Dr. Hillel Jaffe


Dr. Hillel Jaffe, 1935 (PHZPR\1251481)
Hillel Jaffe – physician and friend of the working people
"The Hebrew settlement in general and the colonies in particular, will not forget his dedicated and outstanding service to the agricultural public in Palestine, over many years, years of suffering, famine and severe epidemics. The name of Dr. Hillel Jaffe is engraved in the hearts of thousands of settlers in the colonies, as a paradigm of a physician–human being, a physician–citizen, and a physician–friend."
Dr. R. Katzenelson, Chief of the Kupat Holim Amamit (the People's Sick Fund) in the colonies
Dr. H. Yasski, Hadassah Medical Organization: "Over the decades of your pioneering work in the field of medicine in this country, you served as a good example of dedication to and love of Zion. You were one of the mentors of the Yishuv and were a teacher and a counselor to many of the medical personnel in this country."
These congratulatory letters and tens of others were sent to Dr. Hillel Jaffe on the occasion of his 70th birthday celebration. These letters express appreciation and gratitude of the members of the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine for his dedicated work "as a pioneering physician, a public figure and a great citizen" ("Dr. Hillel Jaffe". Davar, January 19, 1936, p. 1)
Dr. Jaffe as a pioneering physician
Dr. Hillel Jaffe was born in 1864 in Bristkova, Ukraine. In his youth, he was attracted to the ideas of a revolutionary party called "Narodnaya Volya" ("The Will of the People"), that urged for "freedom and land for the people". During his studies at the high school in the city of Bradiansk, Dr. Jaffe met Mordechai Rabinovitz, subsequently the writer Ben Ami, and under his influence, was attracted to the ideas of the Zionist renaissance and became a member of the Hovevei Zion movement. Dr Jaffe joined the Zionist activities with the revolutionary slogan "freedom and land for the people" the goal of the establishment of a National Jewish Home in Palestine. His choice to study medicine and to specialize in ophthalmology – eye diseases, that were prevalent in Palestine then, stemmed from the will "to serve the people". He realized his vision in 1891, and immigrated to Palestine at the age of about 27.
In the beginning, Dr. Jaffe served as the physician of the Ashkenazi community of the Old Yishuv in Tiberias, whose members he called "the pious Jews". Two years later, he accepted the offer of Baron Rothschild, and assumed the post of physician at the colony of Zichron Ya'akov. At his clinic in Zichron Ya’akov, Dr. Hillel Jaffe met the malaria patients from Hadera and the vicinity. Upon treating the malaria patients, he concluded that action should be taken in several directions, in order to eradicate malaria: raising awareness of the importance of hygiene, in order to prevent and decrease the transmission of the disease, and the drying up of the Hadera marshes, where the Anopheles mosquitoes that were transmitting the disease were hatching. In 1898, Dr Jaffe with his wife and son moved to Hadera, in order to supervise the planting of eucalyptus trees for the drying up of Hadera's marshes.
In his personal diary, he described the local people: "These Hadera residents, who were exhausted and unable to work at the end of the season, now feel strong enough and healthy…" (Jaffe Hillel, 1983. "The Generation of Illegal Immigrants", IDF publications, Headquarters of the Chief Education Officer, The Ministry of Defense, Tel Aviv, 1983 p. 152).
Dr. Jaffe as a public figure and outstanding citizen
Alongside his intensive work as a physician, Dr. Jaffe harnessed his talents and energy in favor of Zionist public activity. In a letter to Dr. Itzhak Cohen in Zichron Ya'akov in June 1900, he elaborates: "I am in good heath, learning, working, flying and running. Do you think all this is of any benefit to me? I hope so."
(Ibid., p. 150)
In 1895, Dr. Jaffe agreed to serve as chairman of the executive committee of the "Hovevei Zion" movement and moved to Jaffa. There he married Rivka. Simultaneously, he worked as a physician at the "Mikve Israel" School.
In 1903, he took part in the First Assembly of Jews of Palestine at Zichron Ya'akov, and was elected president of the "First Zionist Organization". In this same year, he also accepted the offer of Theodor Herzl to join an investigatory expedition to El-Arish that examined settlement options in North Sinai. Dr. Jaffe served as a delegate from Palestine at the Fourth and Seventh Zionist Congresses that took place in Europe. Dr. Jaffe passed away in Haifa on January 18, 1936.
The day after his death, a eulogy appeared in the newspaper Davar: "A great and modest man of action has left us, a man who radiated around him light and warmth and encouragement and healing, who by his salvation work with the sick, rose to a degree of dedication, fighting the scourge of malaria in places where it was prevalent and claiming many victims." (Dr. Hillel Jaffe", Davar, January 19, 1936, p. 1)