Jewish towns in the British Mandate lacked even the most elementary first-aid services as Arabs attacked in deadly riots.
Magen David Adom (MDA) was founded on June 7, 1930, in Tel Aviv by seven Israeli doctors who set up a one-room emergency medical service in a dilapidated hut.
A second MDA group was formed in Haifa.
In Jerusalem, a third group of emergency medical responders was formed.
MDA groups around the country united to form a national emergency medical organization, serving both the public and the Haganah. The group had only several dozen volunteers and a small truck converted into an ambulance.
1936 – 1939
MDA grew in the wake of a second wave of anti-Jewish riots as the organization cared for the wounded and gave first-aid training to the Haganah and auxiliary police.
A group of dedicated and concerned Americans founded American Red Mogen Dovid for Palestine, known today as American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), to support the fledging MDA by raising funds for upgraded medical supplies and blood services.
During Israel’s War of Independence, ambulances and blood collection vans donated by American supporters played a critical role in MDA’s response in treating soldiers and civilians injured in the attacks.
The Magen David Adom Law was enacted by Israel’s parliament, establishing MDA as Israel’s official national Red Cross society and mandating that it provide all emergency, ambulance, and blood services. The mandate did not provide government funding, so American donors stepped up their efforts to supply MDA with the necessary equipment.
Jerusalem was reunited after the Six-Day War, bringing more territory under the jurisdiction of MDA’s Jerusalem Station and requiring more supplies and personnel. As new immigrants arrived around the country, additional MDA stations were constructed to serve the growing population.
As terrorism and the “war of attrition” took a toll on Israel’s people, MDA treated the wounded.
When Israel was attacked during the Yom Kippur War, MDA mobilized immediately, evacuating casualties from border communities and transferring wounded soldiers to hospitals.
The new MDA National Blood Services Center was constructed with the help of American donors. Today, the center supplies nearly all of Israel’s blood needs. It also houses the MDA Cord Blood Bank, a public cord blood storage facility and research center.
During the First Lebanon War, MDA stepped up again as Israel’s “second line of defense” and treated civilian and military victims.
As terrorist attacks became more frequent, MDA provided a high level of medical care to victims, often under life-threatening conditions.
Just days after the International Red Cross finally welcomed MDA as a member, the Second Lebanon War began and rockets pounded northern Israel. MDA treated more than 2,600 victims, supplied more than 20,000 blood units, and brought humanitarian aid to more than 30,000 people in bomb shelters.
Communities in the western Negev came under attack during the Gaza War. MDA was again on high alert, racing to the scene of 1,180 rocket attacks and treating 770 casualties. Thanks to MDA paramedics, only four civilians lost their lives.
Israel’s population continues to grow, and so does the need for emergency medical services. With the support of American donors, MDA stations are being renovated and built around the country, new medical technology is available, paramedics train in the latest rescue techniques, and MDA saves lives in Israel every day.