Israel 'trip of a lifetime' albeit not at all as planned, part I: Hadassah Hospital

Dena entertains Daniel at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, Israel

Three months have now passed since Laura, Dena, Daniel and I returned from our trip to Israel. I was about to post this first of my two articles about our experiences when the Gaza flotilla controversy erupted a month or two ago. It seems even more important to share this experience as it was really not what I was expecting to find visiting Israel. A second article will follow in the near future, describing some of our experiences outside the hospital setting.


This was not the trip we had planned. That being said, we learned so much about life in Israel even though our 10-day hiking trip covering the whole country was instead spent almost entirely in Jerusulem, or more specifically, inside the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem on the outskirts of town. The morning after arriving, we had to take our 10 y.o. son Daniel to the emergency room where by night’s end he had undergone an emergency bowel resection for a ruptured Meckel’s diverticulum. We learned so much more about people in Israel from this experience than we probably would have learned had we been able to pursue our hiking tour.

Our 13-year-old daughter Dena was in Israel with her school for a two-week visit with their sister school in northern Israel. Our plan was to meet her at the end of her school trip to start our family vacation. Laura arrived a few days in advance so that I could finish the work week and Daniel the school week. Daniel had a sore stomach before we were scheduled to leave. We delayed our departure by one day and spent time in the emergency department of BC’s Childrens’ and Womens’ Hospital in Vancouver two days before leaving. He was diagnosed with the stomach flu and we were told that if it were his appendix then we would know for sure within 48 hours (average time to perforation.) I don’t know if I’ll ever stop regretting the decision to fly to Israel with Daniel feeling mostly better given that he completely obstructed his small bowel during the flight from what turned out to be a perforation but had nothing to do with his appendix.

Daniel with an Arab Israeli nurse who provided superb careThe Israel we saw was not at all what I had imagined from my preconceived notions fed by years of following the news. I had been led to believe that I would be fearing for my life at the risk of bombs falling at any moment, buses being blown up, and people of different religions not getting along on the streets. I guess I’ve followed too much western media over the years. Instead I saw an Israel with Arabs, Christians and Jews mixing on the streets and working side-by-side in the hospital.

For most of the ten days spent in hospital, I was feeling so down that I never wanted to travel anywhere again. Daniel was slowly and painfully recovering from surgery and was given a rather guarded prognosis due to a high risk of a systemic or wound infection due to the perforation. We were warned he may need to remain hospitalized for a couple of months due to a high potential for complications. The hospital bills and all the travel expenses were adding up since none of the trip was refundable, and we paid out-of-pocket for new tickets from delaying our departure by one day. Tens of thousands of dollars overdrawn to cover the bills while awaiting insurance claims in the weeks and months ahead, on top of the wish that this coud have been detected before we had left Vancouver. It was all taking its toll. We had to be strong for Daniel but would still burst into tears spontaenously at times.

Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, IsraelJewish and Arab Israelis work together with other immigrants from all over the world at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. In fact, in 2005, the Hadassah Medical Organization was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (excerpt from below:)

In 2005, the two Jerusalem hospitals of the Hadassah Medical Organization were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination asserted three areas in which HMO has promoted peace in Western Asia.[4]:

  • Maintaining equal treatment for all regardless of religion, ethnicity and nationality
  • Setting an example of cooperation and coexistence by maintaining a mixed staff of people of all faiths
  • Initiatives to create bridges for peace, even during periods of active conflict between Israel and one or more of its neighbors

Hadassah Hospital really has done more to promote peace than some who have won the Nobel Peace Prize in recent years.

Set in what was once the countryside of Jerusalem as envisioned by Ben Gurion, Hadassah Hospital would allow patients to recover in a peaceful setting. In the decades that have passed since the hospital was established, the city has grown to reach the countryside but there is a still a network of hiking trails that surround the hospital and the tiny village. Maybe it’s the peaceful setting or just the desire of mankind to help heal fellow man that can unite so many healthcare workers of differing backgrounds under one roof.

Palestinian ambulance at Hadassah Medical CenterAnother driving force for quality care might well be that the doctors are not well paid compared to the cost of living. Compared to Vancouver, the cost of living in Jerusalem is even higher and the pay is probably less than 1/5th topped off with a 55% tax rate. The honor of caring for patients has not been tainted at Hadassah Hospital. Top healthcare professionals work together, regardless of religious differences, with the common goal of caring for patients.