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עמוד בית
Tue, 23.04.24

Historical Background

On January 11, 1912, with only 32 Jewish physicians in the Land of Israel at the time, a decision was reached at a meeting held at the home of Dr. Krinkin (in Tel Aviv) to establish the Hebrew Medicinal Society for Jaffa and the Jaffa District, whose members would be physicians, veterinarians and provisors (certified pharmacists).

The participants at the gathering, considered to be the Society founders, were: Dr. Pohovsky, Dr. Yunis-Gutman, Dr. Krinkin, Dr. Stein and Dr. Sherman. They were joined by Dr. Belkind and Dr. Cohen from Petah Tikva; Dr. Weitzbrad from Rishon LeZion; and Dr. Moskowitz from Rehovot.

The gathering decided on membership fees and conducted secret ballot elections of executive positions. Dr. Pohovsky was elected chairperson, Dr. Krinkin - vice chairperson, and Dr. Sherman was elected secretary of the new society.

Although the majority of physicians in the land of Israel at the time did not speak Hebrew, it was decided to publish a quarterly in Hebrew titled Minutes of the Hebrew Medicinal Society in the Land of Israel. Dr. Moshe Sherman, the association secretary, was appointed editor, by virtue of his proficiency in Hebrew and the fact that he was the son of a publisher and print shop owner.

In 1913 the Jewish physicians residing in Jerusalem established The Hebrew-Speaking Physicians’ Society. Its founders were the new immigrants Dr. Arye Behem, Dr. Zeev Breene, Dr. Arye Goldberg, Dr. Arye Feigenbaum, Dr. A. Shimoni-Mekler and Dr. Miriam Nofach. The main issue on the agenda was whether the Hebrew-Speaking physicians should differentiate themselves from the general physician population. Ultimately a compromise was reached according to which the society would operate under the name The Hebrew-Speaking Physicians’ Society and its membership would also be open to Hebrew-speaking physicians who did not reside in Israel.

In 1914 the number of Jewish physicians in Israel reached 60. Both organizations of Hebrew physicians, from Jaffa and from Jerusalem, agreed to cooperate together.

During World War I the Hebrew-Speaking Physicians’ Society cared for the health of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and in cooperation with the municipal health bureau and the Pasteur Institute battled malaria, trachoma, smallpox, typhoid and cholera. Among its important activities was the organization of medical assistance to the poor of Jerusalem. This important enterprise was headed by Dr. Behem. At the outset of the War publication of the newsletter of the Medicinal Society of Jaffa was halted. 

After the War the two societies merged under the name "The Hebrew Medical Association in the Land of Israel" (HMA). Contrary to medical associations in Europe, some of which had only professional or scientific goals, the association planned to operate in three areas:

  • Professional continuing education
  • Protecting professional interests and rights of its members
  • Emphasizing the Jewish-national character of the organization
The HMA published a medical newsletter in Hebrew and established a medical library in Tel Aviv in 1912.

In 1920 The Hebrew Medical Association in the Land of Israel published the first volume of "Harefuah" (Medicine) as a quarterly. The editorial board included Dr. Behem, Dr. Goldberg, Dr. Shimoni-Mekler, Dr. Sherman, and Dr. Feigenbaum as editor and publisher.

In 1921 the Haifa branch of HMA was established and became the third largest branch of the organization.

In 1936 the Central Scientific Committee was established for the purpose of organizing scientific lectures in the smaller branches of the organization. This modest entity would develop into the Israeli Medical Association Scientific Council with its current wide-ranging authority.

To protect institution-employed physicians the HMA established specific organizations of physicians employed in these institutions, or working under similar conditions, for the purpose of protecting and maintaining their professional interests.

In 1939 an organization of physicians without work permits was established and became the largest HMA organization. The problem arose due to the strict limitations enforced by the government in the Land of Israel with respect to issuance of work permits to physicians who arrived in Israel after the Fall of 1935 following the "White Paper" policy and pressure applied by the Arabs. Many physicians were forced to seek employment in other professions in order to make a living and some found themselves destitute.

The HMA legal court was founded in this year and a legal committee was established in each HMA branch to investigate disputes between physicians and complaints lodged by patients against physicians.

At the end of the 1930’s the relations between the HMA and the  Health Funds("Kupot Holim") were very tense. Most of the physicians in the Land of Israel did not hold positions in the public sector and were forced to make do with their private practices which dwindled monthly.

At the same time, the HMA acted tenaciously to enable free immigration and to assist the new immigrants, despite the negative impact of this influx on the livelihood of its members. To supplement their income many physicians also worked in the Arab sector.

The HMA established financial assistance funds for its members such as the "Saad" (welfare) loan fund and the "Constructive Fund" which over the course of time changed its name to "The Physician Unemployment Fund". 

The HMA made every effort to create jobs for physicians, even opening clinics for the poor which offered medical care at a minimal cost. During this period the HMA also became involved in the working conditions of its members and in the formulation of its policy as a representative professional union. The Medical Control Board was founded this year to supervise the quality of medications sold to consumers.

With the onset of World War II the HMA established clear rules for the military recruitment of physicians while maintaining their employment rights.

In 1940 the bimonthly periodical "Michtav LaHaver" (Letter to the Member) began its publication, independent of the periodical "Harefuah".

In 1942 the HMA actively participated in the struggle undertaken by the physicians of Hadassah and announced that its main efforts would be devoted to gaining the recognition of Hadassah concerning the status of the HMA as the sole representative of all physicians. 

With the establishment of the State of Israel the "Hebrew Medical Society in the Land of Israel" (HMA) became the "Israeli Medical Association" (IMA). During the first years of the young State most of the organization’s efforts were dedicated to consolidating the status of the Israeli physician in the public sector and to building and defining its relations with the "Histadrut", The General Federation of Labor in Israel.

Despite its focus on employment benefits and wages the IMA continued its activities in the scientific-medical area, through the publication of the periodical "Harefuah" and the organization of professional conferences. It also supported the establishment of the medical school of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Between the years 1950-1954 the IMA waged a battle against nationalization of the health-care system in Israel in the aim of protecting physicians in the private sector.

A declining private medical sector between the years 1948-1963 enabled the IMA to consolidate its position as the sole representative organization of physicians in Israel.

Since then the IMA has primarily been involved in the status of the physician in Israel as well as in formulating medical public policy and physician licensing.
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