So many movies and Broadway shows have great beginnings. Look at “The Wizard of Oz” – could you imagine what would happen after the twister? How about “When Harry Met Sally” – well, all right, maybe you saw that one coming. And can you really do better than the opening monologue for “Star Trek: Space, The Final Frontier…?” In “Les Miserables” – the beginning starts a journey. And then of course there is Bereshith, in the beginning….
In the beginning of our knowledge of the presence of COVID-19, no one knew where the world was heading. I fear that we are still very much filled with that uncertainty. And that is frightening. Today, the numbers flash across the television screen, the hospitalizations, the deaths. The numbers bring tears and trembling. Numbers are not just data, numbers are souls. As a Jew, numbers hold a horrific place in my history. The numbers brutally put on the arm of my brethren during the Holocaust. Numbers are not people because people are so much more than numbers. They have names and they had lives. They had joys and they had sorrows. Every story is a soul, every number burnt on arms and every single number in those overwhelming compilations on the TV screen was a soul, a person who lived, who had a family, who worked hard at their job, who loved to stop and smell the roses, who sat down at a table to enjoy a meal with family and friends. They rode bikes and they played ball. They played on the computer and they read books to their children. So, I implore you, when you listen to the state governors and when you see those numbers flash across the screen on the banners, please say in your heart the word “souls” and add ”may their memory be for a blessing.”
As a Jew, on Yom HaShoah, I remember the Shoah, the Holocaust and the 6 million lives and souls. We light a yellow Yahrzeit candle and we remember. And we say “Never Again.”
The next week holds Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, remembering those who fell so that Israel would survive. In Israel, the country goes silent, people stop in their cars wherever they are for moments of silence, listening to the piercing sound of a siren.
And the next day after Yom HaZikaron is Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, celebrating that awesome day in May, 1948 when David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. And that takes me back to my original thought – beginnings. This was the beginning of so many wars and conflicts, but also the beginning of so many firsts in medicine, research and technology. This was the beginning of what would become the “start-up nation.”
I can relate to the topic anecdotally with Israel. And so, I can personally relate to “beginnings.”
We were on a Hadassah Israel Travel Mission about a dozen years ago. We had a terrific guide – BTW, how do those guides know, it seems, everything – history, current events, geology, archaeology, the Bible, politics, history…. that is a discussion for another day. Anyway, our guide’s name was Lior. He was a lovely young man who it seemed could answer any question. We were down south a bit at a Bedouin village, for lunch, visiting with the people, admiring the camels, when Lior pulled my daughter and me aside. “I want to show you something,” he said and he walked us over to a single sapling growing out of the beige earth. He asked us what we saw – “a tree growing in the desert,” we said. “No. Not a ‘tree’ – it’s a beginning tree. This tree is just beginning, just like Israel.” All these years later I can still get that feeling rushing though me when I think of that moment in time. A beginning tree, just like Israel.
That’s what I visualize on the 72nd anniversary of Israel – a beginning filled with tikvah, hope, because I see where the beginning of Israel’s story has led that country so far. So many firsts, so many partnerships in development of firsts, and on and on. I know that Israel, as well as so many other countries, is active in the search for the vaccine and the cure for COVID-19. I hold “Tikvah,” hope.
I always connect these milestones to Hadassah, the career of my heart, my volunteer job. So here, I share that Hadassah was there before that day in May, 1948. Before Statehood, in 1913, Hadassah began the medical infrastructure of the land with neighborhood clinics and then hospitals throughout the country. And moving forward from the beginning of the journey, Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) is omnipresent in medicine, research, childcare and partnership with JNF today. HMO is itself 108 years young, is looking forward to the next 100 years. Together, from the beginning. Together moving ahead, Hadassah is with Israel on the journey. Today, caring for COVID-19 patients and others in her two Hills of Healing in Jerusalem, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus.
This trio of remembrances that follow each other so closely in the month of April – Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut – isn’t that really life. Don’t we all experience sadness and joy? And sometimes, if we are lucky, with “Tikvah,” with hope, we pray that the joy come quickly after the sadness. So too, I pray, and I know you join me in this prayer, that the world can move from the sadness and uncertainty of today towards joy, together, tomorrow. Amen.