The underground emergency room at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center is a vital asset in case of terror attacks.Shaare Zedek Hospital is an institution whose history is inextricably linked to the history of Jerusalem. The construction of the hospital on Jaffa Road in 1902 served as an impetus to development beyond the old city walls. As
Jerusalem has grown, Shaare Zedek has grown with it, evolving into a sophisticated medical center with advanced treatment and research facilities.

In the 19th century, Jews in Jerusalem lived in a primitive town, plagued by disease, and dependant on missionary-linked hospitals who proselytized to their patients. Shaare Zedek was founded as a response to the need for a modern hospital and provided up-to-date medical care to all without religious, racial, or social discrimination.

At a recent centennial celebration, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took pleasure in relating the hospital’s rich history. “We have many good hospitals in Israel today. But, still, there is something special about Shaare Zedek,” Sharon said. “Something, from what I know of its history, that is quite moving – an ideal of dreamers that came to be realized.”

Shaare-Zedek is ideally adapted to today’s turbulent times in Israel. It’s three lower floors were built underground. Vital areas such as operating theaters, the emergency room, pharmacy, and medical and sterile supply areas
are completely functional, even in times of military attack.

The existing emergency room, established in 1979, was appropriate for the population of Jerusalem at the time. Today, the emergency room serves
Jerusalem itself in addition to patients within a 40 kilometer radius surrounding the city. A plan to redesign the emergency room is scheduled for completion this year. The plan includes a new entrance, more space and well-defined work areas for each field of emergency medicine.

Unfortunately, Shaare Zedek has actual experience in dealing with widespread terror attacks. Since September 2000, the city of Jerusalem and the hospital have been on high alert. When an attack occurs, the hospital swings into action. A computerized telephone system automatically contacts hospital staff, ensuring a quick response, and a full force in the emergency room almost immediately. The public relations department becomes an information center to help family members find relatives who may have been injured.

Nineteen-year old Leah Saban was injured when a car bomb exploded near Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem in December. Leah entered Shaare Zedek with second and third degree burns on 30 percent of her body and began a protracted period of recovery. She is currently an outpatient, but returns to volunteer at the hospital. “The care I received here was not just medical,” Saban said. “Everyone I came into contact with always had time to talk to me and answer my questions. I was treated like a person, not just a patient.”

In other areas, there has been heightened activity in both basic and clinical research at Shaare Zedek under its partnership with Ben-Gurion University.

Shaare Zedek excels in genetics research and counseling on diseases that effect Ashkenazi Jews and also specializes in research on Gaucher Disease. The Jesselson Heart Center at the hospital is a unique and innovative institute for comprehensive heart care, designed to equip patients of all ages with the most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic techniques available.

The hospital’s pediatric neurology department is also very highly regarded. A recent conference on learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and the use of Ritalin was so popular that it was scheduled to be repeated five times to accommodate the demand.

The phrase “hospital with a heart” has long been associated with Shaare Zedek. The hospital prides itself on providing impressive medical care, while maintaining a compassionate relationship with patients. Extra care and concern run through all departments of the hospital and help speed the healing process.