They met at the age of 16, and their romance was closely entwined with the history of both Israel and Hadassah. Tamar, a dedicated Hadassah nurse; Yaaki, a patient and guard of the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus; and their daughter who followed her mother into nursing.
Today, seventy-one years after their love story began, they’re still together. “Yaaki” and Tamar Perlstein, now both 87, are living in an apartment with a stunning view of the Jerusalem they so love.
This is their story:
June, 1946. Yaakov “Yaaki” Perlstein is only 16 and already a leader in the Hagana, the pre-State military force that will become the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). His job today is to train high school students from the prestigious Rehavia Gymnasium. A brunette catches his eye. She is so serious about ‘right left, left-right.’ “Who is that?” he asks a friend. “Please introduce me to that girl!”
Her name is Tamar Perehodnik. The bad news is that she already has a boyfriend. But Yaaki Perlstein is determined, and history comes to his aid. On what is called Black Saturday, the British Mandate soldiers divide Jerusalem into northern and southern sections in their effort to defeat the Jewish uprising and find cashes of arms. The impassable barrier means that Tamar’s boyfriend in the northern part of the city can’t get through to court her. In a time of few phones, Yaaki uses the two weeks of separation to steal away Tamar.
“We were all living at home and there wasn’t much privacy,” says Yaaki. “While courting, we went to a field with another couple to ‘make out.’ Three terrorists appeared, trying to drag Tamar to their village. I fought them off, but when I bent over to pick up a rock, I was stabbed twice in the back.”
He told his friend to get the girlfriends home, and found a bus parked at the last stop of the local line. Inside was the driver, undressed and making love to his girlfriend. “I kicked out the girlfriend and insisted the driver take me to the Hadassah Clinic on Solel Street in downtown Jerusalem. He was furious, but then I turned around and he saw the knife wounds and blood on my back, and stepped on the gas.”
At the Hadassah clinic, Yaaki was bandaged, stabilized and sent to the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. “I got a warm welcome from my sister, a nurse there.”
Tamar insists it wasn’t just his bravery that won her heart away from her previous suitor. “He was so handsome,” she says.
Tamar was registered to begin studying at Hadassah’s nursing school in Jerusalem. One day, she decided to go to Tel Aviv to visit Yaaki, and took a convoy over the dangerous road to get there. “I hadn’t told my parents,” she said. “Remember, there were few phones. We met the convoy coming towards Jerusalem on the way. I saw an acquaintance and asked her to inform my parents.”
It turned out to be the last convoy taking that route. Jerusalem, under siege, was cut off. Tamar was stranded in Tel Aviv and wound up going to nursing school in Tel Aviv where Hadassah also had a hospital.
Eventually, after the war, Tamar and Yaaki returned to Jerusalem and got married. By then, Hadassah’s Mount Scopus hospital was no longer in use. It had been evacuated in 1948 and was scattered in temporary housing in Jerusalem, where Tamar, now a nurse, did research on heart disease with an international team that had come to Hadassah Hospital.
As an officer in the IDF, Yaaki was sent to take part in the rotating forces which guarded Hadassah’s abandoned Mount Scopus campus from 1948-1967. “I had served there also in the Hagana when we did our training. I came back as a member of the Jerusalem battalion.”
In addition to his military service, Yaaki became involved in the building supply business. He and Tamar had three children, two sons and a daughter.
Then in 1967, Hadassah Mount Scopus was returned to Hadassah.
“We were overjoyed to hear that the hospital was back in our hands and that the key had been returned to Hadassah,” says Tamar.
When Mount Scopus reopened in 1975, Tamar transferred there. “I became a staff nurse and worked there for decades. Even though I’ve been retired for 22 years, I still go to visit and am warmly greeted by staff there. It became my second home. Even today -50 years after the reunification of Jerusalem- I walk the halls of Hadassah Mount Scopus and feel the special feeling of devotion that we all had to that place.”
“I’m very proud of my family’s connection with Hadassah,” says Yaaki Perlstein.
He and Tamar have an additional reason to be proud:
Daughter Dr. Miri Rom is the dean of the Henrietta Szold -Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing, making sure that the next generation of Hadassah nurses carries forth the professionalism and compassion of those who came before them and brought modern medicine to Israel.