Resilience, empowerment, forward-thinking and risk-taking.  Any one of these words could describe Israel’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic which hit the country with a vengeance in early 2020.

The same words could also be used to describe the formative years of Hadassah.

At the opening of the 20th century, then-Palestine looked vastly different to the Israel of today.  But the challenge of keeping people safe is fundamentally similar.

The first cohort of Hadassah nurses and doctors ministered to a marginalised population through natural and man-made disasters in a landscape blighted by disadvantage.

From day one, with the imprimatur of Hadassah’s American-born founder, Henrietta Szold, the nursing and medical outreach was extended to all the diverse people who lived in this land, be they Jews or Arabs, Christian, Muslim or Druze.   This was in keeping with the ethos of western medicine, which was the bedrock on which Hadassah was built.

Over time, that same ‘Hadassah principle’ has informed every major hospital in Israel.  Hadassah remains a dynamic environment, open to embracing changing societal norms. It has led – and continues to lead – in treating people irrespective of their religion, gender, sexual orientation, colour, financial status, political beliefs or nationality.

This is particularly evident in the triage of patients.  Hadassah sees the medical status of the patient as the priority.  Under this protocol, as controversial as the practice is for some sections of the community, even terrorists are treated before victims if their health status demands it.

Israel – and before 1948, Palestine – was a melting pot of cultures, languages and customs, united by one very simple affliction: Poverty.  There was a systemic lack of money and resources, but the resolve of the Hadassah healthcare workers to create positive change was a fire that lit an otherwise dark circumstance.

More than a century on, the newly-appointed A/director-general of the Hadassah Medical Center, Prof Yoram Weiss is imbued with the same zeal as Henrietta Szold and the leadership that followed her (see the interview with Prof Weiss here).

He will inherit many past achievements and future plans, but few that will equal the extraordinary new rehabilitation centre at Hadassah’s Mt Scopus campus.  The centre will be the jewel in Jerusalem’s crown, which is already replete with many services and facilities dedicated to health and wellness. Leading on the ground at Hadassah Mt Scopus is another empowered leader, Dr Tamar Elram, recently named by Emunah Women’s Organisation as Woman of the Year and one of the most influential women in Israel.

There is so much to be excited about, including the founding role of Hadassah Australia in securing a large part of the funding necessary for the new Hadassah Mt Scopus rehabilitation centre to reach fruition.

The facts speak for themselves:  19,500 m² of dedicated patient-centred healing, rehabilitation spaces and facilities; 132 beds across four departments – neurology, geriatrics, spinal cord and orthopaedics, and ventilator-dependent; the first major structure of the new Mt Scopus campus.

We are committed to playing our part to make Hadassah even more relevant to the people of the greater Jerusalem area.  And to shining a light on Hadassah’s role as a world-leading healthcare provider that delivers exceptional care for people with physical and mental health needs.

Ron Finkel AM
Chair, Hadassah Australia