December 18, 1911
At the Second Convention of the Judea Agricultural Workers’ Federation in Petach Tikvah, a resolution was passed by the 150 workers present stating, “The convention recognizes the necessity of creating a health fund, through membership dues of workers in Eretz Israel.”
In the early years of the yishuv, immigrants to the Land of Israel found mostly deplorable health conditions. These conditions were exacerbated by malaria infested swamps, lack of plumbing and running water and virtually no health care facilities. These conditions as well as a growing number of accidents among Jewish workers motivated the establishment of workers health care federations to protect their interests. Among the first order of business of these workers’ groups was to address the issue of medical aid and assistance.
At the urging of Berl Katznelson (see https://israeled.org/berl-katznelson-dies/), a special convention was convened in December 1911 to address the issue of health care for the immigrant workers. After the proposal was passed, creating Kupat Holim Clalit (General Sick Fund), Katznelson proposed that the newly established health funds would rest on the collective savings of the members and it would be based on the principle of mutual guarantees and mutual aid. Contributions were made according to income.
In 1920, Kupat Holim Clalit was taken over by the newly established Histadrut. Other health insurance funds were established later. By the end of 1948, 80% of those who had health insurance in the new state (only 53% of the population) were covered by Kupat Holim Clalit. The fund increased in size and scope to meet the needs of Israel’s rapidly expanding population of immigrants. Today, the Clalit Health Services is the largest health provider in Israel, covering 60% of the population. All citizens in Israel are covered by universal health insurance. Today Clalit runs fourteen hospitals, and over 1,200 clinics.
The photo shows the Kupat Holim Clalit pharmacy at Kfar Saba in 1938.
Photo Credit: Kupat Holim Clalit pharmacy at Kfar Saba in 1938.