Welcome to my first blog on the new-look Hadassah Australia website!

Hadassah Hospital officially opened in 1918, six years after the visionary Hadassah leader, Henrietta Szold, visited Palestine and saw a desperate need for institutional, western-style healthcare for the people of Jerusalem.

At the turn of last century, Jerusalem was very different to the thriving, multicultural city we see today. The city and surrounding communities were still part of the Ottoman Empire. Most of its citizens, be they Jews, Muslims or Christians, had little in the way of decent healthcare. You can imagine what a revelation it was when Henrietta Szold made her presence felt!

Today Hadassah Hospital services more than one million people without regard to race, religion, nationality or ethnicity. Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, Hadassah employs Muslim, Jewish and Christian medical, nursing and administrative staff, all of whom work alongside one other for the benefit of their patients.

In many respects I see myself, alongside my co-workers and volunteers, as the custodian of Henrietta Szold’s vision and determination for positive change. Hadassah Australia supports Hadassah through an amazing array of programs, such as Project Goshen, which provides training to paediatricians in community health related issues and which is heralding a revolution in the delivery of paediatric services in Israel, and the Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center, where children and adolescents suffering from any psychological stress, psychiatric disorder or early state Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can seek immediate evaluation and treatment.

Sadly, institutions like Hadassah are often overlooked in the media firestorm that engulfs coverage of the Middle East. Hadassah with its declared mission of extending a “hand to all, without regard for race, religion or ethnic origin”, is a shining and life-affirming example of what Israel is, and all that it can be. Scratch the surface of Hadassah and you’ll see that it’s far more than a hospital.

Hadassah is a microcosm of what Israel is striving to become; “an island of calm within a sea of chaos”, a term coined by Professor Qanta Ahmed, a British-born Muslim doctor and peace activist. That’s not to avoid criticism of Israel, as it suffers from many of the same issues that confront other modern democracies like the US, UK and Australia. It’s simply the reality, conveniently dismissed by some and, at times, overstated by others.

I look forward to your feedback, and to discussing this and other issues with you in future blogs.

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