After nearly 60 years of battling for international recognition, Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s first aid and disaster relief organization, was finally admitted to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in June 2006.
The decision to admit Israel together with the Palestinian Red Crescent was announced to applause in Geneva, Switzerland at the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross & Red Crescent. MDA will not have full voting rights and receive funding for their rescue and relief efforts. Israeli Ambassador Itzhak Levanon said of MDA’s admission: “This has been going on for 58 long years. It’s time. It’s overdue.”
Even before Israel became an official country in 1948, the state's ambulatory service has been asking for membership into the Red Cross. However, it was uniformly barred from the organization because it objects to using the cross or crescent emblem used by the other 184 members to identify its humanitarian workers. Since 1930, MDA had used a red Shield of David as its logo.
In December 2005, the 192 signatories of the Geneva Conventions approved a new, neutral “red crystal” emblem, which paved the way for Israel to join the ICRC after its six decades of exclusion. The red crystal symbol can be used during international operations in conjuction with the Red Star of David, while inside Israel MDA will use the Star of David exclusively as it has done in the past.
MDA is committed to continuing its work with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society to save lives in both Israel and in the Palestinian Territories. It has worked alongside the International Red Cross for several years and held observer status while participating in vital international humanitarian relief missions coordinated by the ICRC to countries such as India, Turkey, and the United States. Last year, it provided emergency services and relief to the Gulf Coast of the United States after Hurricane Katrina, and to several southeastern Asian nations following the Tsunami disaster.