Fulfilling a dream: From Midwest to Middle East midwife

Elisheva Levin made Aliyah to Ofra, and now works in the maternity ward at Hadassah-University Medical Center on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.

Elisheva Levin (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Elisheva Levin
Elisheva Levin has delivered more than 1,000 Israeli babies in the maternity ward at Hadassah-University Medical Center on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.
The ward’s head nurse, Levin made aliyah from Chicago at the age of 18. She studied nursing at the Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing, and for many years worked as a general nurse and then taught nursing. However, after giving birth to her eighth child, Levin decided, “I would no longer put off my dream of becoming a midwife.
“I went into labor and delivery at Har Hatzofim,” she said, referring to the Mount Scopus facility by its Hebrew name. “After a while I was appointed head nurse. Today, I combine midwifery and administration.”
Earlier this month, Levin led the maternity ward in its opening of a renovated and remodeled space – the first major physical upgrade of the labor and delivery department at Hadassah since 1976.
Levin lives in Ofra, which is under the jurisdiction of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council. On a good day with no traffic, she said it takes her around 25 minutes to get to work. If she leaves at the wrong time, the commute can double.
However, she said she made a conscious decision to work at Hadassah, where she has given birth to several of her own children. A lot of it has to do with what she calls the hospital’s “heimishe” environment.
“It is easy to get around, and there is a family feeling,” she said, noting that many women come back year after year because they connect with the staff. She said she has even seen mothers whom she helped deliver bring their daughters to Mount Scopus to deliver their babies, too.
Levin also likes that the staff and clientele are multicultural and multireligious and from all over the world. For example, she has helped deliver Ger Hassidic, National Religious, secular, Arab, Ethiopian and French babies. She said people come from all over the region, including eastern and western Jerusalem, the Binyamin region, Ma’aleh Adumim, the Dead Sea and Arad.
The new ward opened on December 4 and delivered its first baby at 8 a.m. that day.
Levin said Hadassah had been talking about these renovations for nearly 10 years.
“My staff is so excited,” she told the Magazine. She said even though her team “loved the old facilities, and they hold so many memories for us, this is something for which we have all been waiting. This is a place we can be proud to show off.”
She continued, “Finally, the day has come.”
Levin brought her own mother, who made aliyah 13 years ago, and her sister who lives in Modi’in and is a midwife at Sheba Medical Center, to visit the new ward.
“It gave her so much naches [pride],” said Levin of her mother.
HADASSAH MOUNT SCOPUS was founded as the Rothschild-Hadassah University Hospital in 1934. At that time, it was considered the most advanced hospital in the Middle East. It served Jerusalem residents until the War of Independence. On April 13, 1948, a convoy left the hospital with 77 doctors and nurses. The convoy was attacked by Arabs, and everyone was killed. Following this attack, the hospital was evacuated, and it quickly fell into Jordanian hands.
The Ein Kerem campus opened 12 years later. The Mount Scopus hospital was recaptured during the Six Day War, and in 1976 it was refurbished and reopened. It had not been fully renovated since.
Levin said the new facility has large and modern rooms that are equipped with the best technology and extra amenities, such as oversized medicine balls, to help enable natural and comfortable birthing. Every room has a private bathroom and shower, and some rooms include bathtubs. There are also private patios off the rooms.
״The generous donation of the Rady Family from the United States via the incredible women of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America made the building of the new Labor and Delivery rooms possible," said Levin. "The result is one Israel's most technologically advanced and luxurious departments for women giving birth.
"There is strength in an environment that empowers a woman at such a significant moment in her life," she continued.
The renovation plans were spearheaded by Hadassah director-general Zeev Rotstein. He said, “We knew that if we wanted to continue using the campus, which is most important nationally, we had to start somewhere and change the situation and the environment.”
Renovations were first done on the emergency room. The delivery room was the second renovation.
“The hospital is a strategically important point in Jerusalem and in Israel,” Rotstein noted.
LEVIN SAID that today, so many years after making aliyah, she thinks like an Israeli. But she said she knows her work and work ethic are a product of her American upbringing. And she jokes that when she makes spelling errors in Hebrew, she blames it on her origins.
“I say, ‘Come on, I am an olah,’” Levin said with a laugh.
Today, Levin has much of her family here, including her mother, two sisters and a brother. The rest of her family remains in the States.
“I think the way Americans do things, the way they give so much attention to detail and are very conscientious – these are the things that can contribute to any position you take as an American,” she said.
But on the other hand, she noted that Americans are used to a certain approach that is different than the one in the Middle East, and “you have to kind of adjust.”
She said Americans can grow in their fields here as they accept the system and “start to contribute – you have to contribute.”
Looking at the new Hadassah maternity ward, it is clear that “contribute” is something Levin has certainly done.