Israel’s success in vaccinating millions against the Coronavirus within a few weeks has stirred interest and praise around the globe. Several factors have contributed to this success, such as acquiring the vaccines early on and the nation’s highly-developed computerized health care system.
In the end, however, it is the network of community “sick funds” that provide health care in every town, village and neighborhood across the country that is making the difference. Here’s the story.
Health care, a “mutual responsibility”
Israel’s health providers (Kupot Cholim, or “sick funds” in Hebrew) originated out of a need to provide medical assistance for the Second Immigration (Ha’Aliyah Ha’sheniya) between 1904 and 1914. During this ten-year stretch, 35–40,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. The majority came from the Russian Empire, in particular from the Pale of Eastern Europe. Mountain Jews, or Jews who have inhabited the Caucasus since the fifth century BC (it is believed they were descendants of ancient Persian Jews exiled in the 8th century BC) returned...