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Jerusalem Netletter: Independence Day 2013

By Barbara Sofer

Dress stores are featuring blue and white all week. One make-up company is even promoting blue eye shadow and blue nail polish. Flags are flying on and buildings and cars. Every street corner offers stacks of barbecue equipment for sale.

We have every reason to indulge in blue and white and celebrate For the first generation in 2000 years, we have a homeland. The shadow of Yom Hashoah reminds us of the perils of statelessness. Heartbreaking Memorial Day ceremonies remind us of how hard defending Israel and the Jewish people is. Our Prime Minister lost his brother. So did the acting Director General of Hadassah Medical Center Yuval Weiss. Last night, speaking at the Kotel, President Shimon Peres stressed that it's impossible to grasp the depth of pain of our many bereaved families.

Today, memorial prayers give way to the refrain of Hallel: This is the day that God created to rejoice and be gladdened.

I want to share the story of one Hadassah physician soldier..Remember, please, that in addition to fulfilling their challenging roles in the hospital, many of our doctor and nurses continue to play important roles in the IDF. They don't get extra pay for this. They take on danger and discomfort out of commitment and idealism.

Please meet Dr. Tomer Tzur, a senior physician in the plastic surgery department.

Helicopters often bring patients, both soldier and civilians, to Hadassah Hospital. But sometimes the beating of helicopter blades outside the hospital means that a pilot has been dispatched to get Dr. Tomer Tzur. When there is a national crisis, the IDF comes to get him.

He's been at Hadassah for the last 13 years. At Hadassah, Dr. Tzur has learned his skills of a surgeon and then specialized in reconstructive surgery. His 12-hour daily hospital routine includes running the world's largest skin bank at our Ein Kerem campus, repairing limb function and the appearance of burns victims, and carrying out reconstruction after mastectomies.

In addition, he's a member of the Israel's elite commando unit. He began as a commando, and later, when he completed medical school, he became a commando physician. At 43, he's still doing combat duty. He's still the trim athlete who was Israel's champion 400-meter runner when he was a youngster growing up in Haifa, and who had a stint as a professional dancer in the Batsheva Compan. His father was born in Italy, his mother in Romania, and he speaks both of their native languages, as well as Hebrew, Arabic, English, French and German. This is an asset at the hospital, and also on foreign assignments.

Dr. Tzur has witnessed the aftermath of some of the country's worst moments: the 1997 helicopter crash when 73 soldiers were killed, and an ambush of Israel's version of the Navy seals the same year. He has taken part in secret operations "like Entebbe, but not Entebbe" in which Israelis and Jews have been rescued in Israel and on foreign shores. Sometimes, he commands infantry units to lead them into battle. His military service adds up to two months every year.

After each assignment, he returns to the hospital to check on his patients, to make sure there is enough skin for patients all over the country, or to advise other countries-recently South Africa-on how to follow the Hadassah model of storing skin. Like all doctors and nurses at Hadassah, his patients are a mix of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, and the many foreigners who seek medical care here.

He was drawn to Hadassah by Dr. Arieh Eldad, who was at the time leaving his position as the Chief military physician to head the Department of Plastic Surgery at Hadassah. "I believe that most of the people in this region would like to have peace," says Dr. Tzur, who says he's politically "more left than right." "But because they don't live in fully democratic countries, they can't express these priorities. I know that what I do in the IDF is still very important. In the field and in the hospital, I've taken part in a military action, and then treated the terrorists we captured. That's part of my life. "As we reach our 65th birthday as a nation, I hope we will be able to address the economic gaps and social issues in our society, and not have to focus so much energy on defense."

We salute you, Dr. Tzur and all of our staff in all of our institutions. Hag Sameach!

A Word on the Flashwaltz As Hadassah's Flashwaltz continues to expand virally on the web, (352,000 at last check) we had a chance to chat with Anna Shapira of the Jerusalem Academy of Music who first came up with the idea of performing for Good Deeds Day. This young Russian-born woman is in charge of student programs at the Academy. "My favorite part of the whole experience was going to Mount Scopus the following day.

With an assortment of instruments, we performed in the halls and the wards. One patient in a wheelchair begged us to wait, then went to get his trumpet and then played with us."

We're already talking about possible cooperation for next year. Shapira, a violinist herself, also performs in the Young Musicians Orchestra of La Scala in Milan, Italy. She's leaving for a month, hosted by a family in the Jewish community there to perform in the prestigious Teatro all Scala. There, she not only performs with a nearly all-Italian orchestra, but serves as an unofficial ambassador of the State of Israel.

"Many musicians were cold to me at first because I am an Israeli," said Shapira.' "But I have held my own, and let it be known that I'm not only a musician, but that I served with pride in the IDF."

Good luck, Anna. That's music to our ears!


Barbara Sofer 

Date: 4/16/2013 12:00:00 AM

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