Seniors | 104-year-old celebrates birthday with trip to Israel

Four years ago, at age 100, Ella Kastner decided the time had come to “live a little” and celebrate each birthday in a different place in the world, together with her family.

Ella Kastner holds a Bible, a gift from Israel’s Tourism Ministry, and a handmade doll in her likeness, wearing the clothes in which she was christened. photo/courtesy of tourism ministry

Sure enough, she’s kept her vow, celebrating her 100th birthday at the Vatican and, subsequently, in Monaco (101), Austria (102) and Munich (103).

A devout Christian, Kastner, of Germany, has visited and prayed at Christian holy sites throughout Europe.

And now Israel, even traveling on a donkey to reach an isolated monastery in the Judean desert. She made the trip earlier this month, in honor of her 104th birthday.

In the Holy Land, representatives from Israel’s Tourism Ministry presented Kastner with a silver-bound Bible and a certificate of appreciation, nominating her as an ambassador of good will for tourism to the Jewish state.

Born in 1910 in Kelheim Germany, Kastner is thought to be the oldest person to tour the Himalayas and meet with the queen of Bhutan, the oldest member of the Eurovision Club that travels to every competition.

She is also considered to be the oldest Facebook user: At 102 she made and sent a video to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to inform him of her achievement, and after arriving in Israel she updated her page with a video greeting.

She also appears in YouTube videos celebrating with youth at beer festivals in Germany, enjoying fairground rides and dancing to contemporary music.

Kastner began her working life as a hairdresser at the age of 17. At 19, when she inherited a significant amount of money from an aunt, she donated funds to repair the roof of her local church. Eighty-one years later, at 100, she was invited to celebrate her birthday in the church — where the roof still remains intact.

After her wedding in 1932, Kastner went to live in Amberg, Bavaria, where she raised four children, only one of whom is still alive. Her older brother, born in 1906, was murdered in the Dachau concentration camp in 1943 after resisting the Nazi occupation.

Kastner has six grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Several of them joined her in her celebrations in Israel. She lives with one of her grandsons and his family in Berlin.

Her secret for longevity? “Be healthy and enjoy a sweet schnapps every day!”