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The Healing Power of Art

By Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef

Dear Friends,

World-renowned glass sculptor and artist Dale Chihuly visited us recently at Hadassah-Ein Kerem. During our tour of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, we walked through the Entrance Floor to the very end and stood in the light that streamed through the glass dome of the two-story Art Rotunda. Standing there I told him about our hopes and dreams for that special space and about the Tower’s Welcome Walkway that will be host a revolving exhibition of art and artwork.

After he left, I thought about the works of art that enhance our hallways and halls, passages and public spaces; about the countless paintings, sculptures and drawings that grace both our campuses – and the role of art in the healing process. His visit reminded me of how much art is a part of our Medical Center, how its presence provides a healing environment for people suffering from disease and illness – and for our staff that often cares for them in stressful situations.

These pieces of art convey the message that soothing the soul is as important to us as healing the body. When we stand before them, or simply pass by them, we absorb their message and they make our day a little brighter.

The magnificent Chagall Windows are, of course, the jewel in our crown. When you sit in the Abbell Synagogue bathed in their glowing colors, you are moved by their brilliance and awed by their beauty. Along with welcoming worshipers for midday prayer, this unique setting is often scene of special celebrations – one of the most significant was the launching of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower where we honored our original Cornerstone Contributors. 

Our Medical Center contains thousands of works of art, some produced by world-renowned artists like Chaim Gross, whose Mother and Child statue graces Miriam’s Garden. The Tree of Life, the last work of sculptor Jacques Lipshitz, welcomes people to Hadassah-Mt. Scopus while Raoul Dufy’s The Wind in the Trees and The Circus by Emmanuel Mane-Katz are at Hadassah-Ein Kerem.

Prominent Israeli artists are also well represented. The paintings of Yigal Tumarkin, recipient of the Israel Prize, hang at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus. And in the Memorial Garden there, Zvi Aldouby’s Yizkor statue stands in tribute to those who died in the  attack on the  Mt. Scopus convoy on April 13, 1948.

“The aim is to help patients escape the painful realities of illness and difficult recoveries,” said artist Nehama Grenimann Bauch who spearheaded Young Hadassah International’s “Faraway Places Project.” Their efforts to bring art into the patients’ world can be seen on the walls of the Intensive Care Unit at Hadassah-Ein Kerem, where the paintings that nine international artists created especially for the project now hang.

Hadassah is not alone in believing in art and beauty’s special properties. Psychological research has shown that art has a way of bypassing our defenses and entering our inner being, that its nurturing qualities can help the healing process. “When you're in a hospital, it's high stress. When we are high stress, we go back to our primal need to be soothed," says Upali Nanda, Vice President and Director of Research for American Art Resources. Scientific studies, she says, show that art can aid in the recovery of patients, shorten hospital stays and help manage pain.

Hadassah’s leaders knew that instinctively. “Bearing in mind the fears that most patients and their families feel, we try to create a different effect – a relaxed atmosphere, beautified with art,”' said Prof. Kalman J. Mann, of blessed memory, HMO Director General from 1948 until 1981.

Please come visit us soon, hear about our lifesaving patient care, our groundbreaking research accomplishments – and enjoy our magnificent art. We know it will soothe your soul as it does ours.

Shabbat shalom  and all the best as we enter 2011,              

Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef
Director General

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