The opportunity to save a life (hatzalat nefashot) is one of those unique events that may never occur in a person’s lifetime. Today, Jewish Treats salutes those who often risk life and limb to perform the mitzvah of hatzalat nefashot by paying tribute to Magen David Adom-the Israeli Red Cross.

Magen David Adom (MDA, translation: Red Shield/Star of David) was founded in 1930 in Tel Aviv as a volunteer medical organization in response to the Arab riots of 1929. By 1935, with branches in Haifa and Jerusalem, a national organization was formed. In addition to providing medical services to the public, MDA was considered a branch of the Haganah (the underground Jewish defense force) and provided first aid training to Haganah members.

On July 12, 1950, two years after the founding of the State of Israel, the Knesset passed a law recognizing MDA as Israel’s Red Cross, making it responsible for providing auxiliary medical services to the army during war, providing emergency first aid and shelter in emergency situations, and maintaining a civilian blood bank. MDA also acquired a fleet of ambulances (often donated by Jews living in the diaspora).

While the MDA requested membership in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) in 1931, it was not accepted until 2006. The ICRC claimed that no new symbols were allowed subsequent to their 1929 conference. Compromise was finally reached when MDA agreed to use the six-pointed red star only within Israel and to use the Red Crystal symbol when working internationally.

This Treat was last originally posted on July 12, 2010.

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