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Quite Close to Home

Diary of A Director General
By Prof. Ehud Kokia
Director General, Hadassah Medical Organization

In this week's diary I would like to try to describe what is happening in our hearts and minds – some that are common to each and every Israeli citizen and some, of course, specifically related to HMO.

As I write this, negotiations for a ceasefire are taking place, while rockets and missiles continue to hit Israeli cities and towns – some a considerable distance from the Gaza Strip. This is a very difficult time, a very challenging time, yet there is a hope for a better future.

As a nation, the government of Israel determined that we could not continue to live our lives normally, with one million people in the south of the country within range of mortar fire and rockets, subject to attack on a daily basis. It is a tragic situation when children respond to the question 'what do you fear most?' with the words 'Code Red' – the words that announce the approach of a rocket or missile; the words that mean they must once again run for shelter. Most of the time people in these areas stay close to the TV watching the national networks that only broadcast news and listening for the words 'Code Red.'

No nation can or should be expected to reconcile itself to situations like these.

In response, last Thursday Israel launched "Operation Pillar of Defense" – an operation of the Israel Defense Forces. What I want to share with you, however, is not the analytic aspects of the military operation but my feelings as a citizen on the home front. I believe that the best way to do this is to tell you about one day in the last week – last Friday.

 

I live in Yavne, a city located about 20 miles south of Tel Aviv and five miles north of Ashdod. My day began with the sound of the siren that sent me to the bomb shelter. After a few minutes, we heard the "boom" that either means that the rocket hit its target or that the Iron Dome anti-missile system destroyed the rocket. After 10 minutes, we received the 'all clear' and set off out to accomplish what we had left for Friday morning – an almost day off in Israel. First I went to the barber – and those who know me know that this takes very little time. Yet while I was there the siren sounded again and once again we went into the shelters. When I returned to the barber shop, I learned that quite a few customers had cancelled their appointments because they were simply afraid to leave their homes.

Just before 5:00 in the afternoon, my son called from Jerusalem to tell me that a siren had sounded there. Earlier in the day, sirens sounded in Tel Aviv – sirens have not sounded in those cities since the scud attacks of the first Gulf War in 1991. In the early evening, I traveled to Jerusalem to meet my son for dinner. When I entered the restaurant I immediately saw that there wasn't an empty table. While everyone was alert and aware, no one seemed unduly fearful. At the end of the day, the strength of a nation is measured not just by the power of its armed forces but by the steadfastness of its citizens – and I must say that Israel's home front sets an exemplary example.

Throughout the day I spoke with Dr. Yuval Weiss, Director of Hadassah-Ein Kerem and Dr. Osnat Levzion-Korach, Director of Hadassah-Mt. Scopus for constant updates. Aside from damage to the fence around Hadassah-Mt. Scopus by Arabs from the nearby village of Issawiya, there were no reports of unusual events.

'Nothing unusual' does not give us permission to let down our guard. As a tertiary care Medical Center, Hadassah-Ein Kerem is a nationally designated evacuation for wounded soldiers and civilians, so we have heightened our preparedness measures considerably and adjusted for the fact that some of our physicians have been called up for military duty.

In the afternoon I described my day and the matsav, the situation as we call it, to members of the Society of Major Donors in an extensive conference call. Their response was personally heartwarming and extraordinarily helpful in dealing with events at HMO. Just listening to their honest outpouring of friendship and support made me exceedingly proud to be the Director General of HMO, know I am part of such a caring dear family and that we the women and men of Hadassah are our devoted partners.

It is especially meaningful to me – and to all of us at HMO – that Marcie Natan, the National President of Hadassah, came to Israel to stand alongside us, following in the footsteps of a time-honored tradition. For decades, the women of Hadassah have been by our side identifying with us, supporting us in times of trouble.

The messages of support we have received from around the world have truly been overwhelming. They have strengthened the friendships that developed and the emotions we experienced while so many of you were here for the Centennial Convention – the sense of a shared destiny firmly fixed in our common cause. It's actually hard to believe that all that took place only a month ago.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, know that we are thankful that wherever we are in the world, we are truly one organization, one nation, one people – and with our collective strength, we will triumph over this situation and over all challenges the Hadassah Medical Organization faces, now and in the future.

Yours,

Ehud

Date: 11/19/2012 12:00:00 AM


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