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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hanevi’im Street 5: Bikur Cholim Hospita©l

Harav Shmuel Salant and Sir Moshe Montefiore first founded the Bikur Cholim hospital in a residential building of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City in 1859. Drugs and equipment (items that were scarce or non-existent under the Ottoman Empire) were supplied from Europe by Sir Moshe. It started with 12 beds and greatly helped the situation in the terrible 1866 cholera outbreak in Jerusalem, in which hundreds of people died. (This hospital in the Old City
continued to treat the chronically ill until 1947.)

Each sector of the Jewish community had its own hospital. The Perushim hospital was Shaare Zedek (founded in 1903), while the Sephardim had Misgav Ladach, and the Chassidims hospital was Bikur Cholim.

Bikur Cholim

By 1907, hospitalizations in Bikur Cholim in the Old City exceeded 1,000 a year and it was decided to build a new hospital outside the walls. The new location was at the corner of 53 Haneviim Street and Chancellor Avenue, today known as Strauss Street. The cornerstone was laid in 1912, but due to the outbreak of World War I construction was delayed. Building works continued until 1925. Architect Zvi Joseph Barsky designed the building in the neo-classical style with modernist elements (simplicity and clarity of form).

Bikur Cholims location in downtown Jerusalem proved of paramount importance in times of emergency such as following the 1929 and 1936 Arab riots, the 1948 war, and the terror attacks by suicide bombers in more recent years. In these episodes, when time was of the essence, Bikur Cholims proximity was able to save the lives of many victims.

During the Mandate period, Jewish underground fighters were hospitalized here, under fabricated names to keep the British police from discovering them.

Although during the War of Independence, the Bikur Cholim hospital came under artillery fire from
Jordanian guns, evacuated patients from the Mount Scopus hospital were transferred to there. Each day of the war, Rav Aryeh Levin would come to Bikur Cholim to see who had been killed, so he could testify to their death and save their wives from becoming agunos.

Initially, due to the lack of funds, only two floors of the hospital were built. Later a third floor was added, and an additional building was built closer to Yaffo
Street which became the school for nurses.
For many years, the Bikur Cholim hospital has been experiencing financial difficulties. It was bought this year by Shaare Zedek Medical Center. As of December 2012, the hospital, which includes the maternity ward, continues to function as a branch of Shaare Zedek. What was once the emergency room is today a branch of Terem, the organization for emergency medical care.

In the 1920s, Zeev Raban, an exceptional artist and a teacher at the Bezalel Academy, designed the three sets of impressive bronze hospital doors facing Strauss Street. The metal etchings on the doors represent the symbols of the Twelve Tribes and also feature animals and the fruits and flora of Eretz Yisrael. Above the doors are three pesukim from Yeshayahu. The rising sun represents the tribe of Reuven, as they lived in Eiver laYarden in Mizrach Shemesh. Shimon and Levi are featured together, shaking hands. A jug, probably of oil, symbolizing the
Chashmonaim, stands behind the clasped hands.

The Maternity Wing
The building on the opposite corner (47-51 Haneviim), facing Bikur Cholims main building, was originally a German hospital, designed by Conrad Schick and built by Christian nuns in 1892. The building is reminiscent of the Schneller Compound and was built as a classic German public building, with finely designed balconies and a small bell tower. Above the entrance is engraved a dove holding an olive leaf in its beak; beneath it was writing that was rubbed out.

Until 1948 this hospital serviced mostly Arabs, who called it Mustafaz (Hospital) Elmegedah. The cost of treatment was minimal. After the War of Independence, even though Mount Scopus was declared a demilitarized enclave, the operation of the hospital became impossible.

From 1948-1961 Hadassah Hospital operated in rented quarters in five different locations in Jerusalem, one of which was this German nun hospital. (The nursing school was on the grounds of the building adjacent to the hotel which is a French church that even today flies a French flag).

In 1961, Hadassah moved to a new medical complex that was built in Ein Kerem in southwest Jerusalem. In the 1970s, the German nun hospital building was taken over by Bikur Cholim and became the celebrated maternity ward.

Yad Sarah

The sale of high-rise luxury apartments that has taken over Jerusalem can also be seen on Haneviim Street. Now, a tall, beautiful building of glass-fenced balconies bearing a large For Sale sign stands at 43 Haneviim where the Yad Sarah train coach used to be. The gemach was founded in the 1970s by Rabbi Uri Lupolianski and named after his grandmother, Sarah Lupoliansky, who perished during the Holocaust. Today Yad Sarahs six-story Jerusalem headquarters and central warehouse on Herzl Boulevard occupies a full city block. Yad Sarah raises 92 percent of its operating budget from donations.

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