Culture Café: An Unexpected Musical Delight

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. — Confucius

Everyone loves some kind of music. Music is the soundtrack of our lives. We take it with us in our pockets, listen while we drive; we dance to it, dine with it, and sing our babies to sleep with it.

But I was surprised when I heard the sound of strings during my hospital visit with a dear friend. “That sounds like a harp,” I said, doubting my own ears. Moments later, the harpist with her beautiful wooden instrument appeared in the doorway, serenading us with a delicate, uplifting melody.

Harp music is part of the health care team at the Oncology and Palliative Care Unit of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center. Founded and headed by Professor Nathan Cherny, the unit employs a range of treatments and supportive care to keep patients pain-free and enhance their quality of life while treating their cancer. Dr. Cherny invited Shoshana Levy, a professional harpist, to join the unit after she came to play for a friend in treatment. It soon became clear that her music was having a positive effect on the other patients, as well.

Ever since David famously played the lyre to soothe the agitated spirits of King Saul, music has been recognized to have relaxing and mood-elevating properties. In recent years it has been increasingly incorporated into conventional medicine as an ancillary treatment for stress, anxiety, and pain. Brain and body are one; they impact one another in ways we are barely beginning to understand. Music is a balm for patients of all kinds, from premature babies to adults with Parkinson’s Disease, and to people being treated for cancer.

At Shaare Tzedek Medical Center, Shoshana Levy played the beautiful harp that was provided by an anonymous donor. Levy wanted to thank that donor and, after 12 years, tracked her down at her Los Angeles home.

The donor was a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor.

About the Author
Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, radio host and writer for various publications, including The Washington Times and Psychology Today. She lives in Jerusalem and can be reached at CultureCafeStories@gmail.com
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