Opinion: The four health funds are a modern manifestation of the Jewish tradition of responsibility to its weakest members that began centuries ago, and was imported into the emerging nation and we must protect them at all costs

The coronavirus pandemic has already taught us a lesson in humility.

We’ve learned the hard way that no matter how far advanced our society has become in recent decades, some things will never change.

חיסון קורונה קופת חולים כללית תל אביב
Administering the coronavirus vaccine at a Clalit HMO clinic in Tel Aviv (Photo: AFP)


The same measures that saved humanity during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, can save us now in 2020: Hygiene, social distancing, mask wearing and personal responsibility.

But now we must also thank those who stepped up, namely Israel’s four health maintenance organizations. And with what appears to be a very successful vaccine drive already underway, we must also extend our apologies to them.

With all due respect to masks, and after millions were spent on government public service announcements telling us to wash our hands, it is the HMOs, the oldest remnant of Jewish tradition, that have come through.

Long before the Spanish flu, Jewish communities around the world knew that care for the common good connects all people.

Every woman suffering through childbirth, every child who was injured in play, every old man who stumbled and fell provided the opportunity to fulfil God’s commandment to care for others around us and add prayers for their good health.

This is a basic tenet of Jewish life through the ages, and with the fulfilment of the Jewish national aspirations, it became part and parcel of the emerging state.

מבצע חיסוני הקורונה בישראל
An elderly man receives his coronavirus vaccine from his HMO in Tel Aviv (Photo: EPA)


Jewish communities have always collected funds for those among them who are less fortunate. Charity boxes have long been present in every synagogue – providing for the poor, the orphaned, and most of all the sick.

In 1911, the Zionist pioneer movement that had begun to settle the land adopted the suggestion of Berl Katznelson, one of the founders of Labor Zionism, and imported that very Jewish manifestation of social responsibility to pre-state Palestine.

The early socialist laborers instituted a kupa, a communal fund, whose monies would provide health care to their members.

That same idea continued into statehood with the establishment of Israel’s HMOs. They have since often been criticized by the public and underfunded by governments refusing to recognize their importance and regarding them as a waste of money unsuited to a market economy.

It is poetic justice therefore that they are the very organizations that are providing Israelis with the vaccines that will rid us of this pandemic.

מתחם החיסונים של כללית בקניון שער הצפון בקריית אתא
A Clalit HMO vaccination site near Haifa (Photo: Ido Erez)


Our government must apologize for keeping them out of the rooms where decisions were being made in the early days of the coronavirus crisis. We must thank them for making Israel a leader among nations for per capita vaccines already administered, and we must promise them that we will protect them from politicians that in the name of free markets may try once again to clip their wings.

We must remain true to our tradition of caring for those who are the weakest among us and appreciate the work done by our health professionals not only to preserve our health but also our moral compass.

As reported by Ynetnews