Magen David Adom Is Founded
A Magen David Adom ambulance is ready for an emergency call in June 1948. (credit: Zoltan Kluger, Israeli National Photo Collection, CC BY-SA 3.0)

June 7, 1930

The idea of an emergency medical service for the Jewish community in Palestine began in 1915.  Dr. Moses Erlanger, a Jewish ophthalmologist from Luzerne, Switzerland, created an association to provide medical services for Jews who were captured and wounded during the First World War. The organization was named Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David).  Magen David Adom expanded its activities in 1918 to include assisting people affected by disaster or emergency.  However, this incarnation of Magen David Adom was short-lived; it ceased operations in 1921, after the end of the war. In 1930, the idea of an emergency medical society was revived in response to the 1929 Arab riots against Jewish settlements in Palestine.

Some sources claim the reborn organization was started by seven young men in Tel Aviv while others attribute it to a nurse named Karen Tenenbaum.  Among the seven men who are credited with its founding was Dr. Meshulam Levontin, commander of the medical unit of the Zion Mule Corps during World War I. In December 1934, Magen David Adom laid the cornerstone for new headquarters in Tel Aviv. In its first four years of operation, the organization provided first aid to 11,000 people.  The organization expanded its activities in 1936, opening centers throughout the country when the 1936-1939 Arab Rebellion began.  On July 12, 1950, the Knesset passed the Magen David Adom Law which designated the organization as Israel’s national Red Cross Society and made it an auxiliary of the IDF in times of conflict.  The red star of David, the symbol of the Magen David Adom, was not recognized by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement until 2006.