Jewish Journal

Preparing for Terror

Hadassah's director general updates American Jews.

by Michael Aushenker

Posted on Oct. 10, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef

Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef

Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director general of Hadassah Medical Organization, who oversees the operation of Hadassah's two Jerusalem-area hospitals, visited Los Angeles last week.

Founded in 1912, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, is a volunteer organization with branches in North America, South America, Europe and Australia that supports a wide range of projects in Israel, including the two hospitals.

Mor-Yosef recently spent a week visiting North American Hadassah chapters, including Hadassah Southern California, as part of a capital campaign effort for a new, state-of-the-art hospital building in Israel that will be equipped to counter biological and chemical threats. The Journal spoke to the 51-year-old Mor-Yosef -- a Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School graduate with a distinguished medical resume -- during his brief stay in Los Angeles.

Jewish Journal: What is the nature of your current Los Angeles visit?

Shlomo Mor-Yosef: From time to time, I visit Hadassah members all over America to give them information on what's going on at the Hadassah hospitals. This point in time is especially important because of the current political situation in Israel. We're building a center of emergency medicine: a 60-bed facility that will cost $30 million.

JJ: What kind of facility will this be and have you broken ground yet?

SM: We started building it six months ago, even though we don't have all the funds in place, because it's so important. During the terror attacks of the last two years, we have treated 2,000 people, which is more than 50 percent of all the victims of terror in Israel.

The new facility would be unique in a few areas. The main use will be specializing in biological and chemical war, so that the medical staff can treat patients without special equipment such as masks. It will be a more convenient, more safe environment to be able to do it. We have to seal every door and window. We need a separate ventilation system to be ready for such an unconventional war. And all of this raises the costs of such a building by 40 percent.

JJ: How supportive and effective has Hadassah's fundraising been?

SM: Hadassah has outlets in Europe, South America and Australia, but the capital campaign is coming from Hadassah in North America. The response so far from everyone is unbelievable. We have a lot of support, not just financial but emotional. Next week, another Hadassah mission will come to Israel -- 150 members from all over the U.S., which is amazing because we expected 50.

JJ: What are some of the aspects of Hadassah's hospitals of which you are most proud?

SM: In essence, we are not a hospital for terror victims. We're on the cutting edge of technology, and we have incredible research institutions. We are in the front line of stem cell embryonic research. We are working on a solution to Parkinson's disease and breakthroughs in the oncology field, infertility and in genetic manipulation to cure diseases.

We have also made breakthroughs with bubble babies. We've been treating a 3-year-old girl who lacked an immune system. She is now normal. We are also partners with Hebrew University in five areas: medical, dental, nursing, public health and occupational therapy, where we are very involved in health-care education.

JJ: What type of security concerns has Hadassah been faced with since the second intifada?

SM: We are all the time getting information from the security forces in Israel that the hospital is a target. From time to time, we get Molotov cocktails thrown in our backyard. We can't shield the hospital. It's not an army base. There are 20,000 people -- Jews, Arabs -- passing through the hospital each day. But we've increased our security budget up to $1 million in the last two years.

JJ: Is there a feeling in Israel that such an unconventional war is an imminent reality?

SM: Based on the last two years, I'm not optimistic. Many people here are expecting retaliation on Israel [should the U.S. attack Iraq]. No one in the world has experienced such mass casualties of a nonconventional war [as with the second intifada]. As far as the new facility is concerned, I hope we won't need to use it, and it's just an investment.

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