Sentinels on Our Walls
Some 20 years ago, I traveled to Israel on a solidarity mission. It was during the second intifada, a time of Palestinian uprising, when tourism was down. The country felt isolated, but I was gratified, at least, that there were five full buses of visitors from Cincinnati, my hometown. One memory that stands out is of a man who was in Israel for the first time. I asked him, “Why now?” He replied: “Israel needed me to show up.”
I was sure his response had an unspoken subtext: “I needed to be here.”
On October 7, 2023, Israel suffered the worst wave of terror in its history, a shock that will be etched in Jewish history. If there was any comfort in the first days after the attack and ensuing war, it was the swelling of the ranks of people who suddenly knew that “Israel needed me to show up.” People showed up for the November 14 March for Israel, when almost 300,000 supporters—including myself and Hadassah members from all over the country—assembled on the National Mall in Washington. Others demonstrated support by giving time, service or money. We know from experience that many of those who show up in hard times will stay with us for good, because Israel needs them, and because they need Israel.
When I was nominated last July to be Hadassah’s 28th national president, I understood the weight of the assignment as well as the honor. Through the strength of our institutions and our determination over the generations, our organization has become a pillar of Israel, of American Jewish life and of women’s empowerment. I also knew I stood on the shoulders of great leaders going back 112 years.
I couldn’t have known in July that the Jewish horizon would change so radically. But as I assume my presidential responsibilities this month, I am bolstered by you, the 300,000 powerful, compassionate and committed members, Associates and supporters of Hadassah.
In both the best and worst of times, Hadassah protects and heals all the people of Israel. In the aftermath of October 7, the Hadassah Medical Organization treated survivors from the towns and kibbutzim near the Gaza border and from the Nova music festival as well as those injured by Hamas rockets. One rocket hit a mosque in Abu Ghosh, an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem treated 20 injured patients from that community.
We also treated many wounded Israeli soldiers. As the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Jerusalem, HMO received some of the most serious cases. The war put immense strain on Israel’s health care system because of the critical need for emergency equipment and supplies. All this as some 360 HMO staff members were called up for reserve duty when the war began.
Our Youth Aliyah villages mobilized to house refugees evacuated from the border regions under threat from Hamas and Hezbollah. At Hadassah Neurim Youth Aliyah Village, the vast majority of Ukrainian students who had been asked by their parents if they wanted to return home opted to remain in Israel. Sadly, we also buried Neurim alumni killed in the terror attack and the war.
Many of you have already shown up for Israel, but for those who haven’t, it’s never too late. By donating, advocating and rallying, you strengthen Hadassah and Israel. And by finding comfort in your community, you also fortify it.
When discussing my commitment to Israel, people sometimes ask if I have family there. I reply that my son lives there, but that my Israeli family consists of nine million people, including Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze.
There’s a popular Hebrew song inspired by the Book of Isaiah that goes, “On your walls, oh City of David, I have stationed sentinels, all day and all night.” Just as Israel protects all Jewish life, it is our duty and privilege to act as sentinels to defend Israel—by showing up.