The goodwill is all

Hedva Granatstein-Fox - From Cleveland to Modi’in, 1993

Hedva Granatstein-Fox (photo credit: DANIEL FOX)
Hedva Granatstein-Fox
(photo credit: DANIEL FOX)
Hedva Granatstein-Fox fell in love with Israel during her year of study at Machon Gold Seminary, located in an evolving Geula neighborhood in Jerusalem that remotely resembled the Geula of today.
“I knew that one day I would make aliyah,” she says. “Israel is where I need to be.”
Hedva moved to New York to study at Yeshiva University-Stern College for Women where she received a BA in psychology. Subsequently she completed a master’s degree in social work at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Her determination to move to Israel was constant.
She returned to Israel in 1992 to study at WUJS (The World Union of Jewish Students) Institute in Arad.
“My love for Israel was reinforced, but I decided to go home to Cleveland to work as a social worker and save some money. I saved all my salary for eight months.”
She remembers growing up in her home where the conversation about Israel was always central for her parents. Her father, Rabbi Melvin Granatstein, the congregational rabbi, tirelessly promoted the ideals of religious Zionism and the importance of realizing aliyah.
On the way to the airport when she made aliyah in 1993, her father wished her a good aliyah and quoted Socrates, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Hedva arrived at Ulpan Etzion in Baka, Jerusalem. It was not an easy integration into life here. She worked at various jobs, sometimes in her field, often not. In 1999 she married Jonathan Fox, Professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Jonathan made aliyah from Chicago in 1997 and they met at the Katamon Anglo Singles Scene.
In 2000 she began working in the psychiatric ward at the Sarah Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem. Hedva was intrigued about working in a psychiatric ward. The study of psychological disorders was always her favorite subject both in undergraduate and graduate school. Yet she was apprehensive about working with challenging patients who are often held against their will because they are deemed a danger either to themselves or to society.
“The moment I entered the psychiatric ward I knew I was in the right place. I felt the same way as the first time I came to Israel, a kind of sealing of fate. This is where I’m meant to work to try to make a difference. And here I am, working in this ward to this day,” she says.
SHE DESCRIBES the origin of the hospital. Herzog was established in 1895 as a house of alms in the Old City of Jerusalem by a group of philanthropic women known as Ezrat Nashim. The group focused on the poor, women’s issues and the mentally ill. In time, the Ezrat Nashim Hospital, the first psychiatric hospital in the Middle East, was built in Jerusalem. This house of alms has turned into the major Herzog Medical Center of today that houses two psychiatric wards, outpatient clinics, respiratory wards, geriatric wards, and recently a corona ward.
“I have encountered tremendous compassion in the way patients often relate to each other and in the way the staff members at Herzog relate to the patients. But I have also met with tremendous heartbreak when I witness patients from all walks of life abandoned by society and by their own families.” No day is similar to the next in the hospital. Over the years she has met fascinating characters, “including prophets, messiahs and wives of messiahs.” She recalls explaining to a patient why she is sitting so far away from him. He responded, “COVID? Do you think I’m worried about that? COVID lasts a few weeks, schizophrenia is for life.” “After patients are released from the hospital, many refuse to stay on their medications, mainly because the meds come with difficult side effects. Trapped in a cycle of poverty and social isolation, most don’t find a reason to stay emotionally balanced. Many escape into a fantasy world, which leads to future hospitalizations.” In the year 2000, with pressure from a group of dedicated professionals, the Knesset passed a law stating that a person recognized by National Insurance as having a mental health disability is eligible for rehabilitation. This advocacy group initiated and developed an umbrella of invaluable services for those in need, to be paid for by the Health Ministry.
This law was an exceptional breakthrough. Finally patients could survive on the outside, free from prolonged hospital stays. In assisted living housing, with financial and social opportunities, they could find some autonomy and dignity in their lives. However, the problem today is that as Israeli society has grown, so has this population. Vital services, especially appropriate housing, have not grown accordingly. With the ensuing tightening of criteria for acceptance into housing, many patients have nowhere to go.
In 2015 the Health Ministry transferred payments for hospital stays to kupat cholim. This has resulted in more stringent checks and balances on the length of stays and can result in the ending of payments before a safe framework in the community is found.
“At Herzog we do whatever we can to alleviate this terrible situation. We keep patients who are willing to stay until a solution is found, even after the kupa has stopped paying,” says Hedva. “But often we have to close our doors to new patients because we are overwhelmed by a lack of space. There are incredibly limited possibilities for rehabilitation of patients leaving the hospital.” Nevertheless, she strives to make a difference. She has a strong desire to ease suffering, to take action to help others. Her compassionate empathy is clear.
Hedva and Jonathan live in Modi’in with their two children. She is thankful that her parents and two siblings have also made aliyah.
Regarding the corona era, Hedva reflects, “COVID is the Yom Kippur of the world. A worldwide Yom Kippur. It reminds each of us of our humble place in the universe. The best way to survive is to forget our own ego for a moment and think about the other. By caring about the other, we ultimately save ourselves spiritually and physically.” Hedva Granatstein-Fox exemplifies the words of Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook, “The goodwill is all – and all the talents are ways to fulfill it.”