Travel Versus Leisure
It’s a common occurrence: I tell someone I can’t schedule an appointment for a certain date because I’ll be traveling, and the person automatically assumes I’m going on vacation—when in fact I am leaving for a purpose I consider more important. I’ve occasionally made this kind of assumption myself, so I can forgive it in others. What interests me is where this assumption comes from.
Since our forebears lived in caves, humans have been traveling—for food and better pastures, for work, to visit family, to study, to find new homes and for pilgrimage. The Bible is full of travel but says little about beaches or five-star hotels. The idea of traveling for leisure, on the other hand, is something that occurs on the human timeline only in the last 150 years. But we are conditioned by our times.
I’m thinking about this now because of a busy travel season. On May 17, I was in Washington for the Women’s Health Empowerment Summit, which brought together members of Congress, policymakers, media, medical professionals and health activists to discuss advocacy, educational and legislative strategies.
The summit was hosted by the Coalition for Women’s Health Equity, a grouping of 23 women’s and health organizations launched last year by Hadassah. We all recognize that women’s health doesn’t advance by itself, but progresses only through coordinated action. By combining the prestige, influence, networking and grassroots strengths of coalition-member organizations, we hope to accelerate progress toward gender equality in prevention, coverage, access to care, treatment and research.
A few days after the Washington summit, I led a very special Hadassah mission to Israel to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem—which brought with it the reunification of our two medical campuses. Mission participants saw a lot of the Holy City, from the Kotel to the markets to Ammunition Hill, plus our Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus hospitals. The emotional high point was when I joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Colonel Hagai Frankel in re-enacting the unforgettable scene from 1967, when Mayor Teddy Kollek and Commander Menachem Scharfman symbolically handed the keys to our Mount Scopus hospital—cut off behind armistice lines for the previous 19 years—to Hadassah President Charlotte Jacobson.
While that ceremony was planned, the mission included a surprise addition. In looking over suggested stops during President Trump’s visit to Israel, First Lady Melania Trump chose to visit our Ein Kerem hospital, and came accompanied by Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s prime minister. I was honored to greet them and proud to explain that the Hadassah Medical Organiation is not only Israel’s leading medical center but also the only one that is American-owned; I also expressed how grateful Hadassah is for the USAID grants that help us purchase life saving equipment that serves our multireligious, multiethnic patient population.
Now I’m getting ready for Hadassah’s National Business Meeting and Symposium in St. Louis, July 18-19. For two days we will discuss the healing work of our hospitals and advocacy in the public square and in the corridors of power; we’ll debate and discuss issues of health care, Middle East diplomacy, educational needs and missions. We’ll also work on governance, budgets, recruitment and fundraising strategies.
The business meeting is a working, participatory experience at which delegates represent their chapters and regions and also serve as emissaries who take information about decisions, votes, ideas and projects back to their communities. In addition, we see the meetings, plenaries and sessions as replicable programs to adapt to the local level.
One reason for the choice of venue this year is that 2017 marks the centennial of Hadassah St. Louis. So this is a kind of reverse pilgrimage of Hadassah leaders from around the country paying tribute to one of our most storied chapters.
Now, I have a confession. Leisure isn’t a word I would associate with my recent trips to Washington and Jerusalem, nor does it apply to St. Louis. But I wouldn’t be a Hadassah woman if I didn’t have a great time on these journeys. Don’t get me wrong: I love the beach and the mountains as much as anyone. But there’s a difference between enjoyment for its own sake and enjoyment that comes with fulfillment.