Mon, Oct 19, 2009 | By Crethi Plethi
Magen David Adom
How it all began…
In 1918, the last year of the first World War, more than 1500 jewish men and women in Palestine (the country’s jewish population was then about 60.000) enlisted in an all-jewish volunteer fighting unit, the jewish legion. Five hundred of the volunteers were young women who enrolled in an auxiliary service of the legion to provide medical care for the wounded soldiers. Modelled on the Red Cross, the service was given the name Magen David Adom (which means “Red Shield of David”, but also known as the Red Star of David). A selected number of its members served in military hospitals, and their emblem, the Red Shield of David, was recognized by the British Military Government. Shortly after the end of the War, the service was disbanded.
It is in 1930, as a result of Arab revolts in 1929, that Magen David’s Adom continuous history commences, when volunteers like Karen Tenenbaum gave life to the new organization. The country, by then under British Mandate, had no First Aid services and no ambulance services. To fill the urgent need, seven public-spirited men established a First Aid Society bearing the name Magen David Adom. The ‘headquarters building’ was a small store in the center of Tel Aviv and MDA’s one and only ambulance answered all calls around Tel Aviv. Only seven years later the MDA served the whole country with 600 ambulances. Not only serving the jews, but Christians, Arabs and Muslims as well. During the second World War, two MDA services were recognized by the British Authorities. From the thirties till 1948 the MDA also served as the medical services for the Haganah.
In 1949, the international organization of Red Cross departments, rejected the full membership of the Magen David Adom by 1 vote only. The Knesset made on 12 july 1950 the MDA officialy Israel’s national emergency service (the MDA-law). Until today it serves as Israels emergency, medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service. During times of war, the MDA can serve as an auxiliary arm of the Israeli Defense Forces for the IDF troops.
Since 2006, the MDA has been officially recognized by the international committee of the Red Cross as the national aid society of Israel under the Geneva Conventions and as a member of the international federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Magen David Adom emblem is not officially recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross for use outside of Israel. That is why Israel uses the above emblem outside Israel depending on the political situation in the host country. Otherwise they use the official neutral emblem below.
Israel continues the effort in getting their Magen David Adom emblem officially recognized by the Red Cross Committee. It’s is obvious that using the Red Cross or the Red Crescent as the official emblem is out of the question on historical grounds. For the jews a cross and crescent means centuries of persecution. It therefore is essential that Israel is allowed to use it’s Magen David Adom emblem also outside of Israel. Despite the support of various national Red Cross organizations, it’s not likely that the Magen David Adom will be recognized in the near future by the Red Cross Committee, because of the dominating muslim countries (in numbers) in this committee, which makes the difference when it comes to voting.