BE’ERSHEVA, Israel, April 23 – A stirring cornerstone ceremony laid the groundwork for a new emergency department and trauma center at Soroka Medical Center today, to be called the Frances and Nathan Kirsh Emergency Department.

UJA-Federation of New York’s capital fundraising campaign for the medical center has to date raised $6 million — $5 million gifted by the Kirsh family of New York (in honor of their 50 thwedding anniversary) and the other $ 1 million from several UJA-Federation donors. Israel’s Clalit Health Services matched the donations 1:1 to provide the remaining funding for the $12 million project.

Among the participants at the cornerstone ceremony yesterday were Kirsh family members; UJA-Federation of New York representatives; Keren Hayesod representatives; Be’ersheva Mayor Rubik Danielovitch; CEO of Clalit, Prof. Ehud Davidson ; Deputy Director of Clalit, Dr. Mickey Scharf ; Director-General of Soroka, Dr . Shlomi Codish ; and other senior hospital directors and staff of the ER and trauma unit.

Several factors created the need to expand the hospital’s emergency services, including the relocation of several major Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bases in the surrounding Negev Desert, which would mean an increase in potential patients in the next several years; an expected rise in Be’ersheva’s population by 30 percent in the next several years; and the general growth of the Negev Desert’s population.

As part of the expansion project, the new space will increase the number beds by 43, including two in a dedicated trauma room. Altogether the new department will include 116 new beds, with eight in the trauma unit. Construction of the new department is expected to be completed in 2021. This is phase one of a two-phase project.

The Emergency Department at Soroka is the most active in Israel, with 250,000 patients annually. The department serves the entire Negev population, from Eilat in the south to Kiryat Gat in the north. The department’s patients include car accident victims, travelers, and IDF soldiers. During military conflicts and operations in the south, Soroka is at the forefront of treating civilians and the military.

“It’s a mistake to thank us for the donation,” said Nathan Kirsh. “The truth of the matter is that we are lucky enough to be able to do so and are privileged to be a part of this amazing complex that we are visiting today.”

“UJA-Federation of New York is deeply grateful to the Kirsh family and the other donors for supporting this crucial project,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York. “The expanded emergency department will provide best-in-class care to all citizens of Israel’s south, and will help strengthen the infrastructure of Be’ersheva.”

About UJA-Federation of New York

For more than 100 years, UJA-Federation has brought New Yorkers together to solve some of the most pressing problems facing our community. Through UJA, more than 50,000 donors impact the issues that matter most to them, pooling their resources to care for Jews everywhere and New Yorkers of all backgrounds, respond to crises close to home and far away, and shape our Jewish future. Working with a network of hundreds of nonprofits, UJA extends its reach from New York to Israel to nearly 70 other countries around the world, touching the lives of 4.5 million people each year. For more information on how to donate or volunteer, please visit our website at www.ujafedny.org.