As the enthusiastic voices in many different languages filled the King David Hotel, an onlooker could sense the diversity of the over 250 delegates from 18 countries who came to Jerusalem, March 13-15 for Hadassah International’s Solidarity Conference.At the same time, the bond that transcends this diversity came to life during the standing ovation and continuous applause for Founder of the Hadassah International Medical Relief Association, Bernice S. Tannenbaum.

The strong connection was vivid again with the expressions of empathy for the victims of terrorism, whether in Madrid or Israel, and in the respect and admiration for our Hadassah Medical Organization physicians, nurses, and social workers. Clearly, these delegates were powerfully linked by their love for Hadassah International and HMO as premier bridges to nations through medicine.

As Amos Attali, Chair of Young Hadassah International, stated: “Our commitment unites us.” Amos led a delegation of over 35 young people from Argentina, Holland, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom, who expressed pride in their mission of health care without discrimination.

From the opening session, it was evident that the Israelis were thrilled to have Hadassah International’s presence and support. As Israeli Minister of Health Danny Naveh said, in thanking the delegates for
coming to Israel:

“You can be proud that you are part of the family of Hadassah. Thanks to your involvement, we can keep high standards of medical treatment, despite the need for budget cuts in these difficult times.”

Minister Naveh also expressed the conviction that “we must show the terrorists that there are no political fruits from terrorist acts.”

Hadassah France President Dr. Sydney Ohana, who led a delegation of over 100 from his home country, noted, “With optimism, we can confront terrorism and achieve the upper hand. We feel the hope that no other mothers should cry for their kids; that we can live in a world without terror.”

A wonderful highlight of this opening session was the tribute to Hadassah International President Nancy Falchuk by HMO Director General Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef. “HMO is in Nancy’s soul,” he noted, adding that “a labor of love is what volunteerism is all about.”

Another touching moment came with the presentation of the first Bernice S. Tannenbaum Young Volunteer of Distinction Award to Dr. Enrique Bassat, a pediatrician from Barcelona. Dr. Bassat has reached out with his medical expertise to needy children all over the world.

The opening session featured the showing of a video created by Dr. Alain Salimpour, President of Hadassah Nice, and his wife, Ruth, “in appreciation of Hadassah’s giving us the opportunity to give.” The video showcased the song, “Hadassah, For Peace,” composed by the Salimpours especially for Hadassah.

Dr. Raanan Gissin, Israel’s Foreign Press and Public Affairs Advisor, gave the delegates a comprehensive update on where the Middle East conflict stands today. While he did not downplay the seriousness of widespread terrorism, he maintained a measure of optimism about the future. He expressed his thanks to Hadassah International for its staunch support. He commented that just as back-up troops behind Israeli soldiers tap lightly on the helmets of the soldiers in front of them so they know they are not alone, “your coming here is tapping on the helmets of all the Israelis who are standing on the front line.”

The opening session also proved extremely uplifting as Young Hadassah International leaders from Holland, Spain, and Israel told of their commitment to Hadassah International and to the Hadassah Medical Organization.

The next two emotion-packed days featured tours of our Medical Centers as well as a myriad of presentations on absorbing educational topics. Professor Yoel Donchin gave a presentation on the history of the nine-decade partnership between Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America (our parent organization ) and Israel, whose steadfast goal was elevating the country’s standard of health care. Psychiatrist Daniel Sibony offered a perspective on the Arab-Israeli situation which emphasized that current events are perceived differently, depending on each person’s beliefs about the history of the Middle East.

There ensued a panel discussion with HMO physicians Professor Moshe Gamori, Chief of Neuroradiology, Professor Meir Liebergall, Chairman of Orthopedic Surgery, Dr. Esti Galili-Weisstub, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Director of External Relations Ron Krumer. During this emotionally charged session entitled “Coping with Terror in Real Time,” the panelists described their conflicting emotions when a terrorist attack hits. They explained the pressure they feel when their personal worries for their loved ones’ safety combine with professional responsibilities to care for victims who might be the terrorists themselves.

As the delegates walked through the halls of the hospitals at Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus, witnessing the work of their hearts, they were touched by the spirit of hope and harmony pervading the treatment rooms.

The excellence of HMO’s three pillars—healing, teaching, and research—filled the delegates with admiration. Outfitted with hard hats, they walked through the construction site of the new Center for Emergency Medicine, seeing with their own eyes what their volunteer efforts have made possible.

They reveled at the fact that the Hadassah Medical Organization is truly a state-of-the-art health facility, and they expressed enthusiasm that they can now return home and describe to their community the cutting-edge clinical care provided at Hadassah.

On Sunday, surrounded by the Chagall Windows in the beautiful Abell Synagogue, representatives from HIMRA units around the world accepted certificates of
appreciation for major gifts to further the work of HMO. Making the event particularly special was the presence of many of the physicians whose departments are the beneficiaries of HIMRA’s donations.

Monday brought another very special event: the dedication of the Bernice S. Tannenbaum Play Area in the Center for Children with Chronic Diseases at Mount Scopus, brought to fruition by HIMRA donations in memory of Bernice’s son, Richard Salpeter. “From both my grandmother and my father,” noted Bernice’s granddaughter, Ellen Salpeter, “my family has learned to respect the past, embrace the present and dream into the future. Let this playground be the site of thriving generations of new leaders for families, Hadassah, Israel, and peace.”

Fun and festivities marked the evenings of the Conference. On Sunday, there was the gala dinner, chaired by His Excellency Ambassador Zalman Shoval, honoring Eli Hurvitz, Chairman of the Board of Teva Pharmaceuticals, as “Hadassah’s International Man of Distinction.” Held at the beautiful Mercaz Shimshon with its breathtaking view of the Old City of Jerusalem and attended by over 450 people–from Conference delegates to Israeli businessmen and dignitaries– it featured a touching dedication to Mr. Hurvitz (who is the immediate past Chief Executive Officer of Israel’s premier drug manufacturer), as well as an elegant dinner and lively dancing well into the night.

The following evening, delegates enjoyed the camaraderie of their colleagues and, after Israeli dancing and dining at the Carmel Winery of Zichron Ya’akov, said good-bye until next year!

Participants left Jerusalem, bolstered by pride in their show of solidarity with Israel and the Hadassah Medical Organization during these difficult times. They headed for home, filled with mesmerizing images of a Medical Center that is empathetic, cutting-edge, and a true bridge to nations. They carried home with them, too, memories of emotion-packed experiences they shared with HIMRA colleagues, old and new, from all around the world–colleagues who hold a mutual vision for a better world through universal medicine.