On July 10, American Friends of Soroka Medical Center (AFSMC) celebrated “The History of the Star of David” art installation in its permanent home at Soroka Medical Center, Israel’s newest cultural landmark. Artist and filmmaker Marc Bennett’s monumental artwork greets visitors, patients and their families with its uplifting color palette depicting the enduring journey of the world’s most recognizable star. AFSMC commissioned Bennett to create the installation, which is the largest of its kind, standing 16 feet tall and spanning 24 feet wide. This permanent public art installation, produced on a striking stainless steel material, shines as a beacon of hope throughout the redesigned Healing Garden adjacent to the Legacy Heritage Oncology Center and Dr. Larry Norton Institute at the campus in Be’er Sheva.

The moving ceremony to unveil the artistic exhibit “The History of the Star of David” took place at Soroka in the presence of directors and members of the Friends of Soroka from the United States and Israel, members of the hospital’s management, employees, patients of the Legacy Heritage Center for Oncology and other dignitaries. Honoring the three pillars of Jewish heritage: education, tolerance, and giving, a QR code accompanies the installation revealing the many stories of perseverance as witnessed by Judaism’s iconic star throughout the ages. In order to best serve the multicultural population of the Negev, all related information is published in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld, Executive Director of the AFSMC, says, “I speak tonight on behalf of the entire AFSMC family, including our board, volunteers and philanthropists. Your passion and commitment have helped us reach this very proud moment. Ten years ago, AFSMC was established with the sole purpose of supporting the lifesaving, humanitarian mission of Soroka Medical Center. Soroka’s commitment to excellence and innovation in healthcare with a unique cultural sensitivity contributes directly to building a future of peaceful co-existence in Israel. This stunning visual centerpiece at the heart of our campus will help us tell the story of Soroka’s pioneering spirit, synthesizing each element through its beauty to help raise awareness for Soroka.” Thanks to American Friends of Soroka Medical Center’s board, partners, trailblazers and supporters, and to the Iranian American Jewish Federation and others, this art installation was made possible.

What started as a philanthropic passion project is now a national cultural landmark in Israel, thanks to the devotion, determination and collaboration of three close friends: David Zeigerman, Mindy Gale Zeigerman and Marc Bennett. Mindy Gale, owner and founder of Gale Branding, describes “The History of the Star of David” by Marc Bennett saying “Together we understood the power of art, not only is this a striking piece of art that tells an emotional story, but for us it represents the best of how art can give back. This piece will financially support Soroka Medical Center through a plethora of licensing opportunities for associated art and art-related merchandise for generations to come.” Looking to the future, the work of art is expected to generate significant revenue for Soroka’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Shlomi Codish, Director General of Soroka Medical Center, remarks “The members of the Friends of Soroka Association in New York have a deep and long-standing partnership with the hospital. The members of the association work hard to promote and develop the medical center. This wonderful display is an example of the connection of the members of the association to the physical and mental healing of the residents of the Negev, and I thank them for that.” AFSMC’s Board President, Caroline Freidfertig, Board Vice President, Carlos Gutierrez, Board Treasurer Hillel Caplan, Board Secretary, Deborah Cherki and Board Members, David Kimiabakhsh, President Emeritus Ruth Steinberg, President Emeritus Dr. Jay Selman, Henri Boll and Ran Daniel were instrumental and are proud to be part of Soroka’s initiative combining art and healing.

As a corporate sponsor, EL AL Israel Airlines is honored to partner with the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center on this special project. Stanley Morais, Deputy Director of International Affairs at EL AL, remarks “As Israel’s national airline, we are proud to fly the Star of David around the globe. The Star of David is a symbol representing our history, our land, our people and our state. We look forward to having all of Soroka’s supporters fly with EL AL when they come to view the unique artwork, “The History of the Star of David” created by Marc Bennett. This will offer more opportunities to visit Be’er Sheva and the Negev, and to see for themselves all that this unique region has to offer.”

Visitors, patients and staff are now able to connect with the powerful piece, reflecting hope, perseverance and strength. Prof. Yitzhak Avital, Director of the Legacy Heritage Center for Oncology at Soroka, thanks “the members of the Friends of Soroka Association in New York for contributing this masterpiece to our healing garden. The environment and the treatment experience play a significant part in the healing process, and the healing garden in the oncology center allows the patient to relax, take a break from the treatment routine and inspire hope. The special work that was placed in the garden represents the survival of the Star of David over the years, which may also strengthen our patients in their daily struggles.” The installation evokes a sense of survival and determination, as well as a celebration of Jewish culture, tradition and faith.

By Rahel Shamailova, American Friends of Soroka Medical Center
Photo Credit: Rachel David and Jordan Polevoy

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