifts you have. Don’t compare or compete with anyone, because everyone has their own story.
The secret for a long life is…
Enjoying the small things! Life can’t always be cupcakes and fairy tales, but it’s important to notice and appreciate the small details. I still look forward to my whisky and crisps before bed. At 107, every day is a blessing.
Listen to this week’s podcast here: