During the second intifada, when the father of a suicide bomber suffered from heart failure the day after his son’s attack, he shared a ward at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, with his son’s victims.
“[No] other hospital in the world would take care of that father after what his son did the day before,” insists Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korach, director of Hadassah’s hospital at Mt. Scopus. “This could not happen anywhere except for in the State of Israel.”
Hadassah’s hospitals in Jerusalem have served a mixed community of Arabs and Jews for decades. Their mission to extend a “hand to all, without regard for race, religion or ethnic origin” garnered the two hospitals a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005.
Hadassah first started providing medical services in Palestine in 1913, and operated its first hospital in Jerusalem from 1918. While the organization turned over much of its medical infrastructure to the State of Israel following its establishment in1948, it retained Mount Scopus, first established in 1939, and the campus in Ein Karem, located in southwest Jerusalem, which opened in 1961.
Levtzion-Korach, the first female Hadassah hospital director in 100 years, and one of only three female hospital directors in the country today, spent much of her training and career with Hadassah. It stands out, she says, because of its “holy triangle” of care, research and training. Across both campuses today there are 1,000 beds, 31 operating theaters, nine special intensive care units and five medical schools that are owned and operated together with Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Hadassah is at the forefront of research on cell therapy, autoimmune diseases, genetic and chronic diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases, says Hadassah Medical Organization spokesperson Ester Dvir.
Hadassah’s principle of coexistence cuts across all these areas. At any given moment there are between 15 and 40 Palestinian physicians training with Hadassah, mostly from the West Bank and less often from Gaza, many of whom take part in research as well. This cooperation demonstrates, according to Levtzion-Korach, “that medicine is the bridge to peace.”
Dr. Ronit Kochman, of Mount Scopus’ gynecology and obstetrics unit, estimates that some 50 percent of the hospital’s in vitro fertilization patients are Arabs. Kochman, who also treats Arab couples at a weekly fertility clinic in the East Jerusalem village of Sheikh Jarrah, which the hospital has run for some 25 years, endeavors to treat Arab patients completely in Arabic. Although she works with a translator, she has also learned the language herself. “If they talk to me about the market, I can’t understand anything,” she says. “But in medicine, I can speak in Arabic."