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The Intense Light of Jerusalem: The Strongest Glare in the World

Beth Admin

Barbara Sofer, Hadassah's Director of Public Relations in Israel, writes about a poignant wedding seven years after a terror attack; HMO's extraordinary work fighting AIDS in Ethiopia; and Hadassah College Jerusalem's Environmental Health Sciences BSc program—the only one of its kind in Israel. And she reports a conversation between glass artist Dale Chihuly and Arthur Spector, architect of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, about the intense light in Jerusalem, which has "the strongest glare in the world." Read the Jerusalem Netletter


This week I danced at a huge wedding in Ramat Gan. The bride was Yehudit, an auburn-haired sabra from a Polish-Jewish family. She coordinates National Service volunteer programs in Jerusalem, including those at Hadassah Hospital. The groom, Shai is a dark-haired sabra from a Yemenite-Jewish family. He's a real estate attorney with a Hadassah connection, too. For me the joy of a wedding was amplified by my thinking back to Shai when he was a patient in Hadassah Hospital and realizing how far he had come. Shai and a friend were having coffee at the Hillel Coffee Shop on Emek Refayim Street in Jerusalem on September 9, 2003, when a terrorist struck, leaving seven dead, 50 injured. In shock, he left the coffee shop and even thought of going home despite suffering a near-fatal injury. The ambulance crew convinced him he needed urgent care. But at the wedding you couldn't see any of his painful past. He was dancing traditional and Yemenite dances with no show of disability, laughing as he was held high above the crowd on a chair, holding one end of a napkin with Yehudit holding the other. I've kept in close touch with Shai since he was in the hospital, and he has spoken to many groups for Hadassah and birthright. Not wanting to call the day after his wedding, I just sent him a one word text
message: Fabulous.Thank you, Hadassah.


Back in Hebrew School in Connecticut, where I grew up, I could tell you that Tu B'Shvat, celebrated last week," was the New Year of Trees." Frankly, it didn't have much meaning for me. Someone inevitably passed around a few hard chunks of carob fruit, called "bokser." Once I lost a filling biting into it. Only when living in Israel, did this holiday take on meaning for me. The age of fruit trees really does matter. Following Biblical injunctions, we don't eat fruit from baby trees (under five years old.) But how do you mark a tree's birthday? We note its level of maturity on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat. 15 in Hebrew letters is written:
tet vav or Tu, hence Tu B'hvat. The New Year of Trees is really the Birthday of Trees. Happy Birthday!


Our own Barbara Goldstein, Deputy Director of Hadassah Offices in Israel, was reminiscing about her first collection for JNF. She went door to door, even to the convent on her street in New Jersey, where she got good donations from the nuns. The money she collected money went to reclaim the land and plant trees. "The person who sent me out told me that the first donation I had to make was my own. I was nine years old. What money did I have? He said I should give the 50 cents from my allowance, so I did. It was a lesson I learned in life, always to be the first to give."

Many of the philanthropists and Jewish leaders I've interviewed over the years have said that the image of their financially-challenged mothers putting coins in the Blue Box taught them the importance of donations and supporting Israel. With the recent tragic fire in the Carmel Forest, we are even more away of what hard work went into the Jewish people's reclaiming the land and planting tree by tree over the barren landscape. Reforesting Israel is one of the great ecology success stories of modern life.

Hadassah continues to be the largest organizational supporter of JNF. The fire engine we donated in the Second Lebanon War worked hard to fight the fire. Last week, our Young Judaea Year Course participants raised money and brought gifts of small electronics and sports equipment to the kids at the Yemin Orde Youth Village whose village was damaged in the blaze. Year Courser Shira Berman, 18, from Atlanta, said: "We went out to the Jerusalem boardwalk area, carrying signs, musical instruments and cookies, and started collecting money from passers by. Luckily for us, there was a show that night so there was a big crowd and we managed to raise NIS 8,000. When we gave the money to Yemin Orde, I felt tremendous satisfaction because I saw how much they needed it. It was also sad to see all the destruction. It was clear they needed more help; restoring the village will require much more work."


Just before Tu B'Shvat, we stopped by Hadassah-Neurim to find a dozen hand-picked students planting side by side with volunteers from high-tech company Logia, that develops entertainment programs of music, and games for telephones, delivered as text messages. Logia invested 10,000 shekels in greenery to spruce up the Hadassah-Neurim campus and to rub shoulders with the kids who aspire to become like them. "The idea was to introduce our students to role models while they work together on a constructive project," said Manu Har Sinai, who runs the residential program. "The high techies were glad to get away from the computer screen and get their hands in the warm Israeli soil, too."


Boris, (name changed for privacy) came to Hadassah-Neurim Youth Village with a group of children from the former Soviet Union. The dorm counselor noticed that the 17 year old looked pale, and took his temperature. He referred Boris to the village nurse. Her instincts were good, too. She went with him to the local hospital, where his blood work revealed a rare form of leukemia so acute that he wouldn't have made the night without an immediate diagnosis. Natan Biton, the Director of the village, spent the night with Boris in the intensive care unit, holding his hand. Boris is back in the village, a special isolation unit created for him. An adoptive family moved in next door to help him. Said Director Biton, "He's our student, and we're here for him in everyway. Hadassah-Neurim is more than a school, more than a village. It's a family." Our Hadassah family.


In Gondor, Ethiopia I met the young aunt who was waiting in line in the hospital clinic with her nephew. Her sister, his mother, had already died from AIDS. Was there hope for him? In Addis Ababa, I met a young mother who was carrying her toddler from a village to the orphanage for children with HIV or AIDS where she heard "children don't die anymore."

For both the aunt and the desperate mother, there was hope for their loved ones. Hope has come from a source familiar to us

all: Hadassah Hospital. In our AIDS Clinic, Hadassah staff has developed a unique, multidisciplinary system of treating HIV and AIDS, particularly with immigrants from Africa. Building on that success, Prof. Shlomo Maayan has brought Israeli care to Ethiopia, where it has had life-saving impact.

We're all moved by the photos of poverty and sickness in Third World countries. Our tradition teaches us

*Don't stand idly by when you can save a life (Leviticus 19:16)

*When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. (Leviticus 23:22)

*When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. (Deuteronomy 24:19)

These are our core values as Jews. But as much as we want to help, many well-intentioned efforts don't really make a difference in Africa and other places in the Third World where the health challenges are enormous.

What does this have to do with Hadassah?

In January, in Addis Ababa, a conference took place among alumni of the Israeli training programs to treat HIV/AIDS. These programs, directed by Hadassah infectious disease expert and head of Hadassah's AIDS unit Professor Shlomo Maayan, have been running for the last five years. Israeli clinicians and researchers visit Ethiopia and Ethiopian clinicians and researchers come to train in Israel. At the alumni conference, more than 110 course graduate doctors and nurses shared their experience in changing care modalities for tens of thousands of HIV/AIDS patients in Ethiopia. "Many of those we have trained have moved into medical administration, hospital administrators, and deans of medical schools and are able to make important changes. It has been a quiet revolution,"

said Professor Maayan, who was joined by Dr. Keren Olshtein-Pops, Prof. Dan Engelhard, and three other Israeli physicians, who form the ICAMiA- Israeli Consortium on AIDS Medicine in Africa.

When Professor Maayan began work in Ethiopia, some 16 years ago, 60,000 Ethiopian children become infected with HIV each year. It was also estimated that 2.2 million people were living with the virus in Ethiopia, making the country the third largest infected population in the world. Even today, over 1 million persons carry the virus there.

Hadassah staff members have volunteered thousands of hours beyond treating their patients and doing their research, to give double value to contributions. Medical outreach to the Third World has always been a Hadassah tradition, but the work in Ethiopia stands out for being a long-term program with long-term results. The success is based on the success of the Israeli models which have transformed Israel from Third World to a world leader in medicine.


"We had to encourage our Ethiopian partners to treat children,"
said Professor Maayan. "They didn't think that children with AIDS could possibly survive."

We all know that treating HIV and AIDS requires taking large doses of antiviral drugs on a regular basis. When one drug becomes ineffective, it has to be replaced. Doctors and nurses have no way to contact patients between appointments. But this is only part of the challenge. In the Ethiopian community, here is a social stigma for a family afflicted with this disease. Women are particularly vulnerable in a society where there are many myths about the disease. When parents are sick, who takes care of the children? All these issues have been dealt with at Hadassah Hospital where we have children who were born with AIDS nearly two decades ago who are today completing high school and planning for the future.

On one of his trips of the Israeli to Ethiopia, Professor Dan Engelhard, who heads the pediatric AIDS unit, was invited to visit the Mother Theresa Orphanage. 400 children were dying with no treatment for the lethal virus. Professor Engelhard didn't think the children had to die. The US government was now willing to provide antiviral drugs if they could be given daily. His project was so successful that Mother Theresa's order was eventually replaced with another order, one that ministers to the living. Professor Engelhard is now working with four orphanages. Not only does he volunteer his invaluable time, but he created a cadre of volunteers, both medical and non-medical, to provide help and encouragement in the orphanages. They come at their own expense and use vacation time because of the satisfaction they get from helping these needy children. That's the way we do it in the Hadassah family.



This is why every dollar you donate to Hadassah is really worth two dollars. Where else would you find staff members who volunteer for decades to change the lives of the neediest people on earth?

"We are at the place where we are talking about 'managing AIDS', said Professor Maayan. "We are at a new stage." Indeed, at a press conference at the end of November, the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (FHAPCO) said that the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has been declining significantly in Ethiopia as a result of collaborated efforts of governmental and international organizations. The alumni conference in Addis was sponsored by Israel's Ministry of foreign Affairs, and will be held in cooperation with I-Tech, a University of Washington's program.


Hadassah College has a reputation for foreseeing national needs and preparing students to help meet them. Here's an excellent example. Israel is in the midst of making major changes in industry to conform to European and American standards of environmental protection necessary to sell goods in those markets. As this process takes place, Hadassah College is already producing a corps of environmental specialists. Hadassah College's Environmental Health Sciences program offers a unique field of study towards a BSc, the only degree of its kind being offered in Israel. This program is intended for students who are interested in creating a healthy environment for mankind, and want a profession that incorporates a sound science base with an ethical mission. In this unique program, they gain practical experience in identification, assessment, prevention, and control of environmental threats. And there's more. Hadassah College has declared itself a Green Campus. Students who volunteer for environmental projects not only help change society, but get immediate tuition benefits.

To celebrate this success, Israel's young and energetic Minister of the Environment Gilad Ardan visited Hadassah College. He put aside his prepared speech. "I don't have to teach you about the importance of the environment. You are devoting your careers to this vital subject and we're counting on you to carry through reforms." Professor Hillel Shuval who heads the Hadassah College department confirmed that top students from all over Israel have been drawn to Jerusalem to get the high level but applied scientific background to pioneer this field.


"I just have to tell you," said a friend, a well-known Rabbanit.

For the last year, she's been going crazy with what one doctor thought was a sinus infection, another "just allergies." "It's not the sort of problem you think of going to the hospital for, but I was miserable and called Hadassah's Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery department." Through the clinic, she got to see Dr. Ron Eliashar. "Before I knew it-the wonders of God's universe-he was showing me on a screen that I had a polyp blocking my breathing. He scheduled a CT scan to get a better look and she'll soon have it removed in day surgery. Dr. Eliashar, by the way, is a graduate of Hadassah's medical school. My friend thought he was great, but didn't realize he was also a fighter pilot in the IDF. "Actually 'he was very down to earth'," she said. She also said "Thank you, Hadassah."


Is it the good news or the bad news? You decide. Researchers at Hadassah Medical Organization, pioneers in the genetics of breast cancer (oncogenetics) for Jewish women, met with general physicians last month to advise them about referral policies for Sephardic patients. Because of the general assumption that Ashkenazi women are those with the genetic tendency on BRCA 1/2 genes, they might not be as vigilant vis a vis their Sephardic patients. The newest research from Hadassah Hospital shows that they can no longer assume this. Among the speakers was Dr Michal Sagi, from Hadassah's Department of Genetics and Metabolic Diseases, who has published about the discovery of two newly discovered mutations, called Founder Mutations, in BRCA 1 and 2 genes found among patients from Iraqi, Yemenite, Iranian and Afghan Jewish families. "We analyzed DNA samples of patients of Sephardic origin with breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer and additional family history of these cancers," said Dr. Sagi. "The frequency of the two mutations was 26-31% among Sephardic high risk families and about 3% among the full cohort of 177 patients of this origin who were tested at our Hadassah center. Based on haplotype analysis we concluded that these mutations are most probably founder mutations in Sephardic Jews. We recommend testing the two mutations in women of Sephardic origin who apply for BRCA testing because of personal and/or family history of breast cancer and /or ovarian cancer. We're also urging that the newly identified mutations be added the 5 mutations included in the so-called 'Jewish panel' of BRCA1/2 mutations that are already being tested for." These new discoveries at Hadassah offer new hope for early diagnosis and prevention, for all women, and for Jewish women in particular.


Anyone who has visited the glass museum in Corning knows what a fascinating subject glass is. Much of our telecommunications these days is based on glass fibers. Glass appears to have been discovered and developed in the Middle East. Last month, we had a visit at Hadassah Hospital by eminent glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. We're all hoping that we'll see a Chihuly glass masterpiece in the new Tower entrance. "How would you like to be a neighbor of Chagall's?" he was asked while the famous Seattle-based artist was admiring Marc Chagall's twelve windows in the Abell Synagogue in Hadassah Ein Kerem.

While he was there, Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower architect Arthur Spector discussed the special challenges of putting glass in the building. The glass, by the way, is manufactured by a company started in Israel by Tower benefactor Bill Davidson, of blessed memory.

Said Spector: "The light in Jerusalem is so intense, the strongest glare in the world—more so than anywhere else--that we have to put special protective glass everywhere." We always spoke metaphysically about the unique spiritual light of Jerusalem, but I never knew the physical light was special, too!


After meeting Chihuly, it so happened that I was invited to represent the Hadassah Foundation at a special ceremony at Tel Aviv City Hall. The city's Supportive Community women's business development center was honoring artist Larissa Nazarov, who got her start through the Immigrants in Business program supported by the Hadassah Foundation. She received the Fulfilling a Dream Award.

Larissa is a single mom who immigrated to Israel in January 1992 from the former Soviet Union with her daughter Daniella, To pay the rent,at night, she delivered newspapers. She started to study stained glass as an art form. She would work at home on her balcony and at 3 AM to deliver her papers, back in time to get her daughter to school, She started selling her art work in the arts and crafts fair in Nachalat Benyamin in Tel Aviv. She learned Hebrew from the other vendors, and eventually began teaching stained-glass at a community center. "My strength came from the women in my support group," said Nazarov. Today I have my own studio, my own corner where I can work and bring students." Next time you're in Tel Aviv, stop by the fair to see her mezuzot and home decorations in dazzling colored glass. Tell her Hadassah sent you. I don't know if you'll get a discount, but you'll certainly get a hug.

SEE YOU IN CALIFORNIA I am privileged to be the Scholar-in-Residence for the Central Pacific Coast Region Asilomar Kallah, over February 25-7. Hope to see you there!

Washington and Texas, too. Check with your chapters for upcoming visits in Seattle, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston. We're gonna rock!

Sending sunshine from Jerusalem,

Barbara Sofer

Israel Director of Public Relations

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America


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