Regina Canetti was born to a well-to-do Jewish family in Bulgaria in 1921 and was educated in a school of the Order of the Sisters of Zion. When Bulgaria joined the Axis powers in World War II, Canetti’s family lost their property and were forced to flee. Both Regina’s mother and brother drowned when the ship they sailed on sank, but she managed to arrive in Turkey and from there to Israel. Naturally Canetti was emotionally involved with the Order of the Sisters of Zion in Palestine and later converted to Christianity and became a nun. Sister Regina taught in the schools of the Order in various countries, and in the 1960s she came to teach at the school in the convent of the Via Dolorosa.
On the day that war broke out, Sister Regina’s main concern was the matriculation examinations of her students, and when someone told her that war had broken out, she received the news with disbelief. The parents of the students who lived in Jerusalem came to pick them up, and the nuns rented a bus and drove the students from other Arab countries to the Allenby Bridge. On their way back to the city, they were greeted by gunfire, explosions and clouds of smoke. During the first two days of the war, Regina watched people escape from their homes and become refugees and she suffered their pain. Together with other nuns and monks, she rented a minibus and distributed supplies to refugees on the roads to Jordan.
On the third day of the war she went up to the roof of the convent and from there she saw Israeli soldiers waving the Israeli flag on the Temple Mount, a sight that moved her and filled her with joy. Neighboring residents of the city sought asylum in the convent, and the nuns welcomed them willingly, but among them were Jordanian soldiers, whom the nuns agreed to only on the condition that they surrender their weapons. Sister Regina examined them one by one, took the weapons from them, and threw them into the convent’s water pit. That evening there was a loud and prolonged knocking at the gate of the convent, and when the nuns opened it they found Israeli soldiers and doctors outside, who came to see if among the wounded who had taken refuge in the monastery there were Jordanian soldiers pretending to be wounded. The Spanish she spoke enabled her to find a common language with an Israeli doctor who spoke Ladino. She told him a little about her past and asked him to help her get in touch with her nephew who served in the Navy at the time. On this basis, trust was created between the nuns and the soldiers, and Regina knew that the prisoners would be treated fairly.
A few days later, when the barriers between the parts of the city were removed, Regina breathlessly watched thousands of Jews making their way to the Western Wall on Shavuot.