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Israel Defense Forces: Medical Corps

Mission of the Medical Corps

  • To provide the best medical care in times of war, security operations and in routine, day-to-day life.
  • To maintain responsibility for military infirmaries throughout Israel, and, in times of war, for Homefront Command hospitals and field hospitals.
  • To maintain, improve and promote all health services in the IDF.

The Corps History

Before the establishment of the State of Israel the Haganah (pre-state Jewish defense organization) maintained a "Medical Service" of sorts based on the civilian medical infrastructure. On April 22, 1948 the "Book of Medical Service Regulations" established an independent military medical service. This brought about the official formation of the Medical Corps, which had been in the process of gradually separating itself from the civilian medical services since 1947.

During the War of Independence, Medical Corps units administered medical care to tens of thousands of wounded, relying on outdated equipment and being short of supply and manpower. After the War, the Medical Corps received a more widely defined mission and began administrating medical care and medical classification services to candidates for military service and military personnel. Emphasis was also given to preventive medicine.

In the early 1950's Israel was flooded with Jewish refugees and immigrants, and the population of Israel doubled. The IDF Medical Corps took it upon itself to supply medical services in the transit camps which housed the newly-arrived immigrants. The Sinai Campaign constituted the first important test for the Medical Corps. The Paratroop drop of Medical Corps units, integrated into the tactical forces, exemplified the close connection between medical services and operations. The lessons learned from this campaign paved the way towards improving the technology of evacuating the wounded, including air medevac. Lessons were also learned in concerning personnel management of medical corps units and training methods.

As a result of the application of these lessons the Medical Corps exhibited a very high professional level in its handling of more than 3,600 wounded in the Six Day Way (1967). During the Six Day War, Israel expanded its "borders." The Medical Corps had to adjust to the new conditions by creating armored medical units and supplying its units with specially supplied APC's for rescuing wounded in the battle field. In addition medical bunkers were build and a the Reffidim Hospital was established in the Sinai Peninsula.

The Medical Corps proved itself again in the 1973 Yom Kippur War where, the 3,000 wounded received the best medical care possible. In the period after the Yom Kippur War, the Medical Corps gave emphasis to NBC (nuclear, biological chemical) medical protection. Forces were equipped with protective gear, rescue methods were improved and medical teams in combat units were supplied with new equipment.

IDF operations in Lebanon throughout the '70s and '80s introduced a new component into the activities of the Medical Corps along with new challenges: the care of Lebanese citizens for humanitarian reasons. The Peace for Galilee War in 1982 (the Lebanon War) posed heretofore unfaced challenges to the Medical Corps: rescue in mountainous terrain, administering medical care to large numbers of severely wounded soldiers and treating soldiers suffering from combat stress syndrome. Three incidents involving mass casualties, occurred during the war, which required medical care and rescue in a scale previously unknown.

In addition to its regular missions, the IDF Medical Corps has often been called upon to assist in humanitarian operations abroad during crises. Among the prominent rescue missions in the past years in which the IDF Medical Corps participated may be noted:

1976-Volcanic eruption in Sicily
1979-Refugees in Cambodia
1985-Earthquake in Mexico
1986-Volcanic eruption in Cameroon
1988-Earthquake in Armenia
1989-Train accident in the Ural mountains
1994- Refugees in Rwanda
1998- Terrorist bombing of US Embassy in Kenya
1999- Medical Assistance to Albanian refugees from Kosovo

Despite the fact that the Medical Corps is not a combat unit its physicians and corpsmen have been decorated with medals and citations; Approximately 100 Medical Corps servicemen have been awarded the medals for heroism under fire.

In April 2016 Lt. Col. Avi Yitzhak became the first Ethiopian Israeli to graduate from the IDF's Brigade Commander course. He was also the first Ethiopian Israeli to ever serve as a combat doctor. Yitzhak emigrated to Israel at age 19 in 1991, and prior to entering the Brigade Commander course he led the Combat Medical Branch of the IDF Medical Corps.

The Medical Corps "2000"

As part of the organizational changes in the IDF (the IDF 2000), the Medical Corps was placed under the command of the Technology and Logistics Directorate (J-4) which will become the combat support of the IDF General Staff.

Sources: Israel Defense Forces