Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Israel Mission Delegation Trip
Day Two Recap with Dr. Ruth Oratz
Jerusalem -- Oct. 26, 2010 -- Caught up in the whirlwind of activities and events it is hard to keep track of the day and time. It is only the second day of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Israel Mission Delegation Trip, leading up to Race Day on Oct. 28.
We start early in the morning - and are excited to find that the morning news is full of photos of the City in Pink. We see our Komen Pink Lights on the Walls of the Old City in all of the major papers. The word is out!
The Race is on!Breakfast is an opportunity for a lively give and take with Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu. We focus on the most pressing current affairs and are very much in the present. But soon we are to head back in time. Our first stop of the day is the City of David. This marvelous archaeological excavation has uncovered remains of buildings dating to the 10th century BCE. Evidence points to the possibility that King David’s Palace may actually have stood here. Climbing down from street level we pass back through centuries, the times of the Crusades, the Byzantine and Roman eras, walking on roads built by King Herod in the 1st century BCE and the Shiloach Pool which served as a major water collection basin in Jerusalem during this period and then down even further, passing Warren’s Shaft System (first discovered by the British Explorer in the 1800’s) and thought now to perhaps link to the underground system of tunnels that King David used to capture the city – as described in the Book of Samuel! Climbing down means climbing back up, so we re-emerge into the bright sunlight, noisy traffic jams and multicultural mix of tourists and inhabitants who crowd into this sector of modern Jerusalem.
We all need a break and lunch is a welcomed respite. Sitting beneath the shade of olive trees, the gentle music of harps and birds and water trickling in a nearby fountain provide the perfect atmosphere for a typical Israeli meal: an endless variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, and sweets. Danny Seaman, of the Israeli Government Press Office, is on hand to answer questions and raise important issues about journalism, reporting, getting the story right in this age of blogging and twittering – and he is not referring to the songbirds around us. We have so much to discuss but must move on as our agenda is tight. Just a few steps away we pass through the Gates of the Old City, in front of the Western Wall. We stand just beneath the Temple Mount, a site holy to Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities. It is believed that on this Rock the world was created, that Abraham bound Isaac for sacrifice, that Jesus stood as he entered the Temple Plaza and that Mohammed received the Word of God in the Koran. We go further and descend into the recently excavated tunnels beneath the Wall, moving even closer to the original stones and feeling the power of this place ever stronger.
As we return to the present we realize that we still have a full afternoon and evening ahead of us. We have a quick stop to refresh ourselves, wash up and change clothes – a little dusty after climbing around ruins and underground tunnels…
The afternoon is devoted first to a private tour of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Here we see the stunning tapestries and mosaics designed by Marc Chagall especially for the Great Hall and our guide decodes the magical symbolism of his artistic creations. We enter the main Chamber of the Parliament and receive a very warm welcome from Prime Minister Netanyahu. We learn later that the debate that afternoon was in fact about a new addendum for the health care plan. Every place we go we are welcomed as Ambassadors of our Komen Mission – bringing awareness, education and services to women in the fight against breast cancer. Mrs. Hadassah Lieberman accompanies us, her warmth and charm adding a special touch to our visit.
Our next stop is most amazing. The Women’s Program at the Community Center in Abu Gosh, an Arab village outside of Jerusalem, is perhaps the highlight for the Komen Mission today. Here we have a chance to interact with Arab women who participate in the Hadassah Women’s Health Center, which has also received direct support from Susan G. Komen for the Cure. We learn from these women of all ages how this unique program in their community has helped to break down traditional barriers regarding the role of women and has empowered them to be advocates for their own health. They have learned about nutrition, healthy eating, exercise, breast self-examination, the importance of screening mammography. The women of Abu Gosh were delighted to tell us that they walk, walk, walk everywhere all the time, are losing weight and teaching their children and husbands to eat a more healthy and nutritious diet, that some of them are even swimming for exercise – something women would never have done in the past! A young mother explains that she volunteers three days a week at the Center in a program designed for their seniors. Prior to this very few women worked outside the home. Every year on Mother’s Day the celebration has become a Women’s Health Day and we all agree that “a healthy mother means a healthy family”! As part of the program funded by Komen, a nurse has come to teach breast self-examination and has also provided clinical breast exams, a mobile screening mammography unit visits annually and speakers are brought in to deliver lectures about all aspects of women’s health, often on topics suggested by the women themselves. An older lady proudly displays her medal for having won a recent sports competition and another mother and daughter stand up together to tell their family story – of helping one another in the movement towards the recognition of women’s rights. Not only has their health improved, but domestic violence is significantly reduced. Nancy Falchuk of Hadassah and Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker are both here to address us and the women of Abu Gosh. We all celebrate together over light and healthy snacks! Instant bonds have been made over the issues which unite all women. We could spend hours together, but alas, our tireless crew must move on.
Our final stop today is at the most elegant YVEL Jewelry Studio and Design Center. Housed in a freshly renovated ancient winery just outside of Jerusalem, the YVEL center represents a unique expression of creativity. Here young Ethiopian immigrants are accepted as students in the Andrea Bronfman School of Jewelry and Art. All 21 first year students are new immigrants; 70 percent of them lack basic education. Here they are taught the jewelry arts and are prepared to integrate into the Israeli job market as goldsmiths, diamond setters, designers and salespeople. Others are employed as security guards and in general administrative and assistance roles in the YVEL center. Their studies are completely subsidized by scholarships, and in addition each student receives a monthly allowance of $1,200 for personal discretionary use. We enjoy a wonderful dinner reception and then delight in the truly magnificent works of art designed by YVEL and handcrafted by the students and the professional team at the Design Center.
Truly an uplifting day – from the Divine to the Divine in every way! A day of soul-searching about what brings us all together, in our shared human values, in our common dreams and aspirations – and in seeing how many ways we can touch one another’s lives – sometimes in the simplest way. Again, we feel honored to be part of the Komen Mission Delegation in Israel!
Dr. Ruth Oratz, a medical oncologist, is a member of the Susan G. Komen Greater New York City Affiliate® board of directors and a delegate joining others from global and Israeli organizations to advance the breast cancer movement in a Susan G. Komen for the Cure® mission trip to Israel Oct. 25-28.