Love of Family, People, Nation, Neighbors
Many of us grew up with Israel as a reality, but the privilege of living in the era of Jewish redemption is fragile: The only way to embrace it is to exercise the responsibilities it entails. What I found in Hadassah—and have found every day since I joined in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War—is a passion for our mission of nurturing, healing, defending and improving the Jewish people and state.
As I write, rockets fired from Gaza are once again striking Sderot and nearby communities. Thousands of Israeli civilians have huddled in bomb shelters in recent days. A new study reports that more than 40 percent of Sderot’s children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Wherever else I am, part of me is racing to the bomb shelters with those under fire, hanging on every news update.
We are not mere spectators. Hadassah gives us the means to address threats as well as worry about them. The Hadassah Medical Center treats the sick and injured and heals their wounds. The Hadassah Medical Organization is also an expression of our Zionism and of our Jewish ethic: Hillel’s words echo across 2.000 years—”If I am only for myself, what am I?” All who come through our doors are treated equally—Jewish and Arab Israelis, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli Army entered Syria at great risk to evacuate White Helmet rescue workers and their families. Our medical staff is treating Syrian children in need of urgent care.
My passion for the work we do explains why I don’t sleep much. When in Israel, I spend a lot of time in meetings and at ceremonies, but since it’s is a small country with a large history, I can’t take more than a few steps without feeling touched by the past and inspired to shape the future. On arrival in late June, I went straight from Ben-Gurion Airport to Ben Shemen Youth Village, a quiet agricultural school near Lod. Among its graduates was the late Israeli President Shimon Peres; one of the village’s prized possessions is Albert Einstein’s telescope. I was there for one of a series of ceremonies leading up to the dedication of our new Rehabilitation Center on Mount Scopus, which will feature a pathway of cement tiles bearing footprints, much like Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood—except our impressions come from Israel’s defenders, leading military figures, wounded soldiers and terror victims. Stepping onto the wet tiles at Ben Shemen that day were former Army Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Aharon Karov, a platoon commander who suffered severe injuries in Gaza in 2008, spent three months in a coma but survived and, five years later, ran the New York Marathon.
The Jewish family is complicated and diverse. So is the Israeli family, in similar fashion and unique ways. All families have differences, and the best of them discuss differences honestly. Out of our love of the Jewish and Israeli family, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is concerned that the Nation State Bill adopted by the Knesset last month includes wording that differs from—and undermines—the language of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that Israel is a Jewish state—“open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the exiles”—and also a state that “ensures complete equality of social and political rights for all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Is there tension between being both a Jewish and a democratic state? Of course there is. But for 70 years it has been by and large a creative, synergistic tension. We fear the new law tips the scales and emphasizes division more than unity. We urge that it be modified or amended.
Hadassah reflects Israel’s diversity. We are a Zionist institution in which Jewish and non-Jewish doctors, nurses and technicians serve Jewish and non-Jewish patients. Our experience, our history and our ethics teach us to advocate for what we believe. Israel needs us to speak loudly about what unites us, which is certainly greater than what tears us apart.
As the new year approaches, let us dedicate ourselves anew, in medical care and in society, to equality.
To all of you, Shanah Tovah.