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Hadassah Jerusalem Netletter

By Barbara Sofer

March 23, 2011

I was just thinking that I should invite my friend Adina from Beersheba to Jerusalem to get away from the rockets when I learned of the terror attack here.

As ambulance after ambulance filled with the injured, I remembered what I'd said recently in a speech in Seattle. "I know you support many good causes. But you have to support our hospitals. We don't know what the future will be in the Middle East, but we need to be able to provide the best medical care in the world."

The ambulances sped from the bus stop in front of Binyenei Ha'uma, Jerusalem's Convention Center, at the entrance to the city, along the cliffs and curved hills to Ein Kerem. Others took the less seriously injured up to Mount Scopus.

By the time they arrived, the emergency teams at each hospital were ready and waiting. As he had done so many times before, Professor Avi Rivkind, the world-famous head of trauma, stood waiting to open the first ambulance at Ein Kerem. His own four children were accounted for.

Not so for Dr. M. S. a senior hematologist and specialist in bone marrow transplantation. His daughter, 18, was among the injured. She had finished school for the day, and was getting off the bus when she felt a pain in her leg that made her fall. A fraction of second later she heard the blast. Sound was slower than the speed of blast-propelled shrapnel that lodged in her leg.

Only later would she learn that a bomb had been planted near a phone booth, on the sidewalk, near the crowded bus stop. The explosives were inside a carry bag.

The driver of Bus 14 ws now being cared for in the Emergency Room in Ein Kerem. No, he didn't want to speak to the journalists gathered outside, writing down the changing numbers of injured patients, reporting in a mix of voices and languages to networks far afield. As of 6:30, 17 at Hadassah Ein Kerem. 18 at Mount Scopus.

One middle-aged woman-we like to say "middle-of-life woman" --was dead on arrival.

Four hours after the blast, no one yet knew who she was.

Mayor Nir Barkat visited the hospital. He said this was not the beginning of a new wave of terrorism. 10,000 runners would take part in the Jerusalem Marathon on Friday, he vowed.

The hospital campus was its usual mix of Jews and Arabs, many leaving for the day. The Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower, standing 14-floors tall, would have reflected the light of the full moon, but the night was overcast.

Just 24-hours earlier, I'd stood in a different tower, a skyscraper built on the site of the first Hadassah Hospital in Tel Aviv, opened in 1921. There we'd raised a glass-l'hayim-for the beginning of Hadassah's 100th year-a celebration that will reach its zenith with the dedication of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in October, 2012. Hundreds of Israelis--captains of industry and commerce, diplomats and Knesset members were among the guests. The chief rabbis in their black frocks, (Ashkenazi) and golden robes (Sephardic) were conspicuous among the stylish crowd. The evening had been initiated by Eliezer Fishman, of the Fishman Group of Builders and Ronit Porat, the CEO of the daughter company Oneal Construction. "We're developers," said Porat. "We understand what effort goes into building a huge organization like Hadassah with all your projects."

Among those toasting Hadassah in Tel Aviv were Judy and Sidney Swartz, prime movers in the Center for Emergency Medicine that bears their name. It was dedicated in 2005.

I think of them tonight as I walk through the ER with Ron Krumer, HMO's head of external affairs. Ron has just spoken on Russian TV. The Israeli stations are waiting. Nurse Gilat Yihya, 34, a graduate of our school of nursing, is in charge of the shift.

The numbers have changed, she says. Several more patients have arrived, in shock. Now there are 20. Six are still in surgery, including the daughter.

A senior surgeon goes to get coffee after operating on a terror victim, a man. It has gone well, he tells me.

I speak to nurse Gilat Yihya later at night. She's busy checking in teenagers, in shock from the afternoon's bombing. She will summons child psychiatrists.

In the recovery room, the daughter is recuperating from surgery. Her father, relieved, stands by her side.


Barbara Sofer

Israel Director of Public Relations,
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America

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