For Lydia Lanxer, Head Trauma Nurse at Netanya's Laniado Hospital, the suicide bombing that took place at that city's Park Hotel on Seder night is still a vivid memory. In fact, it's so vivid that as her words tumble out in rapid-fire succession, you can almost hear the wail of the ambulances blaring in the background.
"There were some 300 guests. About 150 were wounded on the spot -- the dead I'm not counting. The hotel is about three minutes from here. We heard the blast, we heard the first ambulance and by the time we put our gloves on, the first victim had arrived. Seventy-three of the wounded were brought to Laniado. Twenty-two of them were severely wounded."
Mrs. Lanxer pauses for a moment. When she resumes speaking, it seems as if she is speaking as much to herself as to the others seated in the lecture room. "How do you deal with such an event?" she quietly asks. "How?"
Netanya has suffered more terrorist incidents than any city in Israel except Jerusalem, and Laniado has treated over 500 people since the intifada began two years ago.
There is no answer from the Canadian medical professionals who are visiting Laniado Hospital as part of their solidarity mission to Israel. After all, mass disaster of this magnitude is unlikely to strike a Canadian city even once. Netanya, on the other hand, has suffered more terrorist incidents than any city in Israel except Jerusalem, and Laniado has treated over 500 people since the intifada began two years ago.
Yet this intifada is not the first time that the Jewish people have had to contend with mass disaster, and Laniado Hospital owes its very existence to one person's response to tragedy.
The hospital was founded by the late Grand Rabbi of Sanz-Klausenberg, Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam. During the Holocaust, Rabbi Halberstam was interned in several concentration camps. He survived the ordeal, but his wife and 11 children perished.
After the war, Rabbi Halberstam dedicated his life to establishing institutions that would benefit the Jewish people. His dream was to build a hospital in Israel where state-of-the-art medicine would be practiced with compassion, kindness and sympathy; a place of healing where patients -- and staff -- would be treated with dignity and love.
This dream of combining modern medicine with eternal Torah values became a reality when Laniado Hospital opened its doors in 1975. As the only major medical center in the Sharon region, the hospital serves more than 250,000 people. And as the only hospital in Israel that has never gone on strike, its doors are always open.
Inside those doors, everyone is encouraged never to give up hope -- whether it's parents agonizing over a child wounded in a terror attack, or a couple suffering the agony of not being able to conceive a child.
According to Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam, the Grand Rabbi's son from a second marriage and the hospital's current president, his father was determined to give all Jews the opportunity to have children. This was yet another part of his response to the Holocaust and the loss of his own family.
The Grand Rabbi passed away in 1995, but his vision was not forgotten. Laniado's state-of-the-art in-vitro fertilization clinic opened its doors in 2001, and within the year the clinic welcomed its first child into the world -- a boy born to a couple in their 40s that had waited seven years to have a child. Since then, three sets of twins and a set of triplets have been born.
The hospital also has a new neonatal and maternity ward, where its staff delivers, on average, 500 healthy babies a month. Most of these deliveries are strictly a family affair, but every once in a while an infant makes the news.
The newborn son of Vadim Norzitch, the Israeli army reservist who was savagely lynched in Ramallah during the early months of the intifada, was such a child. Vadim's widow, Irena, was three months pregnant when she heard the terrible news. After recovering from her shock, her one thought was to bring her baby safely into the world. When the baby was successfully delivered by the Laniado staff six months later, the entire country cheered the news.
Stories like these are a poignant reminder that Laniado considers itself to be a place of life, and not death. Yet the staff is realistic. They know that providing emergency treatment to terror victims will continue to be the hospital's greatest challenge for some time to come. Since 57 percent of all terror victims are under the age of 15, the hospital has recently embarked on an ambitious project to build a new pediatric trauma and emergency unit that will provide high level emergency care to these young victims.
However, new buildings and state-of-the-art equipment provide only a partial answer to Mrs. Lanxer's question. When the Angel of Death is working overtime in this once quiet seaside resort town, how does the Laniado staff cope?
"We rely on each other -- and all the Jewish people -- for support," says Dr. Yoel First, head of Laniado’s Disaster Response Unit, which prepares the hospital to accept the wounded after an attack takes place.
"And we are believers. We never give up hope that each new attack will be the last."