President’s Column: The Heart of the Matter
By the time I made my first trip to Jerusalem in 1970, the city had changed dramatically. By then, Hadassah had been on the scene for 58 years and Israel had been independent for 22. Living standards were approaching Western levels and public health standards had already surpassed those of some European countries. Three years after its reunification in the Six-Day War—an event we commemorated two weeks ago on Yom Yerushalayim—the city was growing and hope for peace, prosperity and further development was everywhere. Nevertheless, Jerusalem 43 years ago still had the feel of a sleepy Mediterranean town.
We all know what happened to the hope for peace. But living in a hostile neighborhood has done nothing to slow the realization of the other hopes that were so palpable on my first visit to Jerusalem. The city, like the nation, has continued to grow and prosper. High-rises now fill the landscape of the New City. A new light rail system whisks people into the center of town from outlying areas. The renovated Mamilla Street provides a beautiful transition from the modern city to the narrow lanes of the Old City. Business is better than ever and tourism fills hotels, shops and streets with the joys of discovery expressed in more than a hundred languages.
Somewhere around 1995, Jerusalem also reached an almost unbelievable milestone. It equaled (and has since left far behind) what historians estimate to have been its peak population of the biblical era. Today, the city’s population stands at 800,000. Can anyone doubt, despite the challenges of the day, that Israel’s capital is in its Golden Age?
Since becoming Hadassah’s national president I have been spending more time in Jerusalem than ever, and on every visit it strikes me how much Hadassah has been involved in the city’s growth and development—not just in the health care infrastructure but also in the city’s overall well-being. Our institutions make us the city’s largest nongovernmental employer. Our hospitals and schools are economic and intellectual magnets. Among those high-rises I mentioned is the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, the new anchor of our Ein Kerem campus.
In a city that already commands attention for political and spiritual reasons, the healing we provide and the way we provide it to everyone add an important element to Jerusalem’s international profile.
As a Zionist organization, Hadassah has always been concerned with the building of the entire Jewish nation. Indeed, before Israeli independence in 1948 we had created a network of more than 130 hospitals, clinics, dispensaries and infant welfare stations all over the land. But Jerusalem was always our focus. We would eventually turn most of the network over to national and municipal health authorities, but we kept our presence in Jerusalem. Hadassah was a movement of the heart from its inception and it was a given that we wanted to make our largest contribution to the state in the heart of Israel.
Hadassah’s commitment to Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, as the spiritual center of the Jewish people and as the focus of our Zionist mission is unwavering. We have overcome great obstacles—including economic crises, wars and terrorism—by acting out our values. I have no doubt that we will be tested in the future. But I am just as confident that the future is bright and that it will bear our imprint.
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