Yehudit was born in 1908 in Haifa to a family that was among the first new settlers in the Land of Israel in the late 19th century. Her mother’s family, the Berkowitzes, made aliyah in 1892 to Horen in the Golan Heights, but they had to flee Arab attacks there. Yehiel Berkowitz, Yehudit’s grandfather, was one of the founders of the settlement of Yavne’el.
Her father, Shraga Cohen, was an agronomist working for Baron Rothschild. He was killed by Arabs just for being a Jew when Yehudit was a week old. Rothschild offered her mother, a widow with three young children, the opportunity to educate the children in France, but she demurred: “Is this why we made aliyah to the Land of Israel? To send our children to France for their education?”
She trained as a midwife in Vienna, while he children were being raised by their grandfather. After her return, she took the children to Haifa and raised them, with stubbornness and tenacity. These values were inculcated in Yehudit. She studied in the Reali School in Haifa and was a member of the Scouts.
At fourteen, she was sent by her mother to Tel Aviv to realize her dream of becoming a teacher. After completing her studies at the seminary, she returned to Haifa and began working in this field.
In 1932, she married Menashe Shikmoni, who was himself a teacher, as well as an artist and painter. They moved to Tel Aviv, where she worked as a teacher and as a clerk for the Leumit Health Fund.
The nationalist education of her home, in which she imbibed love of the homeland and hatred of the foreign occupier, brought her to Lehi when Yair established it, and she served in it until it was disbanded in 1948. Yehudit was part of the medical division: she recruited personnel, organized first-aid courses, acquired safehouses where the wounded could recuperate and receive daily treatment. Her dedication was unfailing. Her compassionate and selfless treatment earned her boundless admiration, as well as the nickname, “The Angel of Lehi.”
After the State was established, Yehudit went back to teaching, realizing her dream. She taught in the Hillel School in Kfar Shalem, which was populated by new immigrants. She also taught special-education students in HaKovshim School. She was known for her dedication and warmth towards the students. She would invite them to her home for holiday meals, she would go out to shows and exhibitions with them, and she organized the dramatic society (even writing plays for them). She would always emphasize love and dedication to the Land of Israel.
She had two daughters: Marnina, who was also active in Lehi in Jerusalem and died young of an illness, and Anuga.