Rona Harris and a guard at the Wall during her three months in Israel after the war
I was a medical technician at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Quebec, and I took a leave of absence to answer the call as a volunteer for the Six-Day War for a period of three months. Along with some young doctors and a nurse from the hospital, we arrived by plane in Israel and were then loaded onto a bus, travelling in total darkness to our destination, only to be told when we got there that the war had ended.
We were divided into groups and taken to different places. I found myself in Kibbutz Hazorea, where I worked in their furniture factory for a very short while, adding the finishing touches to nearly complete items before they were finally shipped.
At the suggestion of the Jewish Agency, I went to Rambam Hospital. I worked there as a nurse in a ward where wounded young soldiers, both Arab and Jew, lay side by side in friendship. I remember wondering as I watched the Jews and Arabs so friendly to one another here in the hospital, why it couldn’t be that way all the time? I was treated royally and was given a hut to live in behind the hospital. I stayed at the hospital for my two-and-a-half remaining months.
On Shavuot, June 14, 1967, I went to Jerusalem when the Western Wall was opened to the Israeli public.
The hospital asked me to stay on but I had to return to Montreal to finish a research project that I was doing with a cardiologist. At Rambam Hospital, they had an impending project that was similar to what I was doing in Montreal and they said they would hold the position open for me when I came back. So I figured I would return to Israel about three months after my return to Montreal, when I finished the project that I had started.
As fate would have it, it was not to be. Due to some traumatic experiences which happened to me in Israel, I developed a post-traumatic stress syndrome, where my body chemistry went haywire for about a year. Though I was still able to work at my job in Montreal, I knew I was not able to take on the new stresses that would occur if I returned to Israel at that time. I think I left my heart in Israel and always dreamt of returning to live here.
In 1970, I married a rabbi who had a part time job working for a college in Israel. Our plan was to move to Israel, but that job fell through. Then I became pregnant, and life happened when planning something else.
The dream came true, but only after 45 years.
P.S. I want to apologize to Dr. Dan Levy and to the staff of Rambam Hospital for my failure to keep my promise to return and fill the job waiting for me. I regret not even giving them a reason for not returning because I was ashamed of my body failing me at the time. I hope all the friends and staff I worked with will forgive me. I am sure some of them wondered what became of me.