Michelle Conwisar
Immediate Past President, Hadassah Southern California

How Hadassah’s Solidarity Mission to Israel Inspired Me and Gave Me Hope, Part 2

Pictured left to right: Stacey Maimin and Michelle Conwisar.  Photo courtesy of the author.
Pictured left to right: Stacey Maimin and Michelle Conwisar. Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo of Hadassah’s Gandel Rehabilitation Center courtesy of the author.
Photo of Hadassah’s Gandel Rehabilitation Center courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

This is the second in a four-part series by Michelle Conwisar on her visit to Israel on a recent Hadassah Solidarity Mission.

I have always been taught that it is important to give back to my community in a meaningful way. It’s a major reason that I volunteered to join one of Hadassah’s Solidarity Missions to Israel.

Despite the darkness following the October 7th massacre of Israelis by Hamas, Hadassah’s Solidarity Mission provided me with many moments of hope. For example, at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus’ Gandel Rehabilitation Center, we witnessed the healing of  war victims’ physical and emotional wounds. (Since October 7th, physical and psychological rehabilitation has become Israel’s greatest need.)

As we toured the new, state-of-the-art Gandel Rehabilitation Center, we learned that an underground parking garage had been turned into an emergency center with 130 beds, ready to be transformed in just a few hours into a recovery unit for the hospital, if needed.

We heard from one of the center’s first rehab patients, a police officer from S’derot, a town by the Gaza border. His arm was severely shattered in a terrorist attack on October 7th. After several surgeries to implant screws and plates, followed by extensive rehabilitation therapy, this determined police officer has gained back almost the full range of motion in his arm and is grateful to Hadassah and the Gandel Rehabilitation Center.

Hydrotherapy pools, innovative physical therapy equipment and even a simulated grocery store and apartment are available to patients to prepare them to resume their normal lives. The in-patient rooms and hallways are furnished with pulley systems and ceiling tracks to help patients get around on their own to use the bathroom and shower.

At Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after going through strict security we had the privilege to hear from several diplomats. Tamar Kaplan, deputy to the legal advisor for the Ministry, briefed us on how Israel has defended the country’s military decisions in the Hague’s International Court of Justice.

Kaplan was followed by Michal Philosoph, head of the European Parliament department at Israel’s delegation to the European Union and the diplomat who arranged the two-week investigative visit of United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten. Her investigation confirmed evidence of conflict-related sexual violence on October 7th and documented “clear and convincing information” that hostages held in Gaza are still being subjected to sexual violence.

Those briefings provided us with an incredible opportunity to hear firsthand about everything that is being done to end the violence and madness. All the officials we heard from had such a heaviness and sadness about them. No one was left unscathed from personal loss yet they were resilient and determined to continue the challenging work needed to fight this war. It was a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Israeli people and their unwavering commitment to rebuilding their nation.

Aside from the powerful briefings, Hadassah provided us with a rewarding opportunity to volunteer at a Jerusalem food bank for needy and displaced families. That experience reminded me that while we may not be able to solve every problem, we still have a responsibility to be engaged and contribute in some way. It’s about being proactive and making a difference, even if we can’t accomplish everything on our own.

We also visited a Jerusalem hotel where displaced families from Northern Israel, near the Lebanese border, are living until it’s safe for them to return home. We spoke to many of them, heard their stories, met their children and then, together, packed up dozens of traditional Purim Mishloach manot baskets (gifts of treats for the holiday). I met 8-year-old Avisimon, who was just adorable. He enjoyed packing up the baskets as he knew it was a mitzvah to do this for Purim.

The children thought they were packing these baskets to give to other kids, but when we finished filling the baskets, we gave them to the children who packed them. They were so grateful to receive them from us. The look  on all the kids’ faces when we told them they could keep the baskets that they had filled was just amazing.

In Parts 3 and 4 of my series, I will take you to the remaining stops on Hadassah’s Solidarity Mission. In the meantime, here’s what you can do to help Israel and the remaining hostages:

  1. Contact your elected officials: If you’re American, click here to find out how to urge your legislators to sanction supporters of Palestinian terrorists. If you’re a citizen of another country, tell your leaders it is not acceptable that innocent civilians from 18 countries are being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.
  2. Contact The White House. Anyone can do this; you don’t need to be a US citizen! And these appeals are tracked, so make sure your voice is heard! Call +1-202-456-1414 and/or email
  3. Contact Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at and demand he do more to ensure the return of the remaining hostages.
  4. Have faith. Whatever form of prayer you relate to, please pray for the hostages’ safe return. They were randomly kidnapped and deserve to be home. 
About the Author
Michelle Conwisar is the Immediate Past President of Hadassah Southern California and a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. As a third generation Hadassah leader Michelle is honored to follow in her mother and grandmothers’ legacy. Michelle has held many leadership roles in her nearly three decades of Hadassah involvement. Currently she is a National Evolve: The Next Generation Liaison helping to expand Hadassah’s outreach to a younger demographic in local communities. Michelle is also the Vice Chair of the upcoming National Capital Campaign which will be launching in the near future. As a proud National Hadassah Leadership Fellow Alumna, a two-year leadership training program that she was selected for in 2016, Michelle credits Hadassah for giving her opportunities to feed her passions for Israel, advocacy, and fundraising for medical research. Michelle’s husband of 30 years, Phil, is a Hadassah Associate. They have two daughters who are fourth generation Hadassah life members.
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