Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saints and Hansen's in Hawaii and Jerusalem

Mazal tov! Congratulations to Hawaii. Their first saint was canonized in Rome this morning by Pope Benedict XVI.
Father Damien came to Hawaii in 1864. Saint Damien spent many years ministering to the leper colony on Molokai.
But no one tells his story more movingly than Cloudia at Comfort Spiral in her post today.

Nineteenth century Jerusalem also had what were then (mistakenly) called lepers, and they were housed behind this meter-thick stone wall in Talbieh.
Talbieh was not the prestigious neighborhood it is today. It was on the pale of settlement, subject to attacks by bands of robbers.
This one little gate was therefore the only entrance to the compound.

Jesus Hilfe (the Jesus Help Asylum) was established in 1887 by the city's Protestant community.
(Another source says that Jesus Hilfe was the name of the builder.)
It was designed by Conrad Schick, a German missionary and self-taught architect.
The Herrenhut Brotherhood of the Moravian Church ran the facility between 1887 and 1950. Staff came from Europe to care for the patients, who were mostly Moslems, although there were some Christians and a few Jews. The German Deaconess sisters were devoted to treating the suffering ones.

Rabbi Aryeh Levin (1886-1969) was our Jewish version of a saint. He is called The Tsadik (the saintly one) of Jerusalem.
He was one of the few brave enough to set foot inside the hospital.
He voluntarily came to visit the sick regularly, it is said, and especially on Rosh Hashana when he would blow the shofar.

Each floor had access to its own toilet via a bridge.
A cure did not exist back then, so care of the patients was based on the accepted principles of hygiene, fresh air, proper nourishment, physical activity, and spiritual support.
Norwegian Dr. Gerhard Hansen identified the leprosy bacillus in 1879. Since then the disease has been known by the less ominous name of "Hansen's Disease."
In 1948, following the establishment of the State of Israel and the division of Jerusalem between Jordan and Israel, the asylum found itself on the Israeli side of the city. Some of the patients and staff left, moving to an asylum in the Arab village of Silwan.
In 1950 the Moravian Church sold the entire compound to the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Ministry of Health took over the running of the place and renamed it the Hansen Government Hospital.
With the development of an effective cure for Hansen's Disease, patients were gradually rehabilitated and discharged. The last in-patients left the hospital in 2000.
As you can see in the photo, the mezuzah is gone from the doorpost and most of the buildings are abandoned.
Part of the site now serves as an outpatient clinic and learning center for the disease, the incidence of which has dropped significantly.  [See update below!]

Rivka Regev, the daughter of the hospital’s veteran general physician, lives in the compound to this day.
In the old days, the inhabitants tended a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and some livestock for their own needs.
The biblically inspired garden had a system of wells, channels, and four big cisterns.

 See the new plantings?!
Volunteers from Israel and abroad, supported by the Society for the Protection of Nature, hope to "restore the old garden, to cultivate a biblically-ecologically organic sound garden of healing herbs and to invite the community to participate in maintaining the garden through educational activities for school children, the elderly and people with special needs."
Rivka Regev is the living spirit behind the vision of reclaiming the wilderness.
Schick's elegant architectural treasure appears on the list of buildings intended for preservation under the auspices of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.
Nothing seems to be moving in that direction yet, but let us hope and pray that "Jesus Hilfe" will be saved.
2 good articles about Hansen's Hospital:
Links about St. Damien: Catholic News Service
Damien Blog with video of today's Canonization Mass
UPDATE: "In 2009, the Unit became the responsibility of Hadassah Hospital ... and the Hansen Hospital has moved to another historic building - Hadassah's  Beit Habriut at 24 Strauss Street. Following a government decision in May 2009, the Hansen Hospital compound - designated for preservation - was transferred to the Jerusalem Municipality Culture and Art activities in November of 2011."
See more at Hadassah's article

Guided tours are available and there are photographic exhibitions inside.
In fact,  photographers who first went in and recorded their impressions with much feeling are the ones who brought public attention to the building's plight and moved it closer toward preservation.
Here is more about the artifacts now on display.

And the most comprehensive and entertaining telling of the Hansen's story is at this blog:


Hilda said...

Boy, am I out of touch with the rest of the world right now. It's the first time I read about the new St. Damien. My world has narrowed much these past two weeks — time to get out again.

I hope the volunteers manage to restore what sounds like a holistic garden. Actually, the entire compound sounds perfect for a helping community!

Kay said...

This is so very interesting, Dina. My grandfather used to minister to the victims of Hansens Disease when he was the Buddhist priest assigned to Molokai's temple. My grandmother used to always worry when he entered the compound and returned from it thinking he would contract the disease at any moment. I'm always awed by people who are willing to risk their lives to help people who need them at the worst time in their lives.

Dina said...

Hilda, your poor city has had tough weeks and you have been so busy helping. "Mitsva points" for you.
Actually five became saints today.
Thanks for reading my long post today.

Kay, your grandfather was quite a man! Where can I find your posts about him again?
The guidebook where I learned about our saintly rabbi's visits to Jesus Hilfe is titled "The righteous shall come to no harm!".

JM said...

Very interesting informative post, as usual, Dina!

katney said...

Dina, I am always amazed at how often I get Church news from you first--LOL. I willhave to check my Vatican news link to see about the other saints canonized today.

Dina said...

JM, thanks for reading!

Katney, I follow Catholic News Service Blog. Last week they announced the date for the Mass, and I put it on my calendar for blogging possibilities.

Also, (The World Seen from Rome) emails me daily news.

There is also a nice blog written by a delegation from Hawaii to Rome. They have videos from today's Mass.

cieldequimper said...

Dina your posts are fascinating.

Dimple said...

Thanks again Dina, for an interesting post. You are a good teacher.

FA said...

Thank you, Dina, for recognizing the contributions of St. Damien. I really enjoyed reading about Rabbi Aryeh Levin, too. It's wonderful that we are promoting good in a virtual world that contains so much evil.

One of the others canonized today was Jeanne Jugan - foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Another selfless person who lived for God in the service of others. She's worth reading about.

Barbara Martin said...

Thanks for this bit of history into the past, Dina.

mirae said...

Hi dear Dina, thanks for your masterpeices of photos, and your information.
Yes I have the deepest respect for the medical profession especially in times of epidemics where they give their lives to heal others that is the ultimate healing gesture.

I really enjoyed the comments too from your readers.

shalom, love and light

R.Ferrari said...

Belas fotos. Parabens pelo trabalho.

spacedlaw said...

It is nice to see that people care enough to have this old place bloom once more.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Dina, there's still so much we don't know about leprosy. Thank you for showing these places and the way these people were helped. I understood that Hansen's disease is mainly a disease of the poor. It's still highly contagious, I believe.

Dina, from time to time I get nasty comments, which I like to avoid on my blog. How can I do like you did that is: get comment moderation?

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for your visit and comment. I agree he is very funny. And thanks for the instructions about the comment moderation, it works!

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Some really beautiful and fantastic shots !! This place is so peaceful !! Thanks for sharing..Unseen Rajasthan

Anonymous said...

Excellent post and as usual very informative!
Cheers, Klaus

Pietro said...

Nice images, so serene!

Anonymous said...

Once again you illuminate and touch us with your world-class posts and your direct wi
writing and humanity, Dina.

It is an honor to be associated with with your post today- and of course you are on my blogroll everyday.
Shalom Aloha my Sistah

Cloudia (on a public computer, Waikiki)

Anonymous said...

Dina, thank you for sharing the good news about Fr. Damien. I have long admired his care for the lepers on Molokai.

I didn't know the story of the asylum in Jerusalem. I, too, would like to see it restored and thriving as an oasis in the city and a memorial to the work and care given there.

Yaelian said...

This was such an interesting posting Dina,thanks! Thanks for showing places in Jerusalem that are completely new to me.

Nestor said...

What a whirlwind of history, thanks for the tour!
It's about time for Father Damien. Now those few bitter contemporaries who insisted he was no saint, are empirically proven wrong. (-: