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Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die

A Friday Story
By Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef
Director General, Hadassah Medical Organization

The arrival of the High Holidays is always a time for reflection – a period when we examine our lives and how we live them. It is also the time when we look ahead, preparing and planning for the future.

On Rosh Hashanah, we recite the Unetaneh Tokef, the moving prayer that poses the existential question “who shall live and who shall die.” This Rosh Hashanah, I have chosen to write about life – our lives and the cycle of life we experience in our Medical Center, beginning with birth and ending in our hospice.

Every day at Hadassah, in just about every department, we witness the fragility of life. Performing procedures and treating patients presents us with an almost endless inventory of examples – from newborns to cancer sufferers to victims of road accidents. Every example reinforces our values and influences our behavior – in our professional lives and our personal ones. Every patient impels us to work even harder to preserve their life and their quality of life, as we would wish if we were in their position.

Prof. Yoram Weiss, Transplant Advocate & Dr. Yuval Weiss, Director,
Hadassah Ein-Kerem (left to right; back row); Yaakov Guggenheim, Abu
Rahman, Yossi Sherman (left to right; front row)
The Bible commands us to choose life – and so we must.  Last month at Hadassah-Ein Kerem, at a moving meeting between families of organ transplant patients and organ donor families we were reminded – yet again – of the continuous circle of life and death. Seven years ago, when Danel Guggenheim was killed in a car accident, his parents donated one of his lungs to Yossi Sherman. The organ transplant saved Yossi’s life. Less than a year later, Yossi and Shani Sherman’s son, Gilad, died of a rare disease and his parents decided to donate his lungs to a patient in need of a transplant, passing on the gift of life to Abu Rahman, an Israeli Arab from East Jerusalem. The lives of the Guggenheim and Sherman families connected at Hadassah as a result of their willingness to donate their loved ones’ organs.  
Kyrill Grozovsky, Coordinator of Transplantations at Hadassah, initiated this special meeting of families of organ transplant patients and organ donor families, to highlight the importance of organ transplants. I doubt he could have imagined how emotional the experience – and the importance of the message – would be for those involved. Israel's leading television and print media reported on the event, spreading the message much further.                                                                    

Promoting organ donations and transplants is just one of the many ways Hadassah chooses life by saving and enhancing lives. This is evident in the advanced technology and techniques we use to treat our patients, in the support we provide to our patients and their families, and in the research we conduct.

In the middle of the summer, Dr. Hadas Lemberg, Deputy Director of HMO’s Research and Development Division, sent me a spreadsheet of all the research articles published by Hadassah researchers in leading international scientific journals from January to the end of June of this year. It is quite impressive. The list contains 295 articles; an average of 3 articles every other day, more than were published last year in the same time frame. The results of the studies and clinical trials our doctors and scientists reported, the vast spectrum of subjects they investigated and the prestigious publications in which they appeared, are almost overwhelming. Without actually counting, it appears that about 1,000 researchers from more than 50 of our departments and units on both campuses – from anesthesiology to virology –  conducted studies whose valuable conclusions merited publication.

Another manifestation of Hadassah’s embrace of life is our emphasis on preventive medicine. We have many programs that promote healthy lifestyles throughout Jerusalem and nearby communities. About 20 years ago, the Israel Network of Healthy Cities established by Dr. Milka Donchin, Head of Health Promotion at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, joined this important World Health Organization initiative. In the intervening years, the Network has grown to encompass 50 Israeli cities and towns, large and small.
Dr. Donchin has chaired the Israel Network since its inception. In June, I was proud to be among the speakers who addressed the more than 150 participants at their annual conference at Hadassah-Ein Kerem, including distinguished academicians, politicians and lay people. During the full-day program, we discussed ideas and described projects that bring together municipalities and institutions to help their residents learn about the lives they lead and how they can live healthier lives, better lives. [Milka Donchin & Amram Mitzna]

In the field of preventative medicine: We hope that by encouraging mammograms there will be fewer breast cancer patients; by supporting ‘stop smoking’ campaigns, there will be fewer people with lung cancer; by promoting nutritious eating habits, the number of diabetes patients will be diminished and fewer cardiac catheterizations will be needed. The list is almost endless, as are the possibilities. Some Israelis have taken these programs to heart; unfortunately, many have not. Even as we continue to advance these efforts – and remain ever hopeful – we are only too well aware that the need for our services continues to grow.


Just as our involvement in organ transplantations gives people a second chance to live, just as our incredible research holds great promise for all people, just as our commitment to preventative medicine reflects our commitment to people’s wellbeing – as Hadassah has for nearly 100 years, we continue to plan for their future and ours.

The Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower is the latest expression of our dedication to making certain that when people need us, Hadassah is there. Our magnificent new building is more than a sophisticated structure that will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology. It is a statement of our devotion to the standards, ethics and values that have made Hadassah synonymous with health, healing, and life.

The patients who will be the first to move into the Davidson Hospital Tower in just 25 weeks and those who will follow in the months and years ahead, will immediately understand that within its walls, we will continue to do what we do best – save lives, preserve life, enhance the quality of life – for all who turn to us for help and hope.

Bill z”l and Karen Davidson honored us with their magnificent gift and the privilege of naming our new Hospital Tower after Bill’s mother Sarah Wetsman Davidson of blessed memory. The Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower is a tribute to all that the Wetsman-Davidson family personifies. It is a tangible expression of their love for Hadassah, their love for Israel and their love for the Jewish people.

May you and your loved ones enjoy a year of health and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova,

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