The history of the Herzog Hospital (formerly known as Ezrat Nashim) goes back to 1895 and the establishment of a society to provide care for the chronically ill. Since then the facility has expanded both in physical terms and in its medical scope. In the 1960s it moved to its new building in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighbourhood, and added specialized care for geriatric patients to its psychiatric wards.

In May this year I was privileged to be present at the official dedication of the new Samson Medical Pavilion, which greatly increases the number of beds in the hospital as well as incorporating additional medical services. In recent years the hospital has added the treatment of children needing constant respiratory care to its spheres of treatment, and the new wing provides extensive state-of-the-art nursing in this field.

In addition to Mrs. Karen Lewis, the daughter of the donors, Dr. Heinz and Dr. Edith Samson, various dignitaries addressed those attending the dedication ceremony, which took place on the fifth floor of the new wing. Not all the floors have been opened and are in use as yet, due primarily to lack of funds.

After some words of welcome and warm praise for the hospital’s dedicated staff from its CEO, Dr. Yehezkel Caine, the first speaker was the Minister of Health, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. He emphasised the importance the Ministry attaches to meeting the needs of Israel’s growing elderly population, and the important role played in this by the Herzog Hospital. The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, stressed the crucial contribution to medical research made by Jerusalem’s many start-ups in the field of life sciences, and Isaac Herzog, leader of Israel’s Opposition Labour Party and the grandson of Rabbanit Sara Herzog, for whom the hospital is named, spoke of his family’s close association with it. He also made a point of mentioning Israel’s seminal role in medical research and services, noting that a recent edition of The Lancet was devoted entirely to medicine in Israel.

Following the affixing of a mezuzah by Isaac Herzog and the cutting of the ribbon by Mrs. Lewis, the attendees were divided into small groups and given a tour of the new facility. My group was taken round the department for children with respiratory problems. In some cases these are genetic in nature and in others the result of accidents or illnesses of various kinds. Almost all the children in this section, which encompasses several well-equipped wards as well as cheerfully-decorated communal areas, are attached on a more-or-less permanent basis to respiratory equipment of various kinds. The intake consists of infants as young as three months of age and upwards, and some of these remain in the ward until they reach adolescence, when they are moved to another department. Both Arab and Israeli children are cared for, and in many cases their parents establish warm friendships as they attend to their bedridden children.

Passing one ward we heard lovely music. We peered in and saw a young flautist standing by one of the beds, playing for the young patient. As we proceeded along the corridor we encountered another person carrying an accordion, evidently about to perform for other young patients. Petting animals are brought in from time to time, and therapies of various kinds (e.g., music, hugging, movement) are also part of the treatment provided. A cadre of devoted volunteers plays an important role in helping to care for the children and brighten their lives.

While it broke my heart to see the cribs where tiny babies are hooked up to heart-lung machines, oxygen and other items of medical equipment, there is no doubt that the hospital does work of the highest importance. The caring dedication of the ever-cheerful staff is both inspiring and admirable, providing an additional source of pride in Israel’s medical achievements

(This article first appeared in the July 2017 edition of the AJR Journal,)