President’s Column: The Tower and the Tree
In the 1960s, archaeologists at Masada discovered some seeds preserved in a jar buried in the rubble of the ancient fortress. For the next 40 years, the seeds were stored away. In 2005, they were obtained by Dr. Sarah Sallon, director of Hadassah’s Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem, who gave them to Dr. Elaine Solowey of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located at Ketura.
Testing determined that the seeds were from a Judean date palm, whose fruit was prized in biblical times for its taste and medicinal properties. The palm had been extinct for centuries. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the date seeds were roughly 2,000 years old.
Solowey planted three seeds in a quarantined site. Eight weeks later, one of them sprouted. The seedling was kept isolated in its own pot until November. Because of its age, the seedling was dubbed the Methuselah Tree. It was more than seven feet tall and beautiful when I was given the honor of transferring it from a pot into the earth. As far as anyone knows, it is by far the oldest seed that has been successfully germinated.
Just think of it: A seed from ancient Israel replanted and now growing in the fertile ground of modern Israel—nurtured by scientists affiliated with Hadassah and growing on a kibbutz founded by Young Judaeans.
So many of Israel’s efforts over the past 63 years have been aimed at closing the 2,000-year hole in the story of Jewish sovereignty. And here was a moment when a single thread tied the ages together.
But that is not all. Not only was the planting of an ancient seed made possible by modern science, it also took place on the same day we observed the 25th anniversary of Hadasit—the technology enterprise that gives research scientists at Hadassah’s hospitals and laboratories access to the medical marketplace. In modern Israel, the boundaries between past, present and future are crossed every day—and Hadassah is a participant and catalyst in bridging the frontiers of time.
As Hadassah marks its Centennial—100th birthday is February 24—we have much to celebrate. In March, the first departments will move into the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, which will become the hub of the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem. We will officially dedicate the tower, which is Hadassah’s largest building project in more than half a century, at our Centennial Convention in Jerusalem in October.
The 19-story tower (14 levels above ground and 5 below) will reach much deeper into the ground and soar much higher into the sky than the Methuselah Tree. And yet, I think it speaks volumes about Hadassah that we are defined by both—the tower and the tree. Without our roots in the land of Israel and in the traditions of the Jewish people, we never would have been able to make the contribution to the future—of Israel and of humankind—that the tower represents.
The last few years of Hadassah’s first century have been challenging. We are on a sounder financial footing now than we were when the economic crisis hit in 2008, but we know we have more work to do. For every success, we spend months or years deliberating, poring over financial reports and organizational plans, tapping our wisdom and creative energies to work smarter and more efficiently.
That is how the world improves. Great accomplishments take hard work, something Hadassah’s members have never been afraid of. The rewards are sometimes a little dirt on our fingers from a new tree and the sun in our eyes at a ribbon cutting—adding up to the reality of the Jewish nation reborn and flourishing above our heads and beneath our feet.