Tipat Halav


Tipat Halav, Jerusalem, 1925 PHG1020876

When we think of pioneers, the images that come to mind are usually of agricultural endeavors of various kinds. But there are other forms of pioneering enterprises, ones that don't involve holding a hoe or plowing a field. One such enterprise is Tipat Halav (literally, A Drop of Milk).


Infant mortality in Jerusalem in the beginning of the 20th century was among the highest in the world, and in the rest of the country things were almost as bad. Poor sanitary conditions and the lack of a cohesive medical infrastructure were to blame, but also certain social conditions, such as the immigration of young families without the older generation, that usually guided new parents through the early stages of parenthood.  Jewish philanthropists such as Moshe Montefiore and Betty Rothschild tried to mend the situation but failed to do so.

The woman that succeeded in transforming this harsh reality was Henrietta Szold. Szold, who arrived here in 1909, was horrified when she saw the difficult sanitary conditions and learnt of the high infant mortality. As a social worker, she knew that opening another hospital would not solve the problem. Instead, she decided to invest her efforts in preventive medicine:  instead of curing sick babies, she would teach mothers how to prevent their babies from getting ill. In 1921, as a result of the joint efforts of WIZO and the Hadassah organization, headed by Szold, a clinic was opened in Jerusalem, which, for the first time provided services solely for pregnant women and young infants.  The medical staff provided the mothers with guidance leaflets, adorned with the sentence "It is easier to maintain a healthy baby than cure a sick one."  The leaflet taught young mothers the importance of daily showers, breastfeeding, and exposing the baby to sunlight. The clinic also provided milk to mothers that couldn't nurse their babies.

The project gained significant success, and provided services for Jewish and Arab women alike. Following the success of the first clinic, similar clinics were opened throughout the country, and were called Tipat Halav. Infant mortality in the country dropped significantly thanks to the clinics, and by the early 40s the rate was similar to that of Europe.


The CZA houses the Hadassah archive that includes documents from the early days of Tipat Halav. The files tell of the logistic hardships of this groundbreaking enterprise. The files contain many photographs that document an important chapter in the evolvement of a modern public health system in Palestine/Israel.