Hadassah in Jerusalem


Cynthia G. Ullman

Cynthia Ullman prepared the following remarks in late 1954, upon returning from a year in Israel, for a talk to her Hadassah chapter. Her daughter, Carmel Ullman Chiswick, has retyped them from the original notes.


This is a picture map of Jerusalem, the old city and the new. The old city is completely surrounded by a wall, at least as far as I know, because this is the only view I ever had of the city, for as you probably know, no Jews are allowed across the border. The new city sprang up within the last hundred years to take care of the ever growing population. When the cease-fire came at the end of the War of Liberation in 1948, all the Arabs in the new section left and went into Jordan and all the Jews in the Old City fled into Israeli territory. These people were housed in the deserted Arab homes which are being held by the Alien Property Custodian.

I brought this map mainly because it helps visualize how Mt. Scopus is isolated from the rest of Israeli Jerusalem and cannot be used by the Jews. This line shows the border between Israel and Jordan. This line shows as far as the Israel Military are allowed to go. In between is no-man's land. Up here is Mt. Scopus. When the truce came, the United Nations set boundaries exactly where each army occupied the land. The Jews held Mt. Scopus and the New City of Jerusalem, but not any of the territory between.

Today the Hospital and the University are unoccupied and unused except for the Police Guard that stands watch at all times. Each Guard stands duty for a two week period. Every other Wednesday at approximately 10 o'clock a convoy leaves here at Mandelbaum Gate and winds up this hill to Mt. Scopus. This convoy consists of the new police detachment, supplies for the next two week period, armed Jordanian Guards, and representatives from the United Nations. A change is made and the old detachment is brought down. Nothing is allowed to be brought down with this returning convoy. All the equipment at both the Medical Center and the University remains unused and untouched. When you stop to think of what equipment is housed in a modern hospital and in a progressive University and extensive Library of half a million volumes, you can only begin to realize how appalling is the waste.

Little time has been wasted bemoaning this great loss. Planning has been going on these past few years, and when we left last August, construction of the new University had already been begun down in this area and work had been started on the Medical Center at Ein Karim. In the meantime, the University and the Hospital have been functioning with admirable smoothness and efficiency in scattered buildings all over Jerusalem - so that when I went to visit the Hadassah Hospital, I had to make several tours to different sections of the city. In spite of these handicaps, in spite of makeshift buildings, of limited equipment, of insufficient personnel, of lack of funds, no demands are made that cannot be met, and no need is neglected.

Israel's new immigrant population taxes to the utmost the ingenuity of the social worker and the educator, the nurse and the doctor, and all those volunteers that want to help too. It was at the Strauss Health Center in Jerusalem that I saw some outstanding contributions to health and education. Most impressive is the clinic to which the children are brought for regular checkups, inoculations, and corrections. In some amazing way, each new immigrant family in the area is contacted. The visiting nurse gains the confidence of every member of the family; the case history is put on file, and from then on that family's life becomes closely tied up with the health center.

As we walked into the building, we were not only impressed with its attractive architecture and its beautifully green courtyard garden, but with its efficient orderliness and its sparkling cleanliness. Paint is scarce in Israel; water and soap are valuable and used carefully but not spared. In the long corridor waiting room lined with benches sat the young mothers holding their new babies, the small pre-school child holding onto Mother's knees, and the old grandmother alongside. It was a common picture that I saw each time that I came back to the clinic. This coming to the Center for a visit to the doctor and the nurse has become a family affair. It is with such pride the whole family holds forth the baby for the doctor and nurse to admire as well as to weigh and measure. The medical procedure is exactly the same as in your pediatrician's office here when you bring your babies for their routine checks. It is the same, and more is added.

These people have to be educated too; they have to learn how to bathe a baby; what it means to dress a child in simple clothing that is comfortable and clean. Most of the women we saw were still wearing the native costume of her original country; but each new baby is presented with a complete layette - the layettes that were sent by you women of Hadassah here. It was very satisfying to see clothes on these babies, to see the neat piles of clothing on the shelves, to know where they came from, and to see the need they are meeting.

The next room for the mothers in this well-planned setup is a kitchen - not a modern kitchen, but a clean kitchen equipped with the same kind of equipment that is likely to be found in their own homes. The cooking equipment that is found in most Israeli homes is either a primus or a ptilliah, one burner contraptions that use kerosene for fuel. Here the mothers are taught how to prepare the baby's simple diet, how to make a formula, how to wash and sterilize bottles and other equipment, and how to make pots and pans and double boilers out of tin cans and other makeshift equipment.

The education is not over. There is a shower room with plenty of hot water, and each adult before she leaves is encouraged and can, if she wishes, take a shower. Before she leaves there is one more item that helps build up her pride and self respect; she pays for her visit. She may not pay more than five piasters, the equivalent of a few pennies, but she has not received charity. She came because she wanted to, she benefited much from the visit, she has paid for the service she received, and she will return on the date she has been advised to come again. If by chance she does not return, the file is so well organized that the visiting nurse soon has the case and visits the home to question, encourage and correct any misunderstandings.

Where there are babies and mothers, there is always joy and warmth and love, and this is truly a good thing to see first on a visit to the Strauss Health Center. But it is only one phase of the work that is going on in this large building. Here there is a dental clinic for children. In a very large room, I saw a long row of dentists' chairs with the finest equipment. Each chair was occupied, and along the back wall on the benches were many more children waiting their turns. And in the next room were even more children, under the supervision of an adult, having fun with group activities while waiting to be admitted into the dentists' room. This picture is typical six days a week throughout the entire year, because Hadassah goes into the schools and gives every child a dental examination every year, and every examination is followed by a visit to the dental clinic unless the child is taken by his parents to a private dentist - so that everyone, with no exceptions, is given the opportunity to have proper dental care.

It is at the Strauss Health Center that they have an interesting approach to the problem of overcrowded hospitals. Here is an amazing Convalescent Center - three Centers, one for men, one for women, and one for children. There is a scarcity of space and beds in the hospitals and there is an everlasting demand for these. When a patient reaches the convalescent stage and yet is not in condition to be discharged and sent home, he is admitted to the Convalescent Center. He sleeps in his own home at night, but comes to the Center early in the morning and stays until it is time for him to go to bed. He receives all his meals at the Center. He gets all the attention and therapy he would be getting were he still in the hospital.

He is not confined to bed, but he is given all the opportunity to rest that he needs. His surroundings are pleasant and cheerful; he is in a social group of his own contemporaries. Here again the opportunity for education is not wasted. The furnishings are on the same level that is likely to be found in the homes - but it is neat and clean; it is tastefully arranged. Always the people are never shown furnishings and equipment that is superior to what they can have at home; never made to feel inferior or dissatisfied; but always shown how they can raise their standards with what they have available. They are taught crafts and constructive activities with the hands. Each person is given his own towel, toothbrush, and drinking glass and taught the necessity for keeping them separate.

The day we visited, the women were sitting in a social group listening to a victrola; the men, a little more individualistic, were more separated: some were reading, some were resting, and some were playing cards; the children were out of doors in the bright sunshine in one large group singing and that was truly a delightful scene. A display of the children's handiwork and art is as good as you have seen anywhere. One unusual poster that our guide always displays with great pride was done by a twelve year old girl who lost her right arm during the War of Liberation and learned to paint with her left hand. Later she earned a scholarship to Art School.

The work of the Strauss Health Center reaches out beyond the city of Jerusalem and its vicinity. Some of these activities I saw in my capacity as a driver for the Hadassah Women's Volunteer Auxiliary. In the office of the Head Nurse where all the planning and organizing goes on, I met two nurses whom I drove to Hartoov, a Ma'aborah, some twenty miles away. Our mission was to gather together a carload of very small children, all suffering with ringworm of the scalp; we brought them to Jerusalem to the Medical Clinic for treatment and took them back to their homes. This goes on almost every day, children being brought into the city from the outlying Ma'aborot for ringworm and Trachoma treatment.

This is not the time to describe the primitive life of a Ma'aborah but at Hartoov was a three room hut, the Hadassah Health Center. The door and windows were screened, the floors were scrubbed, and the waiting line of mothers, babies and children, and the glimpse I had into the rooms gave me the impression of a miniature Strauss Health Center - and I knew Hadassah was reaching everywhere to help all those who needed her, no matter who he was or where he lived.

I have taken you with me from floor to floor and in every wing of the Strauss Health Center, and now we have come to the top floor where joy and happiness and peace of mind reign. For on the top floor is a nursery school, a really delightful nursery school with happy healthy children in simply equipped play rooms, babies in cribs, for they start at 18 months, children playing in the sunshine on the roof, all well supervised and cared for. This is very important because these are the children of the nurses who are doing their utmost on the floors below and out in the field, knowing that their own children are receiving the best of care. It all started because Hadassah was experiencing a shortage of nurses, for a reason that is very familiar to all of us here. They were having trouble getting domestic help to care for their families and had to give up their jobs. The solution is working out fine. The nurse brings her child to work when she comes and takes him home at the end of her working day - she knows where he is all day and that he is happy and safe. Truly Hadassah is doing so much in all phases of health, physical and emotional. The demands made upon her are enormous. She is accomplishing unusual results - and you can well be proud to be a part of her.


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