Opening ceremony for Rambam Medical Center in 1938 (Photo: Rambam)

On December 22, 1938, the Rambam Health Care Campus opened as the British Government Hospital of Haifa and is initially defined as a British hospital for the mandate of Palestine, before changing its name to its current format.  

The hospitalโ€™s establishment was hailed by the British high commissioner for Palestine, Harold MacMichael, even going as far as saying it was intended to be theโ€œfinest medical institution in the Middle East.โ€ Zionist โ€œYishuvโ€ members were key factors in establishing and running the hospital. Jewish Physicians, soldiers, government officials, and representatives, all joined the British ceremony and MacMichael to celebrate the occasion.

The 225-bed facility at the foot of Mount Carmel was designed by the world-famous architect Erich Mendelsohn, a German-born Jew who had moved to Israel as part of the Zionist effort, along with fleeing the Nazi regime. Mendelsohn designed the hospital using the trendy Bauhaus architectural design, the same style that would later be preserved by the UNESCO world heritage organization. 

In his speech at the ceremony, MacMichael celebrated the hospital as a reflection of the growth of Haifa and its mix of ethnicities and religions. He further demonstrated his excitement over the construction project, which used equal numbers of Jews and Arabs employees. According to the commissioner, the hospital would serve as an example of coexistence in Palestine and any future states to be founded on the British Mandate. โ€œIt is difficult to exaggerate the remarkable growth that has taken place here. With the change from a small port to one of the greatest in the Mediterranean, this hospital marks but one phase of that larger work.โ€

The hospital opened with departments in internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, psychiatry, and clinics for venereal disease and tuberculosis. World-renowned Dr. John Herbert Thompson was the first general director and doctor of the hospital. The hospital is renamed Rambam in 1952 after Israelโ€™s establishment, honoring Jewish-Sephardic physician and scholar Maimonides. It is considered to this day a world-class hospital and is the largest hospital in northern Israel.

During the first and second Israel-Lebanon wars, Rambam was the main hospital taking in wounded soldiers and civilians from both sides of the conflict. Its staff is of various religions and ethnicities, a testimony of the diversity of Haifaโ€™s inhabitants and their peaceful livelihoods.


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