“What our world needs right now are more stories about the places where peace prevails between Jewish and Arab Israelis.”
—Ellen Hershkin, Hadassah National President
I'm writing to you about Israel, home of my heart.
If you've passed through Jerusalem's Ben Gurion Airport recently, you've likely seen the exhibition on display there, "Zionism Is an Infinite Ideal." Encountering it again this October felt auspicious as I stepped onto Israeli soil to kick off Hadassah's Milestone Mission, knowing I'd soon be joined by hundreds from our extended Hadassah family for a week long celebration of the 100th anniversaries of the Hadassah Medical Organization, the Ophthalmology Department, and the Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing.
Hadassah Hospital, a Model: A student created this gorgeous mini Hadassah Hospital for the 2018 identity art fair at the Yad B'Yad School in Jerusalem, featured in a recent episode of The Branch podcast. Zionist luminaries and pioneers take center stage in the exhibit, including Hadassah founder Henreitta Szold. Like Herzl and his "infinite ideal," Szold promoted a Zionism rooted in "Jewish ideals of universal peace and universal brotherhood." That idealism and practical Zionism still define Hadassah, especially in Hadassah's commitment to building bridges to peace through medicine. That's a hallmark of our hospitals, where medical teams and researchers work side by side, Arab and Jew, to treat a million patients each year, regardless of faith, race or nationality.
Hadassah's hospitals are often described as "islands of sanity," and I can't tell you how proud that makes me of our work. At the same time, I'm hopeful because I know so many others are also committed to the path to peace. What our world needs right now are more stories about the places where peace prevails, where people actively engage with one another instead of demonizing others, even when it can be challenging. Our new podcast series, The Branch, offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of Jews and Arabs in Israel forging meaningful relationships — in the arts, education, business, and, of course, at Hadassah's hospitals.
The Branch creates a much-needed space for powerful storytelling about real life and shared society in Israel that reaches American audiences who may have only encountered negative portrayals of Zionism. In Episode 2, for example, host Dina Kraft takes listeners inside the Yad B'Yad School in Jerusalem, where Jewish and Arab students learn together, and about each other, in Hebrew and Arabic. "It's not a small step," says a co-principal. "It's something amazing."
In her time, Henrietta looked ahead. Addressing Hadassah's 1937 Convention at the Hotel Chelsea in Atlantic City, she said: "The Arab-Jewish relation is the acid test of the Zionist movement."
For Hadassah, it was essential. Even when a Hadassah Hospital medical convoy was ambushed, murdering 78 men and women in cold blood, our vision didn't waver. As you may know, HMO was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize a number of years ago for building bridges to peace through medicine, the only hospital in the world to receive this tremendous honor.
Positive stories about Israel are more important now than ever. Sharing them is one way we can help others better understand the Israel we love and ensure Israel's security and future. So, the next time you find yourself facing someone disturbed by negative portrayals of Israel, ask them if they want to hear a really great story, a positive story about life in Israel.
Kulanu b'yachad, together, we can help shine a light on the path to peace and security.
A Special Note: Spread the word about The Branch — and the life-saving, groundbreaking work being done at our hospitals in Jerusalem. Don't miss our latest, Episode 4: The Nurses Station, where host Dina Kraft takes us behind the scenes at the dialysis unit at Hadassah Hospital's Ein Kerem campus, where the nurses and patients are like a family. How, she asks, do we take this island of peace and connect it to the main land? Listen now.