A day at Hadassah

The hospital’s new tower is certainly a major step toward a fresh approach to healing – raising the standards not only of medicine, but of a relentless drive for a new, neat and tidy Jerusalem.

The Sarah Wetsman Hospital Tower (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Sarah Wetsman Hospital Tower
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ihave been to Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem many times before. But this time it was different, because I inadvertently became a tourist. I had a lot of time to wander around and get a close look at the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower – Hadassah’s gigantic new building. I was deeply impressed by this magnificent achievement, which will undoubtedly position Hadassah among the bestequipped and most comfortable hospitals in the world.
My visit came about because of a small problem with my nose – however small it was, though, it needed prompt medical attention. Once my family doctor sent me to an ear, nose and throat specialist, I went to Ein Kerem. I had not made an appointment, but the hospital’s emergency ward sent me to the right place, and I was treated promptly. The entire treatment lasted a quarter of an hour, and I was ready to go home.
Alas, one never knows what to expect in a hospital.
“I would like you to stay here, in the hospital, for at least six hours,” the nice doctor told me. I was ordered to wait for her in the emergency department for a final check-up and my official discharge. I had no choice but to follow her instructions.
Usually I am a very busy man. Six hours of waiting and doing nothing was hardly good news. I bought myself a newspaper and a sandwich. I had a glass of fresh juice and a pensive look at my watch. All this took less than a quarter of an hour. There were still over five hours and 45 minutes to kill. People around me were busy, running here and there, and I felt quite lost.
Eventually I decided to look for a quiet corner and left the old, busy building to find, on my way out, the entrance to the gleaming, recently opened, multi-storied tower. For years, I had watched it grow, and it seemed that its construction would never end. Now I could enter the spacious main hall – huge, spotlessly clean, rising to a great height, magnificent in every detail, a rare feat of architecture in Israel. The planners had evidently abandoned the classical contours of standard hospital planning and embarked on a challenging, palatial, ambitious modern edifice. It was gratifying to see.
My dear, late wife Dana worked for Hadassah for over 30 years – first as a clerk and finally as the head of the Donor Recognition Department, in a building on the capital’s Strauss Street and later in Ein Kerem.
I remembered how she had often complained about the old building, and had said that in spite of a few additional buildings going up around it, it was bursting at the seams. How proud she would have been to see the new Hadassah tower today! According to the brand new tourist information center, the total cost of this 19-story structure will amount to $363 million, and it is the largest single project the Hadassah organization has ever undertaken. Named in memory of Detroit Hadassah activist Sarah Wetsman, it stands 14 floors above ground and five below. Upon its completion in 2013, the 530 patients in the old building will be transferred to the tower; some wards are already in use. The old building will be used for the steadily growing outpatient services.
The new hospital actually looks more like a luxurious five-star hotel, and is designed to accommodate one or two patients in each room. It also offers a wonderful view of the Judean Hills.
I was awed by all these details, but even more by Hadassah’s bold challenge to Israelis: that we should never satisfy ourselves with commonplace, mediocre, routine, hangar-like buildings, but strive for a bolder vision in architecture, as well as in our everyday existence.
The tower is certainly a major step toward setting an example, a fresh approach to healing, raising the standards not only of medicine, but of a relentless drive for a new, neat and tidy Jerusalem.
A promenade leading to the delightful green lawns of a new garden, set under the shade of olive trees, is a case in point. No longer a standard dusty, littered Jerusalem garden, rarely tended by a tired gardener, it is instead a well-tended series of spacious grassy areas, inviting visitors to sit and enjoy an inspiring view of the Judean Hills and valleys.
I took a few winks on one of the nicely dispersed benches. An entire Arab family enjoyed a picnic on a lawn nearby, their children playing with Jewish children at a well-equipped playground. A group of students held a lecture. My six-hour sentence became a relaxing experience.
A NUMBER of years ago, while my wife was still working at Hadassah, one of her friendly American ladies gave her a book, Memories… Hadassah in Chicago, by Edna Koller Eisenberg – the former president of one of Hadassah’s Chicago chapters and a frequent visitor both to Dana’s office and our home. The 400-plus pages of this book – a collection of documents, photographs, testimonies and official US and Israeli announcements covering over 50 years of the chapter’s activities – pay homage to the members of this chapter, all volunteers who dedicated their time and effort to supporting Hadassah projects in Israel and the US.
There is a direct connection between these yellow pages and the wonders Hadassah has done for Jerusalem and the rest of the country, including the tower. For while Bill and Karen Davidson of Detroit offered $75m. for the tower, their family another $15m., and an anonymous donor another $25m., the major part of the expenses came from the numerous Hadassah members and their chapters, who relentlessly collected funds day in and day out.
They have offered Jerusalem a huge gift. Let us guard it as well as we can, for it will greatly benefit this and future generations.