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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hadassah Hospital in Rosh Ha'ayin

One of the more interesting early institutions in Israeli Rosh Ha'ayin was the temporary hospital set up by Hadassah to take care of new olim. Since Rosh Ha'ayin was a Ma'abara for olim from Yemen, many of them had to be retaught how to take care of their children's health in a Western country. Hadassah nurses played a large role in this. Apparently after Hadassah left, the hospital was temporarily maintained by the government.

The hospital was temporary, originally for only one year (although they later agreed to keep it open a second year), and in 1951, Hadassah closed it down amidst much protest. In one interesting letter, dated 30.8.51, we found a letter to David Ben Gurion, signed by the rabbis and community leaders of Rosh Ha'ayin, imploring him to keep the hospital open. They expressed fear to send their children outside Rosh Ha'ayin for treatment, and claimed that instead the immigrants would revert to giving medical care on their own.

As the date of closure (30.09.1951) approached, Hadassah tried to arrange for a replacement so as not to leave the residents abandoned. In a letter from 22.4.1951, Dr. Davis, the administrator, writes that the "buildings of the hospital are quite rickety and there is much doubt as to whether they will suffice for another year."

In another book, one of the directors of the hospital, Dr. Zvi Shamir, remembers:
"We were dealing with terribly ill children. Almost everyone who came to the hospital suffered badly from malnutrition and acute intestinal infection. On the way from Yemen to Aden they contracted a severe type of malaria, and these people had no natural immunity. The youngsters needed care twenty-four hours a day. At the beginning the staff was enthusiastic; they were accustomed to dealing with sick children. But these youngsters were more dead than alive and after making the round each evening we found many dead in their beds. They died like flies. They had reached the point of no return. We soon became very depressed...The rats from a nearby stream crawled over us at night. The summers were unbearable. The heat and the lack of proper water facilities made work impossible. Diapers had to be washed by hand. Nurses covered the huts with sheets and poured water over them in an attempt to cool the huts which were like steaming ovens." (Levin 1973:232-233)

In the Ginzach Hamedina, we located a hand-drawn plan of the hospital, with each building labeled, from 1951:

1: Office, Lab, Partial Kitchen, 3 apartments, Service. Made of brick, curved metal roof, concrete floor. Cold water and electricity. Cracks in roof, fixed before winter.
2: Children's ward, kitchens (milk and meat), service. Bricks, curved metal roof, tiled floors, 2 boilers for hot water.
3: Storage for clean laundry. Brick, curved metal roof, concrete floor.
4: Administrative area, apartments, x-rays, medical storage. Brick, curved metal roof, tiled floor. Cracks in walls.
5: Morgue. No special autopsy area. Brick, curved metal roof. Good shape.
6: Dirty Laundry. Brick, curved metal roof, concrete floor. Good shape.
7: X Ray Clinic. Brick with curved metal roof. Concrete floor. cracks in walls.
8: Nurse area, doctor area. Brick, flat metal roof, 45x45 tiled floor. Very cracked.
9: Tipat Halav, maternity ward. Brick, metal roof, 45x45 tiles, good shape.

All buildings have fly screens in windows. Sewage works well. Water comes from the tower, which gets water from the water works via electric pumps. (Ginazach ג-143/15)

In 2009 the city tried to survey the remains of Hadassah and interviewed older community members. The site is almost unrecognizable, with more construction planned.

1949. You can see the curved metal roof in the background.

Zoltan Kluger, 1949.

National Photo Archive D822-098 by Zoltan Kluger, 1949

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