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Tucsonans visit Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital

On our recent trip to Israel with Temple Emanu-El my husband and I made a special trip to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. Special is indeed an understatement. Our mission was to deliver the adorable therapy dolls lovingly made by the women of Hadassah Southern Arizona, as well as a generous financial donation from the Nurses Council.

As I write this I am sitting in a shopping mall, sipping my coffee — but this is no ordinary mall. This mall has restaurants, coffee shops, shoe stores, jewelry stores, flower shops and clothing stores but it also has patients, families and nurses from Hadassah Ein Kerem, and it’s part of the new Davidson Tower.

In designing this space, Hadassah researched the needs of patients and their families. This mall provides a sense of normality during an otherwise stressful and difficult chapter in one’s life.

As we entered the tower we were immediately in a modern, brightly lit marble foyer, which could rival any five-star reception space in the finest hotel in the world.

Families from every segment of Israeli life were there. We saw young people dressed in jeans and the most modern (and not modest) attire, we saw obviously orthodox couples walking next to Arab families. A woman covered head to toe — in a black burka and wearing gloves — made her way through the halls with the rest of us: families, patients and tourists from around the world.

Our Hadassah Ein Kerem tour began in the development office where I proudly delivered the dolls. On the wall was a fading poster listing in meticulous calligraphy all the Hadassah groups in existence in 1948-49. I was proud to see my hometown of Kew Gardens, N.Y., as well as Tucson, represented. Hadassah in Tucson has a long and proud tradition, having existed since 1948.

Next, our guide walked us through the neurology unit. She explained to us that the rooms in the old wing had four or five patients and the new rooms have two patients. Hadassah’s research showed that patients preferred to be with one other patient, rather than alone and lonely. Each side of the room had its own window and a small day bed to encourage a family member to spend the night with a loved one. Private bathrooms were clean and accessible.

Each floor has a family room where patients and visitors socialize and feel support from other families. They can also prepare light meals. There’s a 360-degree view of the hills of Jerusalem from every room at the hospital.

At the entrance to the unit a healing garden with innumerable green plants was still under construction. Families could sit and relax while gazing out of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The colorful pediatric unit has school in Hebrew and Arabic to provide as much support as possible to the children. The unit was a beehive of activity.

We learned that a complete hospital, five stories high, existed below street level. It has operating rooms, an intensive care unit and enough food and medical equipment to support staff and patients for three weeks. This underground hospital is ready for an emergency at any time, and is on high alert during this difficult time.

No trip to Hadassah Ein Kerem would be complete without a trip to one of its two synagogues, which is the home of the world-famous Chagall windows. Artist Marc Chagall was a great Zionist who asked what sort of contribution he could make after the 1948 War of Independence was won. He joyfully created the spectacular windows representing the 12 tribes of Israel. During the Six Day War in 1967 four of the windows were damaged. Chagall repaired the windows, leaving one slightly damaged as a reminder of the struggle.

A constant flow of visitors visited from around the world, representing many faiths speaking myriad languages. I felt a great sense of pride at being part of the multigenerational Hadassah family.

Our trip to the Hadassah hospital reached its pinnacle when we visited with Dr. Miri Rom, the indefatigable head of its school of nursing. Our initial purpose was to deliver a generous gift from the Nursing Council of Hadassah Southern Arizona. Rom took time out of her busy schedule to meet with us to explain the history of Hadassah nursing education. Rom is currently working with the Israeli government to improve nursing education and make sure that all nurses have an academic component to their education, so that they get the recognition they deserve. Rom is a modern-day pioneer. As Theodore Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

For more information, visit www.hadassah.org.