Health and Zionism

Health and Zionism

The Israeli Health Care System, 1948-1960

Shifra Shvarts


University of Rochester Press



An exploration of the major conflicts and historic events that shaped the current Israeli health care system.
In this follow-up to her 2002 book, The Workers' Health Fund in Eretz, Israel: Kupat Holim, 1911-1937, historian Shifra Shvarts investigates the political and social forces that influenced Israel's health care system and policy during the early years of state building. Among the struggles Shvarts explores in this penetrating study are the debate over immigration health policy and the Law of Return, enacted in 1950; the battles over universal health care between the Workers' Health Fund and the Israeli government led by prime minister Ben Gurion; the urgent organization of military medical services during wartime; and the contested establishment of renown civilian medical facilities.
These early conflicts have had far-reaching implications that continue to be felt throughout Israeli society. While many European countries successfully established unified, state-run health care systems, Israel's political rivalries and social turbulence gave rise to a mélange of "sick funds," large and small, public and private, that influence and complicate the delivery of health care to this day. Health and Zionism: The Israeli Health Care System, 1948-1960, sheds light on the major conflicts, leaders, and historic events that shaped the current Israeli health care system, and has relevance to developing health care systems worldwide.

Shifra Shvarts is Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University, Israel, and is author of The Workers' Health Fund in Eretz Israel Kupat Holim, 1911-1937 (University of Rochester Press, 2002).


September 2008
23 black and white, 7 line illustrations
364 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in Medical History
ISBN: 9781580462792
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC SCI034000, MUS024000, MUS007000
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Table of Contents

The Doctor's Revolt at Beilinson Hospital
From Beilinson to Tel Hashomer
Towards a State Health System
Health and Politics during the Great Mass Immigration
Kupat Holim and Mass Immigration
The Political Struggle to Establish a Central Hospital for the Negev


Health and Zionism is a detailed, definitive history of the Israeli health care system during the early years of the state. Building on her prior book, The Workers' Health Fund in Eretz Israel: Kupat Holim, 1911-1937, Shifra Shvarts extends the story from 1948 to 1960, the formative period for Israel's medical system, known worldwide for comprehensive, quality care built on a heritage of being stretched beyond conceivable limits by mass immigration. The narrative reflects a struggle between centralized government control of medical care, and a pluralistic, diversified system open to all, with advanced hospital care and world-class biomedical research. A fascinating account of landmark developments. --Russell A. Stone, Professor of Sociology and Director, Center for Israel Studies, American University, Washington D.C.

This perceptive analysis of the evolution of Israel's healthcare system provides fascinating insights based on an exhaustive analysis of a wide variety of hitherto unavailable documents and conversations. --Shimon Glick, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine, Ben Gurion University

An important contribution to future research. JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

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