Building Bridges, one by one

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At Hadassah we talk about “building bridges to peace” which is part of our everyday work and our ethos. It is not a cliché but occurs every day quietly, one-by-one.

Here are just three recent examples of Hadassah interactions making a huge difference for specific individuals.

The Hadassah-St. John Joint Teaching Programme

The Joint Teaching Programme, founded in 2001 with the Peres Centre for Peace and Hadassah Medical Centre, shares ophthalmic knowledge and resources between Israelis and Palestinians.

The programme typically involves a doctor from St John Eye Hospital completing a fellowship at Hadassah. The cutting-edge training they receive is unparalleled to anything they would have received in the Palestinian territories. Their increased knowledge and resources increase the level of care St John is able to provide. As the socio-economic burden of sight loss is significant, there is also a long term benefit for the region’s shattered infrastructure. Studies have shown blindness causes poverty and that restoring sight improves the economic status of individuals and their whole families (Kuper, 2008). With no universal health care system in the Palestinian territories, many Palestinians’ only option is to seek charitable health care or go without.

The Hadassah Medical Centre in West Jerusalem is one of the largest and most progressive hospitals in the region. In 2005, Hadassah was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for its equal treatment of all patients, regardless of their ethnicity or religion; an ethos we share and received recognition for in 2012 when we were awarded the prestigious Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award.

In 2014, all ophthalmic specialties (except Oncology) were covered at St John hospital by Palestinian doctors for the first time. This is in great part due to the Joint Teaching Programme. Of our 23 doctors, seven have undertaken formal training and qualifications at Hadassah, whilst the majority of our doctors have benefited from some form of informal training there.

Peace in Sight will establish the first research unit into genetic eye diseases in the Palestinian territories, under our ‘Partnership for Peace’ Programme. Hadassah is this year providing Dr Yahya Sweiti, a Palestinian ophthalmologist, with two years of extensive training.

British Christians donate ambulances in memory of 1948 Hadassah Convoy Massacre

Christian Friends of MDA UK (CFMDA) recently donated two ambulances to Israel, in remembrance of the atrocities that took place during 1948 Hadassah Convoy Massacre. The tragedy saw two ambulances blown up, killing 78 people, including doctors, nurses, students, patients, Hebrew University faculty members, Haganah fighters and a British soldier.

The ceremony was hosted at Hadassah’s Mt Scopus campus in the heart of Jerusalem, adjacent to the actual location of the incident. The event followed with a reception held at the Hadassah Hospital.
More than 60 people, including high profile figures, attend ceremony, which was held adjacent to the scene of the tragedy which claimed 78 lives. Also present were Barbara Goldstein, Deputy Executive Director of Hadassah Jerusalem Office and Christine Darg of Jerusalem Channel.TV with her tour group together with other friends and supporters from the UK and Israel.

Former Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, sent his good wishes, saying: “Many, many thanks and congratulations for this amazing gift to the people of Israel”, while CFMDA UK president Reverend Mark Madeley, added: “CFMDA was formed in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War as a very practical way of showing our support for Israel”. Christians in the UK have since donated seven ambulances and an Emergency Room to the people of Israel.

Barbara Dingle, Executive Committee member of CFMDA and organiser of the event stated: “This was a very special and deeply moving occasion. Whilst we mourn the tragedy of the massacre, we are truly thankful to all our supporters around the country who have given donations and made this remembrance possible.

The partnership, coupled with this recent ceremony symbolises the peace and harmony that is displayed continuously in Israel, but often overlook from wider society. This event should dispel the consensus that Israeli Jews and other communities can work and live harmoniously with each other.

One Doctor for 1,400,000 Eyes

When she finishes her fourth year as a fellow at Hadassah and goes home, Dr. Eleanor Nche will be the only ophthalmologist for 700,000 people. She’s not daunted. “I love challenges,” said Dr. Nche. “I never back down.”
Dr. Nche, 32, is from Cameroon in Central Africa. In a country of twenty three million people, the World Health Organization measures life expectancy at 56 years.

Over 1% of the population is blind. There are only 50 trained ophthalmologists in Cameroon—and most of them treat patients in the majority, French speaking area of the country. In the north of the country, where the English-speaking minority live, ophthalmologists are even scarcer. “At Bamenda Regional Hospital, there is only one ophthalmologist— and he doesn’t perform surgery,” said Dr. Nche.
In 2012, Hadassah’s Ophthalmology Department sent four doctors on a medical mission to Bamenda Regional Hospital, responsible for over 700,000 residents in the region, and Dr. Nche was surprised to see them operate. “In thirty minutes I saw the Hadassah ophthalmologist perform miracles and change someone’s life,” she said.

“A simple cataract surgery enabled someone blind to see.” “When the Hadassah team offered me the chance to study ophthalmology in Israel, I couldn’t say no.” said Dr. Nche. “It was difficult leaving my four year- old daughter and family with the political turmoil in my country, but this is not only a life changing opportunity for me, it is also a way for me to give sight to my community.”
Dr. Nche’s father was a hospital administrator and her mother is a nurse. Despite low literacy and school attendance rates for girls in Cameroon, Dr. Nche excelled in school and continued to study medicine.

“Learning Hebrew was difficult, but the ophthalmology department adopted me and still supports me in every way possible. Professor Yaakov Pe’er is an incredible role model.”
After completing a three year ophthalmology residency, Dr. Nche specialized in corneas as a fellow at Hadassah. “When I return to Cameroon, the entire department will be on my shoulders.”

“In Israel, I gained a strong sense of self and belonging,” said Dr. Nche. I am inspired by the women of Hadassah who built this hospital. I am a stronger person because of my years at Hadassah and feel empowered to improve eye care for my people. Thank you Hadassah for making this opportunity possible.”


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