History & Overview
Magen David Adom (MDA), literally the "Red Star of
David," is Israel's official ambulance serivce, blood services and disaster rescue agency. It operates according to the principles
of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Magen David
Adom was officially granted membership in 2006 to the International
Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
- History of MDA
- Four Elements of Service
- Staff, Volunteers & MDA Youth
- Volunteer Training
- Get Involved
History of MDA
The first seeds of Magen David Adom in Israel were
planted at a meeting held in Philadelphia in October 1918, attended
by David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Henrietta
Szold. There was great concern that the Jewish
Legion of Palestine, otherwise known as the 38th Battalion of the
Royal Fusiliers of the British Army during World
War I, who were fighting to liberate Eretz Yisrael from Turkish
rule, needed medical help. A Magen David Adom organization
was organized to aid both the Jewish Legion and the settlers in Palestine.
It was disbanded at the end of the war.
Magen David Adom was officially chartered as a result
of the murderous riots of 1929,
when farm and urban settlements - totaling some 170,000 of the country's
Jewish population - were attacked by the Arab population, and were found
to be lacking in even the most elementary first aid services. It was
founded in Tel Aviv on June 7, 1930, by a group of seven Israeli doctors, as a one-room
emergency medical service. MDA's first home was a dilapidated hut on
the corner of Rothschild and Nahalat Benyamin streets in what was then
the center of town.
A second MDA group formed in Haifa in 1931 and a third in Jerusalem in 1934. In 1935, a national organization was formed to provide medical
services to the public and the Haganah.
Its founding members were physicians, members of the Haganah and private citizens. At the time, the society's resources consisted
of a small truck converted into an ambulance and several dozen dedicated
In the years that followed, the society grew, especially
in the wake of a second wave of riots that broke out in April 1936 and lasted until the beginning of 1939.
During that period, MDA gave first-aid training to the Haganah and the auxiliary police and medical aid to the wounded.
During World War II,
MDA worked within the general framework of Israel's Civil Defense Organization,
as an arm of the Jewish Legion of the British Forces. Photographs from that period show Magen David
Adom volunteers in official uniforms. Magen David Adom became the medical
service of the Haganah, and MDA
members administered first aid alongside the Haganah fighters throughout
the 1930s and 1940s. With the establishment of the state of Israel,
some of the society's most important members and volunteers were among
those setting up the medical corps of the Israel
In July 1950, the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) ratified the Magen David Adom Law, which states
that Magen David Adom will function as Israel's National Red Cross Society,
acting in accordance with the Geneva conventions. Specifically, MDA
was given responsibility for: 1) Providing auxiliary service to Israel's
Army Medical Corps in wartime, including providing emergency medical
care for the wounded and war refugees. 2) Providing civilian emergency
and medical and first-aid services and temporary shelter in emergency
situations. 3) Maintaining a blood bank for civilian use. Subsequently,
MDA has played a major role in providing vital lifesaving services during
each of Israel's wars, skirmishes
and terrorist attacks; as well as in times of peace.
The growing need and developing population of the
new state brought about a parallel growth in MDA. New branches and stations
sprang up throughout the country. The first modern ambulances were purchased,
and the society's blood, first aid and first aid instruction services
The 4 Elements of MDA Service
- Ambulance and mobile-intensive-care-unit services, with over 500
vehicles in the MDA Fleet.
- MDA Blood Bank services, blood components and derivatives and the
- Permanent first aid and life-saving services, offered to the public
at MDA first aid stations throughout Israel.
- Basic first aid training for MDA staff and the general public.
Staff, Volunteers and MDA Youth
Magen David Adom is operated by some 990 paid employees
(ambulance medics/drivers, doctors, paramedics, blood technicians, communication
center workers and administrative workers) and by some 6,000 volunteers
(youth and adult). Most of the latter comprise a reserve force to be
activated in times of emergency or special need. The volunteers are
active in MDA's day-to-day operations.
A significant proportion of Magen David Adom volunteers
are MDA youth 15 to 18 year olds trained by MDA in first aid. These
MDA youth volunteers serve as assistant medics, dispatch center workers
at MDA first aid stations, and substitutes for senior staff as required..
Some youth volunteers even serve as first aid instructors in MDA branches
throughout the country.
Most branches of MDA in Israel maintain a wide range
of youth activities. The MDA Stations also serve as youth clubs for
MDA youth volunteers, fostering a high degree of social consciousness
among their members. Following their military service, a considerable
number of MDA youth volunteers return to MDA as volunteer ambulance
medic/drivers, medics in times of emergency, etc. In this way the ranks
of MDA youth serve as a continuous and inexhaustible reserve for Israel's
national rescue organization. There have been a number of families which
have handed the MDA volunteering tradition down from parents to children,
with two generations of the same family serving as volunteers in the
same station - or even on different shifts of the same ambulance team.
The first aid training program required of anyone
that wishes to volunteer, is 60 hours long, for the subsidized cost
of approximately $40.00. In return, each volunteer commits to giving
at least eight hours or his/her free time per month.
The minimum volunteering period is two years and is
conditioned upon successful completion of the first aid training program
- theoretical and practical.
During the training program, volunteers learn cardio-pulmonary
resuscitation, approach to patients, treatment of work and road accident
related injuries, treatment of drowning and electrocution victims, treatment
of infants and children and much more.
Upon completion of the course, volunteers function
as part of an ambulance crew or in MDA stations, administering first
aid patients. Such work is demanding and requires both concentration
and physical strength. The volunteers' knowledge is updated and refreshed
periodically in seminars where the basis of their knowledge is extended
and new medical advances are presented.
How do you become a volunteer?
Once in Israel, contact Mr. Eli Yaffe, MDA's volunteer
Sources: American Friends
of Magen David Adom-ARMDI [Official site]; Magen