Purim in Israel starts several days ahead of time and continues beyond the actual Hebrew calendar date. It's an opportunity for people to indulge their imaginations in their fancy dress costumes; for little girls to temporarily become princesses or brides and for little boys to be Superman, a pirate, a ninja warrior or a space traveler.
Inclement weather put a damper on traditional street parades and several other events, but in the pediatric unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, there was a buzz of excitement on Tuesday morning as word got out that President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal were coming to visit and not just to say hello but to distribute Purim gifts.
It's customary on Purim to give edible gifts, and the Herzogs came with gift packages filled with a variety of munchies which were happily accepted by the junior patients as they reached out for them. The Herzogs were escorted by senior members of the medical staff, director-general Prof. Ofer Marin, Pediatric Nephrology Institute director Prof. Yaacov Frishberg, and Tikva Umarpe NGO CEO Dvora Agasi as they went from ward to ward.
In the children's dialysis ward, they encountered singer Yishai Ribo, who had everyone teary-eyed as he sang "Morning will rise…." Kidney problems are difficult enough for adults, but for children, they are a horribly painful nightmare.
In the spirit of the festival, the Herzogs donned white hospital gowns and pretended to be doctors. The munchies were the 'medicine' they prescribed.
After chatting with the children and distributing all the gifts, the Herzogs sat down with Marin and the hospital's coronavirus teams who come from diverse sectors of society and who treated patients from even more diverse sectors. Various members of the teams shared some of their experiences over the past two years and elaborated on the challenges they faced.
"The multiculturalism in this hospital indicates that everyone was created in the image of God," said Herzog. "We see this here in the hospital wards. People are very appreciative of what you are doing and understand that you are genuinely saving lives."
The president also congratulated the hospital on its 120th anniversary year. "You serve not only Jerusalem, but the whole of Israel," he said.
Michal Herzog was impressed by the sense of unity exuded by the teams and said that she could feel their togetherness. "I think that one of the things that is evident here is the team pride. I know that individually, you went through a very tough time over the past two years, but I think that your sense of togetherness contributed greatly to your medical success."
Hospital staff is very proud of the number of lives they saved, and doctors paid tribute to the hard work and long hours put in by nurses in their efforts to ensure that patients would survive.
On Wednesday evening, the Herzogs will participate in a Purim service at the Ahavat Zion synagogue in Beit Shemesh.